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For the fourth time in five years, Eglin Air Force Base has won the Pentagon’s top environmental honor, earning the 2016 Secretary of Defense Environmental Quality Team Award.

The national award recognizes individuals, teams and installations that support mission readiness through its environmental activities.

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An Environmental Quality Team member checks a culvert for storm water compliance on Eglin. (U.S. Air Force/Special to The Pulse)

“This award is a tremendous achievement that reflects the dedication of the Eglin environmental management team,” said Eglin commander Brig. Gen. Chris Azzano. “This group of skilled professionals incorporates energy efficiency, sustainability and environmental stewardship into everything we do, and I know Team Eglin is proud of them.”

Eglin preserves an assemblage of biodiversity, from the fire-dependent, old growth long leaf pine forest to white barrier islands, while providing a proving ground and delivering weapons to the warfighter.

The award marks the fourth DoD award for the division in the last five years, including the 2011 Secretary of Defense Cultural Resources Team Award, 2011 Secretary of Defense Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation Award, and 2014 Secretary of Defense Natural Resources Conservation Management Team Award.

“Being recognized four times in five years as the best in the Department of Defense is a direct result of the professionalism and care our team brings every day to the management of Eglin’s environmental resources,” said Col. Craig Johnson, 96th Civil Engineer Group commander at Eglin. “It truly takes a team of dedicated people and installation partnering to excel at this level.”

“This win is not only for our CE team,¬†it’s a testament to the support we receive here every day,” Johnson¬†said.

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An EQ Team member conducts screening on an Eglin archaeology site. Eglin surveyed 13,740 acres, clearing much of that land for future missions. (U.S. Air Force/Special to The Pulse)

Among Eglin’s accomplishments, they spearheaded the reuse of 18,000 tons of wastewater treatment plant sludge, cooking oil, tires and antifreeze, saving the base $3 million in disposal costs while diverting solid waste from the landfill.

Eglin’s environmental team established multiple methods for reuse and recycling to exceed the DoD non-hazardous solid waste diversion goal of 50 percent, successfully leading Eglin to exceed the Presidential goal by nearly 30 percent, with a 78 percent non-hazardous solid waste diversion.

In accordance with NEPA, the Environmental Planning Office pointed the way to environmental compliance by evaluating nearly 1,100 requests for Environmental Impact Analysis and 2,464 base civil engineer work requests. The team also completed 106 Environmental Baseline Surveys and associated waivers, and managed two Environmental Impact Statements and completion of 12 Environmental Assessments.

They also successfully amended Eglin’s red-cockaded woodpecker Programmatic Biological Assessment and obtained USFWS concurrence on a reduced requirement for the labor-intense manual preparation of active cavity-nesting trees before prescribed fire is applied. Reducing the level of cavity tree preparation across Eglin saved the Air Force over $20,000 and 400 man hours annually.

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