FORT BRAGG, N.C. - In an ongoing effort to save taxpayer dollars, the post's Directorate of Public Works reached out to Army Reserve aviation for help.
Garrison energy officials figured the best way to look for wasted energy was to go up - literally.
Partnering with the Army Reserve's Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, based at Simmons Army Airfield, a DPW official boarded a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a previously-scheduled night training mission to find the hotspots on post.
The mission to find wasted light energy was in response to a Jan. 23, 2013, memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment. The memo outlines the way ahead for installations to save energy costs and holds commanders "accountable for energy use in the facilities they occupy."
Gregory Bean, the garrison DPW director, said this Army-wide effort ties directly into the utility consumption reports his office sends out to organizations on Fort Bragg.
"If you don't take ownership of your costs, you will never conserve," Bean said. "If you don't know what it costs to operate your facility, it's not real to you. What we're trying to do is showcase where we are wasting energy ... and encourage you to conserve energy and conserve costs."
What is the best way to find who is wasting energy?
Fly over an installation at night, take photographs of areas in question, and see who is unnecessarily burning the midnight oil, so to speak.
Thomas Blue, Fort Bragg, DPW, Operations and Maintenance Division, energy manager, said he is looking at "what buildings, what facilities we would have the potential of simply flipping the switch and turning the lights off."
Blue said that of Bragg's $46 million annual utility bill, lighting facilities accounts for 20 percent. Heating and cooling facilities accounts for 60 percent, while the remaining 20 percent is from "plug loads" that come from items such as computers, copy and fax machines, refrigerators, and coffee pots.
"We did some calculations and estimated that turning 50 percent of the fixtures off in the interiors of buildings ... that would save roughly $4.5 million a year, and that's including the barracks," he said.
The night flight mission demonstrated how the Army Reserve adds value to the existing active component.
"It reinforces the fact that the Army Reserve is a true force multiplier and part of the total Army effort," said Addison D. (Tad) Davis, IV, U.S. Army Reserve Command command executive officer.
Davis, who served as Fort Bragg garrison commander from 2000-2003, knows it takes commitment to conserve energy on the sprawling 160,000-acre post.
"This night-time mission, focusing on energy usage on an installation that houses active, guard and reserve organizations, personifies our commitment to being a team player," he said.
Davis said assisting the garrison also "reinforces our commitment to energy security and energy conservation measures. If we can help out the installation by assisting them in determining where energy waste is occurring, that's a benefit that we can all take credit for."
One stop on the mission included documenting light energy being used at the U.S. Army Forces and U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters. Davis said the images "reaffirmed what we're doing here at this headquarters to reduce energy consumption as part of the overall Bragg effort."
Looking down on the post from the air gives the DPW staff a "bird's-eye-view and the access and the perspective we simply couldn't get from the ground," Blue said.
"When you're up in the air at night, it should become much more obvious than driving around down on the ground," he said.
And there is plenty of ground to cover.
According to Blue, the main cantonment alone is comprised of 33 million square feet of building space. Add in post housing and the square footage jumps to 49 million square feet.
"That's a lot of buildings because we don't have many big buildings - Soldiers' - Support, Marshall Hall, and Womack - those are our three biggest. Our median size of building is about 4,000 square feet. That's a lot of buildings," he said.
Once the images are analyzed, Blue said his team would catalog the areas in question, find out who is in the facilities and what the needs are to have those lights on at night.
"We certainly could not afford to hire somebody to take us up for this. This is an incredible benefit," Blue said.