In a unique exchange of knowledge and practices, U.S. Army Environmental Command (USAEC) leaders, Commander, Col. Matthew Kelly, and Command Sgt. Maj. Francisco Cardenas, welcomed environmental representatives from the Brazilian Army Department of Real Estate and the Environment (DPIMA) during the week of October 16, 2023, to Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The Brazilian delegation, led by Col. Andreos Souza, Deputy Director, Brazilian Army DPIMA, and Lt. Thaysa Friaça Leite, Environmental Engineer, Brazilian Army DPIMA, emphasized that the intent of this visit was to facilitate discussions, share insights, and gain valuable information on various aspects of environmental management within Army operations.
The Brazilian Army brings a unique approach to environmental stewardship by highlighting that in Brazil, the environment isn’t just a matter of compliance, it’s a national security issue.
Brazil has six different biomes, and each soldier understands the critical importance and how to preserve and survive in each one. Soldiers need all aspects of the natural environment to survive, such as keeping rivers and creeks clean to use for drinking water.
Souza succinctly captured the essence of the approach in stating, "To protect the environment, you have to know the environment."
The Brazilian Army delegation briefing shed light on the unique dimensions and roles of their military installations compared to those in the U.S.
Brazilian bases, with smaller footprints and cantonment areas, often take on more diverse responsibilities, including infrastructure development projects and transportation networks to include railways and roads. The sheer scale of the Amazon rainforest, which spans an area equivalent to 48 contiguous United States, emphasizes the magnitude of the environmental reach they encounter. Furthermore, they emphasized that the strength of the Brazilian Army lies in their self-sufficient soldiers, equipped with diverse backgrounds in various science and engineering fields.
Brazilian Army environmental leaders highlighted their proactive approach to environmental management. Sustainable projects form an integral part of the strategy, demonstrating a dedication to creating lasting, positive impacts.
Notably, an emphasis on animal studies, including a military zoo and rescue, stood out as an innovative and educational endeavor. Brazil's various biome wildlife is introduced to soldiers through the zoo, serving as a platform to familiarize themselves with the unique biodiversity of the regions. This approach extends beyond mere education, as they actively engage in conservation of threatened and general species. Some extraordinary efforts involve rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing these animals back into their natural habitat, creating a powerful connection between soldiers and the environment they protect.
USAEC’s in-depth presentation shared mission and diverse domains such as Natural and Cultural Resource Management, NEPA compliance, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Pollution Prevention, Tank Spill Prevention, Military Munitions Response Program, and revenue producing natural resource programs. USAEC subject matter experts provided valuable insights and firsthand experiences to the Brazilian Army Department of Real Estate and the Environment.
After much engaging dialogue, it became evident that common environmental challenges transcend language barriers and cultural differences.
During Clean Water Act discussions, Brazil highlighted that in 2025 the country will host a United Nations Climate Conference with the aim of establishing an environmental training center for each of Brazil's six biomes. Continuing in discussions about pollution prevention, Brazil expressed interest in implementing a microgrid on every installation by 2040, echoing the U.S. Army's goal of having a microgrid on every installation by 2030.
An interesting discussion on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) revealed a contrast in the administration and implementation of environmental policy between nations.
In the U.S., NEPA involves both state and federal obligations; but in Brazil, a great deal of responsibility for environmental actions lies within the unified entity of the Army, following the federal guidance and policies. Highlighting the unique administrative structures of the two nations sparked deep conversations on the benefits and challenges of respective policy implementations.
“I can see that we have a lot of similarities, but we do them a little differently. Yet we share the same interest in working towards a more sustainable future,” said Kelly.
Concluding the visit to USAEC headquarters involved a gift exchange between nations. This gesture represents the bond forged and shared global commitment to environmental stewardship by both Brazil and the U.S.
Following the USAEC headquarters visit, the Brazilian delegation continued knowledge gathering at Fort Cavazos, formerly known as Fort Hood, several hours drive north.
Fort Cavazos Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Programs division, and Col. Lakicia Stokes, garrison commander, welcomed the Brazilian Army delegation for a comprehensive briefing on the installation’s environmental programs and initiatives. These programs encompassed areas of Energy, Natural and Cultural Resources, Compliance, and Recycling,
“We are here so we can breathe clean air and drink clean water,” said Timi Dutchuk, chief, Environmental Division, Fort Cavazos Directorate of Public Works.
A discussion of the Environmental Compliance Officer (ECO) training program at Fort Cavazos as well as emphasis on environmental training as an educational aspect for students nearby the installation, brought up energized and lively discussions from the Brazilian delegation. The presence of such a specialized ECO training program and active environmental community awareness, emphasizes Fort Cavazos' unwavering commitment to environmental compliance and stewardship.
Moreover, a commonality emerged between Fort Cavazos and the Brazilian Army approach to environmental preservation: a shared commitment to reforestation and the conservation of their natural surroundings.
Fort Cavazos proudly participates in the Tree City USA program. This program entails a solemn promise that for every tree removed, 10 new ones will be planted, ensuring a sustainable and green landscape for the future. This commitment to reforestation resonated deeply with the Brazilian Army Environmental Directorate, who expressed their mutual dedication to the practice in Brazil. This shared initiative highlights the unique and coincidental effort that both countries strive for in preserving the environment for a greener, more sustainable future.
The Brazilian delegation took part in observing firsthand the meticulous measures taken to uphold environmental standards and understanding the intricacies of environmental compliance and sustainability within a military installation.
Through the bustling hub of the Fort Cavazos Recycling Center, the Brazilian visitors explored the process of single stream recycling and its various stages, from segregation to compacting. The economic aspect of this innovative approach, understanding that proceeds from recycling materials directly benefit the community, was a new concept for the visitors. Fort Cavazos Recycling Program not only contributes to sustainability, but also promotes community engagement and support through the generated funds.
Fort Cavazos motor pool visits allowed the delegation to observe in-depth pollution prevention protocols, focusing on petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL) above-ground storage tanks which are meticulously maintained to prevent spillage, along with seeing precautions in place, from proper labeling to drainage processes.
The final stop on the day’s visit included the Fort Cavazos DPW classification unit, which is responsible for managing hazardous waste and other materials that could have adverse environmental impacts, generated by military units, tenants, and authorized contractors on the installation. This unit handles household hazardous waste collection and re-issue, as well as the processing of empty containers.
This comprehensive tour offered a holistic view of the environmental initiatives in place at Fort Cavazos and the rigorous measures taken to ensure environmental sustainability and compliance by the DPW Environmental Division.
As was clear to everyone involved, the exchange between the Brazil Environmental Directorate and U.S. Army personnel proved to be a vital bridge to potential future collaborations in the realm of environmental management. These visits not only strengthened the bonds between USAEC and Brazil Environmental Directorate, but has also created an opportunity for sustained cooperation, facilitating the exchange of innovative ideas and practices to ensure a more sustainable future for both nations.