WASHINGTON -- Surrounded by dense woodlands in west-central Louisiana, Fort Polk encompasses 240,000 acres of land and is home to the Joint Readiness Training Center. The installation includes one brigade combat team and four deployable combat battalions, with additional support units and organizations. Approximately 44,000 Soldiers, civilians, and family members live and work at JRTC and on Fort Polk.
Fort Polk’s Sustainability Program focuses on enhancing training opportunities and ensuring long-term availability of training areas by reducing life-cycle costs, increasing unit performance, and managing cost avoidance, all of which directly support the installation’s training mission. Additionally, Fort Polk works to reduce energy and water consumption, conserve resources, and minimize waste. Through these efforts, the Installation was awarded the 2020 Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards Program in Sustainability for a Non-Industrial Installation.
To improve environmental performance, Fort Polk developed an Environmental Management Performance Review. The EMPR tracks training missions and environmental program changes from year to year. It is an important resource for Fort Polk leaders, planners, and environmental staff who seek to analyze environmental and mission impacts and identify long-term environmental trends and performance. This and other collaborative efforts create a cohesive group of professionals who can focus primarily on sustainability.
Examples of these groups are the Environmental Quality Control Committee, the Green Procurement Working Group, and the Green Building Materials Working Group who all work collectively to ensure all programs are in full compliance with the Department of Defense and Department of the Army regulations and requirements. Additional partnerships and increased stakeholder involvement also led to master planning workshops called Area Development Plans.
Fort Polk’s energy and water priorities have moved beyond conservation to resilience and efficiency. In 2020, Fort Polk’s energy, planning, and life-cycle cost analysis identified multiple projects to make the installation more self-sufficient while reducing its utility cost and dependence on conventional sources.
These improvement projects included replacing outdated chillers, boilers, building automation controls, lighting, and recommissioning old facilities no longer operating as designed, creating approximately $4 million in energy savings annually and reducing energy use by 267,300 million BTUs.
To conserve water, reduce energy use, and save money, Fort Polk stopped using potable water for wastewater treatment plant operational processes and began using treated wastewater, thus conserving millions of gallons of potable drinking water.
Fort Polk has also implemented resource-efficient practices that have significantly increased the number of recyclables and waste diverted from landfills. The team partnered with Vernon Parish through an Intergovernmental Service Agreement for solid waste disposal and significantly increased recycled tonnage for the installation’s Qualified Recycling Program. In 2019-2020, recycled materials generated $883,000 in revenue and saved the installation $2 million in contract costs.
Another major feat was better management of hazardous waste. Fort Polk reclaimed 272 gallons of solvent and 4,619 gallons of antifreeze for reuse, saving the installation $62,556, a significant cost avoidance. Also, they conducted an efficient process of managing 48,000 gallons of recycled cooking and motor oil and 250,000 pounds of recycled batteries, saving the installation $224,749 in hazardous waste disposal costs.
Fort Polk developed a comprehensive Environmental Outreach Program plan to coordinate and identify all environmental outreach activities to meet outreach mission requirements. This included interacting with stakeholders by creating a dynamic multimedia marketing and environmental education outreach program to include videos, mascots, skits, and hosted events that effectively imparted environmental sustainability awareness. The combined training and outreach efforts in 2019 through 2020 reached over 24,300 Soldiers, family members, school children, and civilian employees.
“The JRTC and Fort Polk uses integrated environmental outreach to foster stewardship in Soldiers, civilians, and youth to sustain the environment for future generations.” said Jonathan West, DPW-Environmental, Conservation Branch chief.