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Army South hosts multi-national energy conference

By Sgt. Mahlet Tesfaye | Army South Public Affairs | Sept. 4, 2014

JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON — U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Army South co-hosted the Sustainability and Contingency Bases III - Energy, Water, and Waste Conference Aug. 26-29 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, bringing together military and civilian engineers from the U.S. and five partner nations.

The conference was held in support of SOUTHCOM's strategic goals of energy sustainability and environmental security which is operationally necessary, financially prudent and essential to mission accomplishment.

Col. Bradley Duffey, Army South assistant chief of staff for engineers, said the purpose of the conference is to share knowledge and build capabilities with partner nations.

"When Army South Soldiers deploy to South and Central America in response to natural and manmade disasters or humanitarian assistance, we want to incorporate the different partner nation solutions to whatever problem we are facing," Duffey said.

The conference facilitated roundtable discussions with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago on current military, civilian and academia environmental/energy considerations.

"I want to take away the best practices for reducing the impact on the environment," said Lt. Col. Martin Rickman, commanding officer for Jamaican Defense Force Engineer Regiment. "There are lots of innovative ways and new technologies being applied by the military that help improve the environment that I want to adopt and take to my country for the engineers to use."

Another mission of this conference was to continue SOUTHCOM's efforts to build relationships with partner nations by exchanging information regarding innovative approaches to improve energy efficiency and reduce fossil fuel dependency while maintaining operational effectiveness, as well as information related to environmental hazards/risks, environmental degradation and changing environmental conditions.

"This conference forces us to stay ahead of the problem and not always be in a reaction mode," Duffey said. "Research shows lack of potable water is going to be a problem in the future in our AOR. There is also an encroachment of salt water into fresh water and aquifers. Now we know that is a potential problem and we must ask ourselves 'how do we stay ahead of those problems so it does not become a bigger crisis.'"

The event focused on providing an opportunity to share ideas, create partnerships, and discuss shared best practices to assist military engineers incorporating operational energy, environmental, and sustainability initiatives in SOUTHCOM area of operation.

"What we hope to get out of this conference is that Army South and the partner nations participating will know the capabilities of each other and what they can bring to assist or improve in any situation such as a natural disaster in the AOR," Duffey said.

Engineers from Army South, SOUTHCOM and partner nations discussed the different methods their respective military component and civilian business apply energy efficient practices that will conserve energy and sustain environmental resources.

"Although Jamaica is an Island and a small country compared to many countries in the region, we still can implement the same practices used by others to save and conserve our natural resources," Rickman said.

Conference participants also had the chance to visit different facilities around San Antonio such as the City Public Service Jamie Rochelle Training Facility to observe how those facilities are using innovative ways like solar panels to conserve energy and minimize cost.

"I think it is good SOUTHCOM and U.S. Army South are leading the charge when it comes to bringing the different nations and U.S. military engineers together in order to discuss the different ways each nation can protect the environment," Rickman said.