Contrary to popular belief, the military engages in several sustainability initiatives. Efforts like spurring innovation from the private sector on new clean energy technologies through Department of Defense (DOD)-sponsored competitions or renovating bases with modern high-efficiency heating and cooling systems are more common than you think.
Perhaps part of the reason for such a lack of significant coverage on these initiatives is the military’s overall energy consumption — worldwide, the DOD uses more energy than any other individual organization. Nevertheless, the strides made by our armed forces to address this reality and mitigate it wherever possible deserve recognition just the same.
In Anchorage, AK, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) is a shining example of how much of a difference a single base can make in environmental stewardship. At Elmendorf, sustainability is present in nearly every aspect of operations, and the hardworking men and women stationed there strive to make an impact wherever they can.
This commitment is one of the primary reasons Elmendorf was awarded the 2020 Commander In Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence.
The prize, established by former President Ronald Reagan in 1985, is meant to honor “innovation and superior operation of military installations that have best used their resources to support the mission.”
In this case, Elmendorf was considered for a wide range of efforts that included programs in cyber defense, casualty care in tactical combat, and the development of a logistics application. Additionally, the base was instrumental in building wildfire fighting and prevention partnerships that have proven crucial to address an uptick in climate change-induced natural disasters.
“Team JBER had a phenomenally successful year,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Patricia Csànk. “We tackled recovery from a 7.1 earthquake; a DOD-wide housing health and safety review; the worst Alaska wildfire season in recent memory; a global pandemic … and we still brought mission to bear as a family and community.”
The honors come following a pattern of JBER giving constant attention to its environmental footprint and maintaining a diversity of perspectives in all operations. In 2019, the base awarded a contract to Lindahl Reed, a firm focused on the health, energy, and environmental markets. Lindahl Reed is a certified economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB). It provides valuable expertise in various integration and energy-management subjects that work to assist Elmendorf in reducing overall energy consumption.
Beyond committing to sustainability and diversity in the daily operations, the servicemembers stationed at Elmendorf pride themselves on their stewardship of the surrounding land. The base borders Denali National Park & Preserve, the country’s third-largest national park. Across the nearly 75,000 acres of Denali, life is allowed to go uninhibited, with DOD personnel taking it upon themselves to protect an environment home to 162 species of birds and 39 species of mammals, fish, and more.