FORT HOOD, Texas (Dec. 2, 2011) -- Fort Hood's Net Zero Waste pilot program and sustainability was the central focus at the "Great Place" from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, during a visit from Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.
This was Hammack's first visit to Fort Hood since being appointed to the office in June 2010.
"I've been encouraged to visit by various members of the Fort Hood community," she said, mentioning Brian Dosa, the director of Fort Hood's Directorate of Public Works, as one of the biggest advocates.
"He (Dosa) has always said, 'we really want you to come. We've got a great story to tell.' And Fort Hood does have a great story to tell. There are wonderful things that are going on here," she added.
BANG FOR BUCK
The Fort Hood staff was determined to offer Hammack the most bang for her buck during the visit, filling two days with trips to sites on the installation where waste, energy and water are recycled, re-used or reduced.
"We did a lot of effort to get her out onto construction sites and into mechanical rooms," said Jennifer Rawlings, Fort Hood's sustainability coordinator and Net Zero Waste project officer.
Hammack also took part in several briefings designed to showcase the efforts of the Fort Hood Net Zero team and the installation as a whole. The Great Place is one of the pilot programs for Net Zero Waste in the Army and has committed to putting no waste in the landfill by 2020.
To show the steps that are being taken to achieve that goal, staff members escorted Hammack through the Fort Hood Recycle Center, the Inert Material Management Unit, the Fort Hood landfill and other DPW facilities where Net Zero Waste programs are taking place.
Hammack also visited the Memorial Dining Facility, where she checked out the solar hot water heating tanks, a barracks project where the renovated buildings are designed to meet LEED certifications and a carport that collects solar energy.
She said the visit allowed her to see a wide variety of programs as the post strives to reduce, recycle and re-use.
Hammack added that she was impressed by the amount of recycling and re-purposing already being done on post, especially with construction waste and household recyclables.
"The fact that a significant portion of it is being recycled and recovered, especially on post, is really important," she said. "Quite often, waste will be shipped somewhere else, and they will take care of the problem. One of the things we really like to see is waste management on the facility because that makes the fort a much better partner in the community."
At the recycle center, Hammack was given a comprehensive tour and briefed on the increasing role the facility plays on post. Jaycee Turnquist, the recycle center program manager, said the facility continues to see an increase in the amount of items handled annually.
As the largest recycle facility in the Army, Turnquist said the recycle center processed more than 9,000 tons in 2008 and estimates that number is now closer to 11,000 tons. The money from the recycle program is used to enhance quality of life programs for Fort Hood Soldiers and families. Some of the recycle money is used to fund the annual July 4 fireworks display for the installation, which draws tens of thousands to Fort Hood each summer.
"I thought it was great to hear that your trash is funding fireworks," Hammack said. "It's a great story."
BEHIND THE PROGRAMS
The visit also gave Hammack a chance to meet the people at Fort Hood who work daily to make Net Zero Waste a future reality.
"I really admire the passion of the people I've met here," she said. "They love what they do, they know what right looks like, and they really want to make a difference. And those are wonderful, admirable characteristics that come from individuals who have the right kind of leadership that is giving them the direction to figure out what right looks like."
During her visit, Hammack met with Soldiers, civilians and contractors who play a role in the sustainability programs at Fort Hood. She not only thanked them for their hard work and dedication, but handed out Net Zero coins as a tangible symbol of appreciation.
"In touring around, I was able to see those firsthand and talk with the people who are doing the great work and also thank them for what they're doing," she said, noting that was an important part of learning about the Army's installations and sustainability programs.
"When I go to visit a base, the first thing I'm looking at is learning about what they're doing. The second thing is, I'm confirming what I've heard about what is going on," Hammack said, "and the last thing I want to do is affirm and thank the people for what they're doing and encourage them to continue down that pathway."
Hammack added that the employees of the Great Place have been extremely forthcoming in their assessments of what is working with the Net Zero Waste program and areas where assistance is needed.
"What I like about Fort Hood, the people here are stepping up to communicate with the rest of the installation community about what they're doing -- the lessons learned," she said.
Hammack said those lessons learned are one of the most important aspects of the whole Net Zero program. In total, 17 Army installations are taking part in the pilot program in areas of Net Zero Waste, Water and Energy.
"Really, what the Army is looking for, is installations that are able to manage their resources in the best manner," Hammack explained.
She said each Army post, no matter what the size, faces challenges as they look at future sustainability, adding that's why visits and cross-talk are so important, not just at the individual installations, but across the Army.
"When I go to each base, I'm looking at how they're handling their individual challenges, communicating how they're handling those challenges to other garrisons so that we're not learning the same lesson over and over again but we're learning from each other," Hammack said. "And that's really what's important about the Net Zero program, that we leverage what we're learning."
Rawlings said the visit allowed for additional two-way communication.
"We have a lot of areas where we need their (IMCOM and Army) assistance to help us meet some of our future requirements to be Net Zero Energy, Water and Waste in the future," she said. "So, we're trying to show her (Hammack) areas where we've been successful and areas where we need some improvement."
Hammack agreed that the visit was a success and the Fort Hood community has much to be proud of.
"Fort Hood is really on track to meet the Net Zero challenges," she said. "I certainly challenge everyone in the Fort Hood community to reduce the amount of waste, so that we don't have landfills, and so that we can continue down the path to doing what's right and be a better part of the community in whole."