Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
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Laura Seal (202) 685-5055
July 31, 2009
Pacific Partnership Civilian Mariners, Military Walk the Talk when it Comes to the Environment
U.S. Navy press release by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Joshua Valcarcel, Pacific Partnership Public Affairs
USNS RICHARD E. BYRD, At Sea (NNS) -- Since Pacific Partnership 2009's start in Samoa in early July, mission personnel have been steadfast in making sure that all garbage brought ashore finds its way back aboard USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) for proper disposal.
"We really believe we want to leave the site better than what we found it in," said Lt. Leah Geislinger, administrative officer and medical civic action project (MEDCAP) site supervisor.
"Part of the mission is about teaching sustainability to the host nation, and one of the things that we believe in is that we need to bring back the trash and garbage we bring with us, so we retrograde everything back to the ship nightly from our day's mission."
Garbage is sorted while on site at the MEDCAPs and engineering civic action projects (ENCAPs) before being brought back to the ship. Separating the plastics, sharp objects and biological waste ahead of time makes the process faster and smoother once it's back on board.
"We don't want to burden the host nation with our trash," added Canadian Army Cpl. Katarina Vasic, dental tech. "We're here to help people, not be part of the problem."
Becoming the enabling vessel for Pacific Partnership 2009 required many adjustments, and Richard E. Byrd has found new ways to manage trash without threatening the health and comfort of the crew or the environment. Once the trash is back on board, it is up to civil service mariners like Able Bodied Seaman (Maintenance) Bronson Wright to work around-the-clock separating it.
"The captain takes the environment very seriously," said Wright. "He walks the walk and talks the talk. The Richard E. Byrd's doing her part to set the example for how things should be done when it comes to not polluting the environment."
The separation process ensures that items that aren't biodegradable, such as plastic, never find their way into the ocean. While most other materials can be safely disposed of while at sea, plastic materials don't break down and so are shredded and melted into disks until they can be taken to a place where they can be recycled.
In addition, because the mission requires the Richard E. Byrd be anchored out for days at a time, such as the 13 days the ship spent off the coast of Tonga, the trash is kept in large capacity industrial supply freezers -- separate and apart from any food storage -- that help prevent foul smell and decomposition.
"This is the first time we've ever used the freezer to hold our garbage," said Wright. "Most ports have garbage services, but these places we're visiting are very small, and using the freezer was our way of solving the problem ourselves."
Pacific Partnership 2009 will continue to manage its trash, minimizing its impact on the host nation and the environment throughout the deployment. The Richard E. Byrd is currently in Oceania and will continue to Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands.
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