Among Saguaro cacti that stretched to painted deserts and palm trees that reached for watercolor sunsets, sustainability professionals from the United States Army Reserve gathered in Tempe, Arizona for the enterprise’s Mission Resilience and Sustainability Training in November 2017.
For three days, professionals from across the Army Reserve gathered to collaborate, share ideas and learn new ways to develop and implement energy, water, solid waste and environmental quality projects at Installations, Readiness Divisions and the Mission Support Command.
Paul Wirt, Chief of Army Reserve Sustainability Programs, said that the idea for the training developed from a need and a desire to tie sustainability even closer to readiness. At their core, the Army Reserve’s sustainability efforts protect the natural resources that are vital to every mission. They enhance the efficiency of facilities, and they improve the well-being of the Army Reserve’s communities. Army Reserve Mission Resilience and Sustainability Training was designed to bolster those concepts and pave the road for new, innovative approaches to conservation.
“Now, more than ever, it is critical that the Army Reserve has the mission resilience to continue operations at our facilities around the world, despite any manmade or natural crisis,” Wirt said. “Energy and water security concerns, environmental considerations, community engagements and partnerships are all critical readiness aspects. Sustainability is all about looking at our opportunities for the future in an integrated and holistic approach. This training is a significant milestone for the Army Reserve in bringing our subject matter experts together to chart a path forward.”
The inaugural event occurred at Arizona State University and Arizona Heritage Center.
The Army Reserve selected Arizona State University as the primary host for the first Mission Resilience and Sustainability Training because the school is a well-established leader in sustainability education. The university created the nation’s first School of Sustainability in 2006 as a part of its Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Now, their program is world renowned.
Dr. Christopher Boone, Dean of the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, lauded the university’s efforts to provide first-class educational opportunities to active duty Soldiers, Army Reserve Soldiers and veterans, and he praised the Department of Defense’s role in preserving natural resources for the future. “Without the military, we cannot achieve sustainability,” Boone said. “The military is a key player in the implementation of sustainability on the ground.”
Colonel Marshall Banks, Director of the Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate, opened the training at a plenary session that featured Boone; Wirt; John “Jack” Surash, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability; and Addison “Tad” Davis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and the Environment.
Surash praised the Army Reserve for its significant contributions to the Army’s energy conservation and cost avoidance successes, and he called for more “smart ideas” to come from the participants. “Energy resilience is important for the Army,” he remarked.
Davis called the Army Reserve a “true sustainability force” that is enhancing Army readiness, building valuable partnerships and using taxpayer dollars responsibly through resource conservation. Quoting American journalist Thomas Friedman, he encouraged the professionals in attendance to “do a deep dive,” “transform the DNA” of their programs and “reimagine their processes for a more sustainable outcome.”
A common theme among the presenters was transition.
Boone said that both Arizona State University and the Army Reserve are merely “scratching the surface” of sustainability. “There is still more to be done,” he urged.
Wirt discussed a “tipping point,” when Army Reserve Sustainability Programs would move from compliance to innovation. Until now, Army Reserve Sustainability Programs have focused primarily on meeting mandates and creating a foundation of clear strategies and baseline data, from which progress in energy conservation, water conservation and waste diversion can be tracked. Now, the programs can be creative. “Our collective path forward is clear,” Wirt said. “Now is the time to move forward, make a holistic impact, connect with our communities and lead the Department of Defense in the years to come.”
Davis called the training “a learning experience,” and Wirt challenged his colleagues to embrace new initiatives. “Open your eyes, your ears and – most of all – your minds to the realm of possibility,” Wirt said. “Glean a new understanding of sustainability, and use the knowledge to bolster your contributions to an adaptable, resilient Army Reserve – one that is prepared for a future defined by change.”
Training sessions throughout the three days included energy and water security, solid waste management, sustainable procurement, environmental compliance, real estate, and cultural resources management. Participants appreciated a variety of learning opportunities, from tours of Arizona State University’s campus sustainability initiatives to hands-on technology tutorials.
As they learned practical skills that would benefit their careers, participants also learned how to affect a real culture change in the military. Dr. George Basile, Senior Sustainability Scientist and Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, implored the training participants to approach sustainability from a more personal view. “Sustainability is about better decisions,” Basile said. “Think about sustainability in terms of what matters to you. How will sustainability help you succeed? Be the example, and use that lens of sustainability to bring people together.”
Attendees also enjoyed a rare chance to find motivation from one of the nation’s leading advocates of sustainability. Kate Brandt, Lead of Sustainability Initiatives at Google and former Chief Sustainability Officer under President Barack Obama, offered remarks as part of Arizona State University’s Wrigley Lecture Series. “Everyone’s day job should be sustainability,” she commented during her speech. She said that the Department of Defense’s sustainability achievements are powerful “because they show what is possible.”
At the closing ceremony, Army Reserve Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, appeared in a video, echoing the importance of sustainability to the enterprise. Robert Maxwell, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Resource Management and Materiel at the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve, also offered some words of wisdom and encouragement. “There is no question that the Army Reserve leads the pack in sustainability,” Maxwell said. “We are all-in. The Army Reserve plays a critical role in the defense of this nation, and sustainability is critical to our ability to be mission ready today and into the future. Sustainability is the right thing to do for our allegiance to our country, our stewardship of our resources and our commitment to our communities.”
James Hessil, Chief of the Environmental Division at Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Public Works, was inspired by his experience. “I thought the training was an excellent opportunity to interact with Army Reserve personnel from Readiness Divisions and Installations and to learn from other’s best management practices and successes,” he said. “I also thought it was an excellent idea to have Arizona State University host the training because it allowed us to learn sustainability from one of the best institutions in the world.”
“The Army Reserve has much to be proud of in the last five years on our path to becoming a sustainable world-wide organization,” Wirt said. “But, this training has highlighted to the participants that there are so many more opportunities that we need to embrace. I believe that the participants left [the training] with a more collective vision of where we need to focus our efforts and how each one of us has a critical role in those efforts. Leveraging and building on partnerships both within our communities and with outstanding institutions like Arizona State University is incredibly important for our overall success.”