IMG_3435.JPGby Josie Carlson, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

People across the country celebrated Earth Day April 22, and the Fort Jackson community was no different.

On post, volunteers for the Earth Day clean up event came from Fort Jackson Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, 120th Fitness Training Company and 120th Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Directorate of Public Works, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, contractors and even children in the housing areas.

William Sexton, Fire Inspector, organized the event along with Lisa McKnight, Hazardous Waste Program Manager. Palmetto Pride supplied the cleanup items and ASUS and volunteers provided lunch and refreshments.

“Just an incredible coming together from people throughout our community,” Sexton said. “Everyone contributed, so much got done. There was so much laughter and teamwork throughout the day. Just a fitting end to the work we’ve done in that area. And as so many of the people said, we are looking for opportunities to do this kind of event again.”

Sexton said the "old garden plots" environmental cleanup site was wrecked by the flood in October of 2015. “This area was in direct path of the 2015 flood causing complete devastation and pushing many contaminants into the surrounding ecosystem,” Sexton said.

According to McKnight it has taken volunteers more than five years to complete the cleanup of this particular area.

“Over 38,000 pounds of scrap metal and plastic have been recycled, over 40,000 pounds of trash and debris have been disposed at the landfill, and over 200,000 pounds of fallen trees and other yard debris has been taken to the mulch site to be ground and reused as mulch around the installation,” McKnight said.

"Trash and other debris on the ground can end up in our streams, lakes, and other bodies of water,” said Matt Holstein, Fort Jackson Storm Water Program Manager. Holstein teaches students at the Environmental Compliance Officers Course and at outreach events around the installation. Plastic bags, bottles, cigarette butts and six-pack rings are just some of the items that can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life."

According to Army Environmental Command the Army Earth Day theme is Restore Our Earth.

Their website reported that “Earth Day events across the Army highlight how the Army is helping ‘Restore Our Earth’ by taking proactive measures to enhance environmental resources.” The site also states, “Environmental stewardship goes hand-in-hand with Army readiness and modernization and ensures installations have the infrastructure needed for training, mobilization and deployment.”

Many of the volunteers lauded the efforts to clean up the installation.

Sgt. Malinda Crummitt, BOSS Vice President, said she was glad to see so many volunteers.

“I saw civilians and Soldiers come from all across post with so much energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to help clean up this area,” Crummitt said. “This area has so much potential to bring something new and exciting to post for everyone to enjoy. I’m eager to continue to help with this area, and see what come of it for our post.”

Sgt. Krystaleen Malave, 193rd Infantry Brigade BOSS representative, volunteered as well.

“It was a pleasure celebrating Earth Day with the Fort Jackson Environmental Health Team,” Malave said. “Everyone was very welcoming and motivated to help each other get the job done. It’s not often that area beautification is actually fun. But the team and the volunteers were wonderful. Not only did I get to contribute to a great cause but, I also made new friends. I will definitely be on the lookout for the next event.”

Jessica Keller and Kate Spangler also organized a cleanup event in housing, and many residents came out to volunteer.

Sexton added “Earth day is an opportunity to reconfirm our commitment to the environment and our community. We encourage everyone to get outside, enjoy this wonderful spring weather, and do a little something to make your neighborhood or work place nicer.”

CUTLINE: Youths in the Fort Jackson housing area pick up trash as part of Fort Jackson's Earth Day. (Courtesy Photo)