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If your green support group is planning an activity such as a local clean-up day or plant-a-tree activity, it's often quite easy to get some extra help from local military bases. All you have to do is draft a press release for the event, along with an invitation for all military members to attend.
Every military base has a public affairs office where you can send this information—just call the base and ask to be connected to the public affairs officer. Many people make the mistake of submitting this much information and no more, which may yield disappointing results.
If you go the extra step of asking the PA officer to offer help or advice on getting military members involved in the activities you have planned, you may find yourself with a great deal of extra assistance. Tell the PA officer you would be thrilled to have coverage from the base newspaper of their troops pitching in for your activity. Also be sure to tell the PA person if you have sent your press release to other newspapers, television and radio stations-the extra publicity may encourage them to be more active participants in your event.
The military loves any positive news coverage it can get; you can use this to the environment's advantage for your next special event.
When natural disasters hit local communities, the National Guard is often called out to help assist in the recovery efforts. These disasters can be environmental nightmares of devastated houses, overturned cars, compromised gas pumps and much more. The military's involvement can include helping law enforcement maintain law and order, ending immediate threats to health and safety, even filling sandbags.
Disasters often bring out military Civil Engineer crews to help clean up the aftermath. This means clearing city streets of debris such as broken glass, fallen trees and rubble, but also making sure people have safe water to drink and a place to go while they wait for the all-clear to sound so they can return home. When the 500-year flood hit Grand Forks, North Dakota back in the late nineties, the local Air Force Base not only set up emergency relief operations, but also permitted "non-essential" personnel to assist with local relief efforts.
Together, the military and the community got through one of the worst disasters in that town's long history. When it came time to clean up the environment around Grand Forks, the Air Force had crews ready to pitch in and start the long task of clearing streets and making the town safe again.
In San Antonio, Texas, there is an ongoing effort between members of several military bases in the area to help clean up the environment in the local area and promote awareness of green issues. Texas is one of the many states with “Adopt-A-Highway” programs, and troops stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, Brooks City Base, and other military installations routinely organize teams to clear trash from busy stretches of highway.
Believe it or not, these military clean-up crews are even given office time to do this, as community involvement is considered part of being "on-duty". The next time you see a group of men and women by the roadside with trash bags and heavy gloves, you may well be passing a group of Air Force, Army, Navy or Marine Corps troops pitching in to clean up a part of the environment near where they live and work.
One of the efforts the U.S. military has undertaken to clean up the environment includes restoration of the Badlands Bomb Range in South Dakota. This range was used at one time by the Air Force to train pilots and crewmembers in bombing techniques using live ammunition.
In the late 90s, an environmental restoration movement got underway to clear the range of unexploded ordinance--military lingo for bombs that didn't go off--and return thousands of acres to local Native Americans. The land originally belonged to Oglala Sioux tribe members until the 1940s, when the land was seized by the government.
Today, the former Badlands Bomb Range has been cleared of unexploded bombs and is useable for grazing-a far cry from the days when the only safe entry possible was with a team of bomb experts. There is an ongoing controversy regarding the use of depleted uranium rounds on the range, but with the proper attention, this issue can be resolved as well.
Green issues don't get resolved overnight. Any good environmental activist will tell you that cleanup and restoration takes time, but soon this parcel of land could be completely free from the past damage done.
There are a few tips to keep in mind if you would like to get military participation in green friendly events. The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are very sensitive to their public image; anything you can do to impress your base Public Affairs officer that it would put the base in a good light with local media goes a long way towards getting their cooperation.
Try to bring the troops into something that allows them to feel good about the work they are doing without being afraid of making a political statement. Don't ask military members to go on camera or on-the-air to speak on behalf of the military. Only base Public Affairs people are allowed to do this. Your local troops may be eager to help, as long as you don't place them in the uncomfortable position of having to refer you to the base PA officer to speak to the media. Be careful not to maneuver the base Public Affairs officer into a media event without letting them know they may be asked questions by the local press. Doing so may jeopardize your chances of any future cooperation from a military base in your area.
Word travels fast among base PA people, this can work to your advantage or hurt you depending on how you handle the event. DO: Send an open invitation to local military public affairs offices. Make a point to let military leaders know you welcome and appreciate their involvement. It's very important for your troops to know that your group does not hold the base or the people working there personally responsible for environmental concerns, even if they are somehow connected to military activities in your area. Save the politics for another day. Give examples to your local Public Affairs officer of any media coverage you have had at past events.
Promise to thank the troops who volunteer with a letter of appreciation. These letters factor in to the quarterly performance reviews for military troops, anything you can send your volunteers in thanks will go a long way towards helping them as they try to get promoted and lead by example. These are just a few of the things to keep in mind when dealing with the military in your green support group activities. Remember that the military is a cross-section of America itself, there are many environmentally aware people in uniform, and they are eager to help.