NEWS | Feb. 8, 2022

Alaska Army National Guard team wins Environmental Security Award

By Victoria Granado Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

Last week, the National Guard Bureau officially recognized the Alaska Army National Guard’s Restoration Team for their exceptional accomplishments in restoring unattended armory sites to a clean and sound state for transferring to outside organizations.

The award identified four environmental compliance professionals– Donald Flournoy, Alyssa Murphy, Aaron Acena and Patrick Geary. Each member is tasked with the mission of identifying potential contaminates of disused armory properties, developing a plan of action and collaborating with numerous stakeholders, all completed in accordance with AKNG policy. Ultimately, and most importantly, the team ensures the safety of local residents by cleaning and neutralizing the area of hazards.   

“There are a lot of moving parts when beginning the divestiture of a site,” said Murphy, the environmental team lead. “There might be ‘legacy spills’ from previous years we need to clean up. We can’t check off a property unless we’re positive the past presence of the AKNG isn’t making a negative impact on the environment, the cultural resources and that there is no threat to human health.”

Just in the last year, the team administered the overall cleanup and transformation of 15 out of 62 former AKNG properties. Considering the challenges unique to Alaska, this is a benchmark the team reached through no small effort.

“In remote Alaska, it seems like everything you do takes ten times the amount of coordination and planning,” said Flournoy, the environmental branch chief. “There are a number of sites in the Interior that are accessible only by river or aircraft. Similar programs in other states just don’t have those sorts of obstacles limiting them.”

On top of that, Alaska only offers three to four summer months, a short window of ideal weather conditions for travel. Accordingly, the award recognizes the extended efforts of those involved that exceeded what would typically be required for such an undertaking.

“This award shines a light on a great achievement in teamwork,” said Geary, the environmental condition of property program manager. “People in other states sometimes wonder why we can’t just do site visits as soon as we need to. Well, we can’t just drive to do site visits. We have to plan for summer, good weather, lodging and arrange flights. And then there’s the weather.” 

However, in the face of these demanding logistics, the team said they agree on how important their work is to Alaska and what it means for the future of similar projects.

“I have a great sense pride in everybody involved,” Flournoy said, voicing his appreciation for his team. “They’re boots on the ground, making everything happen. And, like most Alaskans, they take pride in our natural resources and want to be good stewards of the land. It is an honor to protect those things and make a tangible difference in that regard.”

The award brings national attention to an initiative vital to the mission readiness of the AKNG and validates the commitment and professionalism of the Environment Restoration Team.

“I feel a lot of gratitude being part of this team,” said Murphy. “And it’s extremely rewarding to be recognized for our group efforts to restore properties to their rightful condition.”