The Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) and Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) both bestowed environmental awards on Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic’s Vieques Environmental Restoration Team recently for peerless work in their field.
Recognized in the Environmental Restoration, Individual/Team Awards category for the 2020 Environmental Awards competitions, this is not the first time the Vieques Environmental Restoration Team earned this dual honor; in 2018 they also claimed both prizes.
The team was primarily recognized for the actions the team took after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017. In the two years since that massive hurricane, the team exhaustively inspected more than 50 beaches and all roads where munitions might have been exposed during the hurricane.
The team also worked to help the community devastated by the Category 5 hurricane, distributing emergency supplies, establishing satellite telecommunications, and helping the community with debris removal. The team worked through extreme obstacles, disseminating munitions safety information and repairing mission-critical roads, fences, safety signs, and infrastructure in order to better support residents in that area.
Their willingness to work alongside the Puerto Rican people in the aftermath of the hurricane is typical of their team’s ethos, said Rear Adm. Dean VanderLey, Commander, NAVFAC Atlantic, adding their actions embody the Navy and Marine Corps philosophy of environmental stewardship as well as commitment to improving the environment where we live, work and train.
“These awards highlight the incredible commitment of an exceptional team of professionals devoted to protecting human health and the environment,” said VanderLey in recognition of the team's efforts and accomplishments. “Their dedication to and understanding of the Vieques community, stakeholders, and the mission helped them to quickly and effectively provide essential aid and support to ensure the safety and recovery of the community.”
After initially winning the SECNAV competition the team immediately went on to compete and win at the SECDEF level. The awards recognize installations, teams, and individuals for their accomplishments in innovative and cost-effective environmental management strategies supporting mission readiness.
"These are team awards, and it truly was a team effort," stated Dan Waddill, Vieques Restoration Branch Head. “We are grateful to work with such outstanding contractors, diligent regulators, and dedicated unexploded ordnance (UXO) technicians who do the hard work to get the cleanup done and make Vieques safe for residents and visitors to the island.”
Leadership at NAVFAC was understandably proud upon learning of the second award, if not unsurprised that the team’s efforts would be acknowledged.
Joe Cirvello, Environmental Business Line Manager added, "As they add these two more major accolades to their impressive list of achievements, the Vieques team continues to raise the bar and serve as a tremendous example for effective team collaboration and mission execution across the Department of Navy (DoN) and Department of Defense (DoD)."
The environmental restoration of Vieques remains one of the highest priority and costliest projects in the Navy's Munitions Response Program, due to the unique challenges associated with unexploded ordnance, environmental contaminants, and ecologically and culturally sensitive resources. Working closely with stakeholders, NAVFAC Atlantic continues to develop and implement innovative approaches to safely and cost-effectively achieve the collective cleanup objectives, including opening areas for public recreation and creating access to culturally significant sites.
NAVFAC is the Systems Command that delivers and maintains quality, sustainable facilities, acquires and manages capabilities for the Navy's expeditionary combat forces, provides contingency engineering response, and enables energy security and environmental stewardship. NAVFAC Atlantic includes four Facilities Engineering Commands that are the single provider of all NAVFAC products and services for Navy and Marine Corps clients in their regions.