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CROSS FUNCTIONAL TEAM KEY TO ENVIRONMENT STEWARDSHIP

Tech. Sgt. Jessie Ochs, a Radio Tech Specialist with the Communications
Flight

Tech. Sgt. Jessie Ochs, a Radio Tech Specialist with the Communications Flight, properly disposes empty plastic water bottles in a recycling bin. Recycling initiatives are just a part of the Environmental Management System, a policy that seeks to minimize the 162nd Fighter Wing's impact on the environment. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith)

Tucson, Ariz -- Waste it once...pay for it twice. Never refuse to reuse. Go Green to get our globe clean. Recycle your trash or trash your earth.

What many use as mere buzz slogans regarding the protection of the environment, members of the 162nd Fighter Wing practice it on a daily basis by way of the Environmental Management System (EMS), a policy that is improved upon by a Cross Functional Team (CFT).

Comprised of appointed airmen representing various unit organizations, from aircraft structural maintenance to civil engineering facilities, a CFT's primary focus is to generate new ideas on how to best minimize the wing's environmental footprint while successfully carrying out the mission of being a world-premier F-16 training unit.

"The CFT we have here are fantastic," said Cheryl Settle, environment program specialist whose main duties surround hazardous waste management. "We can brainstorm on coming up with ideas and research on what we need to do to implement those ideas."

According to Lt. Col. Michael Knutson, EMS coordinator, the CFT's focus is on "significant aspects," which are issues addressing the wing's impact on the local environment as well as the overall health and safety of unit members.

Knutson added that EMS is an accountability tool that provides the means for the 162nd Fighter Wing to be compliant with Executive Order 13514, a policy guideline from the Office of the President, providing "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance."

Knutson said that the 162nd Fighter Wing successfully met the annual E.O. requirements by "recycling, reusing or diverting over 50% of solid waste from the landfill."

Master Sgt. Kristeen Jones, a Bioenvironmental Engineering technician who offers input on water reduction initiatives at the CFT meetings, finds the value of unit representatives bouncing ideas off of each other conducive to meeting environmental requirements.

"It's important to have another set of eyes look at what you are doing," said Jones. "With the CFT meetings, I get a little slice of different parts of the unit."

The unit propulsion shop here illustrates how exchanging environmentally friendly concepts can shed light on cost-savings strategies that reduces any negative impacts to the environment.

Up until the time Master Sgt. Waylon Erb, a work leader at the propulsion shop, attended a CFT meeting, he "had no idea that our base actually had a plastic recycling program."

After the meeting, Erb said he realized the amount of plastic used by his section justified the time spent to start a recycling program. "Now we are a huge producer of recycling plastics," he said.

With the brainstorming spirit of CFT meetings, Knutson said the 162nd Fighter Wing's EMS activities are reflective of a massive, proactive approach to environmental stewardship nationwide. When Knutson joined the 162nd Fighter Wing in 1983, he said there was no environmental initiative.

"Now we interact with folks throughout the country, having an almost symbiotic relationship, and getting and passing off information to each other," said Knutson.