WIESBADEN, Germany - Exposure to hazardous materials can harm and ultimately kill Soldiers and civilians. Knowing how to properly handle chemicals, fuel and other potentially dangerous materials and what to do in the event of an accidental spill, can save lives and prevent long-term harm to the environment.

That's why a group of environmental officers traveled to Wiesbaden Army Airfield Dec. 6-10.

"Each operation that handles hazardous materials or hazardous waste is required to have an environmental officer," said Gordon Adam, an environmental technician with the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Directorate of Public Works Environmental Management Office.

While environmental officers can take a 32-hour basic training course online, Adam said the hands-on course provides subject matter expert demonstrations and feedback from the trainers and others in the course.

Designated environmental officers are required to take an initial weeklong basic course and thereafter an eight-hour refresher course annually. "People bring up a lot of ideas during the course," Adam said.

"It's very important that they get the time and support of their commanders," said Dr. Mirco Grimm, USAG Wiesbaden environmental manager.

"The idea of the training is basically to train the trainer," said Grimm, explaining that environmental officers are expected to share their acquired knowledge on hazardous materials handling, storage and waste disposal with members of their unit or organization.

Training ran the gamut from how to store and segregate hazardous materials to spill prevention and response. Besides classroom instruction, participants visited the 24th Military Intelligence Battalion motor pool for a close-up look at how hazardous materials handling is conducted, courtesy of Spc. Senator Boehm, and the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Fire Department for a hazmat spill kit demonstration by Fire Chief Daniel Corzelius.

"The course is funded by the Installation Management Command-Europe and we try to offer it every year," said Adam. Mandated by Army Regulation 200-1 and German federal standards, the course helps all agencies including military units, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (among others) maintain environmental compliance and safety.

"It's important that the environmental officers know what they're talking about when asked by host nation environmental authorities," said Grimm. "The training also increases their overall environmental awareness."

Transportation of materials, proper labeling, precautions that must be taken and how different environmental programs impact one another were also components of the training.

Valdel Goshi, an environmental officer at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, said he thought the course offered "very good training. You get a different feeling when you take the face-to-face course. It's so much more detailed."

"It also demonstrates good stewardship of resources and the environment to our host nation," added Adam.