Japanese civic leaders learn from 6th CES environmental flight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Foster
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

The 6th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight hosted civic leaders from across central Japan, July 25, 2023.

The visiting group consisted of Keisuke Satomura, Ginowan City Office military base affairs section subsection chief, Masashi Toguchi, Chatan Town mayor, Shintaro Yamaguchi, Fukuoka Head Office reporter, and Junya Yamatoto, Yokosuka crisis management division staff.

The tour kicked off with an open dialogue session between the civic leaders and the 6th CES environmental team. The conversation focused heavily on the role of volunteers, sources of funding and the role of mitigation.

“Our goal with all of our volunteer opportunities is to create an environment where people can just show up and work,” said Danielle Clooney, 6th CES natural and cultural resource manager. “We take care of the logistics, coordination and anything else that could deter someone from attending, and it’s worked. It feels more like you’re participating in a team building event rather than doing a chore.”

MacDill Air Force Base relies on community volunteers for support in preventing and reversing damage to the environment, according to Clooney. The installation’s biggest volunteer organization, Tampa Bay Watch, contributes volunteers to work alongside service members in shoreline restoration efforts.

“From our discussion, the oyster reef [restoration] project was really interesting,” commented Toguchi. “After talking with Kadena Air Base [Japan], they mentioned wanting to help the environment. I think this initiative could be beneficial to the area.”

According to Jason Kirkpatrick, 6th CES environmental manager, funding for environmental preservation and stabilization efforts comes primarily from the Department of Defense with $820,000 having been allocated so far. Supplemental funding comes from federal and local programs such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, as well as community non-profits. In total, $1,336,200 has been allocated or donated towards the cause over the past 20 years.

“Our installation has had great success looking to both the local and federal government to fund our projects,” said Kirkpatrick. “Our partnerships with local agencies have been able to extend DOD resources giving us the flexibility to take on projects that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”

The final topic discussed was the concept of mitigation and its role in correcting damage done to the environment through mission necessary projects. According to Kirkpatrick, the team always looks for ways to complete a project by either avoiding or minimizing damage to the environment first.

“Mitigation is always different depending on the project and destruction necessary,” said Kirkpatrick. “For example, a building that unavoidably removes one acre of wetlands requires us to create at least an acre of new wetlands, sometimes more. Replacement of wetland systems through mitigation serves to balance ecosystem services that may be lost through wetlands destruction and helps to promote a healthier ecosystem.”

Following the discussion, the environmental team brought the civic leader group to coastal restoration sites across the installation to see the efforts firsthand.

“I can see the work put in by volunteers to clean the shoreline,” said Toguchi. “It’s clear that the Air Force is doing really well with making the effort meaningful.”

According to Kirkpatrick and Clooney, the environmental team walked away with a mutual appreciation for the visit.

“We do a lot of briefings in our roles, but we don’t usually have an audience as interested,” explains Clooney. “They [the civic leaders] asked valuable questions and- more importantly- had intent to bring some of our initiatives back to their local communities.”

Kirkpatrick added, “I’ve worked for MacDill for about twenty years and never had a tour quite as unique as this. It was great to be able to share with them what we’ve been working on and we look forward to doing more like this in the future.”