|A wheeled vehicle mechanic replaces a vehicle's
engine oil. Compliance with environmental policies and procedures in activities such as engine oil changes is a significant part of motor pool operations, particularly as units return to a garrison environment. (Photo by PVT DeAngelo Wells)
As Operation Iraqi Freedom slowly closes, many Soldiers are experiencing the Army in a garrison environment for the first time. The operating tempo (OPTEMPO) that the typical Soldier experiences while deployed is focused on violent execution and back-to-back missions. As the Army transitions back to a garrison environment, the focus shifts to routinely using proper procedures and reporting methods.
Environmental compliance in our motor pools has deteriorated because of multiple and extended deployment cycles and short dwell times. The lack of environmental compliance supplies in the Army supply system and the costs associated with such supplies hinder the environmental compliance officer (ECO) and the environmental compliance assistant (ECA) from establishing environmental compliance systems within motor pools.
Ordnance captains and commanders are responsible for ensuring that they set a good example and exceed environmental compliance standards. Although they may not be appointed as ECOs or ECAs of units, the ordnance officers own the motor pools and are directly responsible for all activities that occur within them.
To overcome the current shortfalls in environmental compliance, the Army must refocus on garrison operations and garrison OPTEMPO. The forward support company (FSC) directly supports maneuver units, and it is expected to fully support them through their training while simultaneously conducting the same level of training itself. For example, if a maneuver unit conducts a range, the FSC is expected to support and conduct the same training concurrently.
This training regimen, coupled with multiple deployments and shorter dwell times, has led to a loss of environmental compliance, lack of knowledge of environmental compliance programs and regulations, and not enough time to effectively implement environmental compliance systems in motor pools. I have experienced these problems first hand as the ECO for two separate FSCs within the Army's brigade combat teams (BCTs).
Adding a DPW Representative
To resolve the problems created by time, knowledge, and training constraints, I recommend that each motor pool be augmented by the installation's department of public works (DPW). The additional DPW representative would be responsible for ordering environmental compliance supplies, conducting random inspections of individual motor pools, educating key leaders at each motor pool, maintaining necessary documentation and records, and establishing and maintaining each motor pool's environmental compliance system.
One person could cover several motor pools and focus on maintaining environmental compliance systems. This becomes exceptionally important as units deploy and redeploy to and from the theater. The DPW representative could maintain the environmental compliance systems that were already in place and provide continuity when a unit returns or personnel undergo a permanent change of station. Even if a new unit transitions into a new motor pool, the DPW representative could provide continuity so the unit does not have to establish new systems that require proper environmental compliance education, time, and supplies.
The DPW representative also would remain more informed about the latest environmental compliance regulations since that is his primary focus. An example of this occurred when the 3d BCT, 82d Airborne Division, returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom 06–08. All of the FSCs redeployed into brand new motor pool facilities at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but approximately 65 percent of the leaders transitioned out of their duty positions. This forced the new leaders to create their environmental compliance system without any previous equipment or training.
If a DPW representative had been present, he could have established the environmental compliance systems and obtained environmental compliance supplies before the 3d BCT's return. This would have allowed the new leaders to focus on redeployment tasks and their maintenance mission instead of trying to juggle maintenance mission with establishing new environmental compliance systems.
The DPW representative could have left the environmental compliance supplies in the motor pool as units moved around the installation and deployed. This would have reduced the need to requisition environmental compliance supplies that were lost and damaged in transit and ensured that the right supplies were in the right place at the right time.
The obvious drawback of adding additional personnel to DPW is the additional cost of the yearly salaries of those employees. But because each environmental compliance infraction can cost a unit or installation up to $50,000, it is worth paying the additional salaries instead of paying the fines that quickly accumulate during an environmental compliance inspection. Additional DPW personnel would also mitigate the risk of potential hazards to the local environment, Soldiers, and the local population.
Funding environmental compliance supplies creates a new set of issues for each ECO and ECA. While many cleaning products that meet environmental compliance standards have national stock numbers (NSNs), thousands of other supplies that are required to establish an environmentally compliant motor pool do not have NSNs. These items include but are not limited to large spill kits, POL (petroleum, oils, and lubricants) sheds, boom pads, and secondary containment platforms.
These items and many others must be purchased at each installation's self-service supply center or from the local economy, and they can cost thousands of dollars each. Units can only use a small amount of their total monthly budget for such purchases. This makes it very difficult to procure the proper supplies. Although units can work around these funding issues, it wastes a leader's time to navigate through the proper funding channels.
While a unit is trying to obtain the right supplies, the motor pool is subject to inspections and fines from the environmental control offices, which could cost the unit and the installation thousands of dollars. I recommend that the Army add more environmental compliance supplies to the supply system to expedite the requisition of those supplies by units. This would allow leaders to order environmental compliance supplies without having to navigate through funding issues, and it would create a tracking system for environmental compliance supplies.
The Army is moving back to garrison operations, and environmental policies and procedures must be followed. The Army must mitigate the impact of its operations on the environment. As Army motor pool leaders with direct responsibility for all motor pool activities, ordnance officers must take charge and ensure that all environmental policies are followed.