FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Amidst the echoes of miscellaneous gunfire and maneuver training from the ranges of Fort Cavazos, volunteers from the Directorate of Public Works, the Adaptive and Integrative Management Program and Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos, spent their day on Nov. 15 working with garden hoes, wheelbarrows and tarps to restore the Bird, Bee, Butterfly and Bat Garden adjacent to the Sportsmen Center here.
“It’s volunteering opportunities like this that allow soldiers to make their house a home here on Fort Cavazos,” said HHC Commander Cpt. Christopher Lamoureux, “to have a little bit of ownership of their garrison.”
The Bird, Bee, Butterfly and Bat Garden, colloquially referred to as the “Nature Garden,” is an important wildlife refuge, hosting native plant species and tying to the state lead Texas Monarch and Native Pollinator Conservation Plan initiative. Maintenance and restoration of the garden is coordinated by the AIM program. The AIM program seeks to educate Soldiers, Department of Defense employees and their families about wildlife protection laws, environmental management and compliance, and to foster community outreach events across all 218,000 acres of the installation. The program relies largely on volunteers like 12-year-old Roy Jay Middle School student Zyair Watson.
“I just think of the kids back in my classroom,” Watson said, when asked why he chose the hardest task of digging out invasive grasses with a garden hoe. Watson took the day off from school to relax and spend time with his mother, Sgt. Adrena Matthews, HHC, USAG Fort Cavazos. Matthews chose to work with the team that spread mulch on the trail, which frequently erodes due to Central Texas weather.
Working and coordinating between the job sites are Charlie and Chelsea Plimpton, both University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign biologists who’ve worked together under the AIM program for more than five years.
“It’s nice when you can come out and help support pollinators and the overall biodiversity of the environment,” said Charlie. “That’s what our goal is, to try and maintain that biodiversity and show people what the habitat is supposed to look like out on the ranges and why it’s important to do this work, to protect the habitats that we rely on for ecosystem services.”
Some of the native species on Fort Cavazos include the endangered Texas-native golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos. Preservation of these species is important, Plimpton said, because when a species on post is put on the endangered list it limits the functions and capabilities of Soldiers on that installation to train and maintain a state of readiness. Fort Cavazos is unique in being responsible for the largest population of these songbirds on the Edwards Plateau.
The Nature Garden cleanup was an important task that allowed Soldiers to build rapport with each other and their community.
“We have a spectacular volunteer office here on post that a lot of people do or don’t know about, but there are tons of opportunities out there,” Lamoureux said. “You just have to go on to the Volunteer Management Information System and look in to it and see what there is, but there are hundreds of them that you can go volunteer on post, off post and in the community – there’s even a volunteer day where the Central Texas Association of the U.S. Army is coming to Cavazos to clean up the front gate.”
The gate clean up will occur at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 9.
Soldiers can view volunteer opportunities on Fort Cavazos at vmis.armyfamilywebportal.com.