– Personnel from U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) command highlighted the Navy’s environmental efforts during Earth Day 2013 events held in the Hampton Roads, Va. area April 20-21.
Earth Day is observed April 22 each year, and the Navy’s theme for 2013 is, “Global Reach – Local Action.” Navy leaders have encouraged commands across the Navy to participate in local events and to spread the word on the Navy’s many environmental success stories. USFF acted by sending a team of civilians and Navy Reservists to three local community events held in honor of Earth Day.
The team helped convey the Navy’s commitment to protecting the environment by participating in Earth Day programs at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, and Mount Trashmore Park in Virginia Beach. The USFF team set up a booth at each location and delivered presentations on the various environmental programs the Navy has in place to conserve the environment.
Visitors were given the opportunity to look into a set of binoculars and wear the communication headsets similar to those used by lookouts or marine mammal observers aboard Navy ships to search for marine mammals. USFF team members also displayed a guidebook used to identify marine mammals and sea turtles, and provided members of the public examples of the “whale wheels” used by Navy lookouts to identify whales.
Children were treated to posters and calendars that contained pictures of different whale and turtle species. Pencils constructed out of recycled newspapers were popular take-away items as visitors learned of the protective measures that the Navy employs to ensure minimal risks to marine life while maintaining operational readiness.
Addressing the protective measures that the Navy takes to minimize any impacts to the ocean, USFF Environmental Outreach Coordinator Todd Kraft said, “People know that the Navy protects America. We are trying to increase awareness of the steps we take to protect the ocean environment while training to defend America. For example, many members of the public are unaware that whenever we conduct sonar or explosives training we reduce or stop the training event if a marine mammal is sighted in the mitigation zone.”
Many who visited the booths were amazed at the shipboard plastics processing method. The resultant colorful compressed discs on display conveyed how ships at sea have invested in technologies and procedures used to keep harmful materials out of the oceans.
“When a ship with 5,000 Sailors is out to sea, a lot of trash is generated each day that has to be dealt with,” said Ens. Johhny Michael, a Navy Reserve public affairs officer at USFF. “We developed a device that is half trash compactor, half oven that superheats and then compresses the plastics and other non-biodegradable items into these easily storable discs that can be properly disposed of when the ship returns to port.” The Earth Day 2013 festivities allowed the Navy to showcase to the public its commitment to procedures that lessen its environmental impact and protect marine life, while ensuring that it can execute missions that the nation requires.