The Office of the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) recently recognized Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) for its continued commitment to environmental stewardship, awarding the command the 2024 Secretary of the Navy Environmental Award for Sustainability in the Industrial Installation category.

SECNAV Environmental Awards recognize installations, teams and individuals for their accomplishments in innovative and cost-effective environmental management strategies supporting mission readiness.

This is the fifth time FRCE has received a SECNAV Environmental Award. According to FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. James M. Belmont, this continued recognition highlights the role of the depot’s workforce in maintaining FRCE’s successful environmental record.

“Being a good steward of the environment is important to us at FRC East,” said Belmont. “We don’t just work in the community, we live here and are a part of it. Every member of the FRC East team is committed to maintaining environmental quality and compliance while delivering capable and quality aircraft to the Fleet.”

Andrew Krelie, director of the Environmental Division at FRCE, said the depot has been achieving or exceeding its annual environmental goals for many years now. He attributed the depot’s win to workforce engagement and active participation.

“This is a depot-wide effort,” said Krelie. “This is not an Environmental Division award, it is an FRC East award. The whole facility earned this and deserves credit for increasing our recycling rates, reducing our energy consumption and reducing industrial waste water generation. These are the three large goals that we have had for over a decade now, and continue to improve on those due to the efforts and commitment of our workforce.”

FRCE aims to divert 62 percent of its solid waste by 2025, far exceeding the requirements established by Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers. In fiscal year 2023, the depot maintained an average landfill diversion rate of 61 percent.

The depot has also set out to reduce industrial wastewater generation 36 percent by 2025. In fiscal year 2022, the calculated goal was 92.6 million gallons. FRCE reduced influent flow rates to less than half that with 56.5 million gallons eliminated.

FRCE’s goal for energy conservation is to reduce energy consumption 25 percent by 2025. The depot is installing green fixtures and coordinating with Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, Headquarters Marine Corps, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, and Duke Energy to identify aging infrastructure, propose measures to eliminate redundant electrical systems and establish significant energy conservation measures at FRCE.

Krelie cited FRCE’s membership as an Environmental Steward of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) in playing a significant role when setting the depot’s environmental goals.

The ESI is designed to promote and encourage superior environmental performance in North Carolina’s regulated community. FRCE was one of the earliest organizations in the state to earn the title of Environmental Steward in 2004. The depot is the only Department of Defense facility serving as an ESI member.

“We’re moving in sync with the overall goal of the Navy but we have gotten aggressive enough to increase the percentages and output of what we expect from the facility,” said Krelie. “Our goals are pretty aggressive but that is part of being an Environmental Steward. Setting aggressive goals is a requirement.”

In addition to FRCE’s ESI membership, the depot stays engaged with the community through a variety of community outreach activities focusing on environmental sustainment.

For Earth Day 2023, FRCE provided outreach at Childcare Development Centers on MCAS Cherry Point. Children were given an overview of why it is important to protect the environment each and every day and decorated recycling containers to be used throughout the FRCE facility.

The depot also provides environmental mentorship to United States Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center Elizabeth City.

“The outreach efforts are rewarding because we see how other organizations are doing things,” said Stephen Azok, program coordinator for FRCE’s Environmental Management System (EMS). “We also show how we do things, often without using as much capital. Some of the organizations outside the gate reach out to us. They’re interested in what we do, especially how our workforce is involved.”

According to Azok, FRCE has many success stories to share. He said the depot’s UH-1N Huey production line exemplifies how FRCE’s workforce contributes to achieving the command’s environmental objectives.

In 2023, the UH-1N line swapped out diesel-powered generators for battery-powered units, making FRCE the first adapter of this technology within the Naval Aviation community. These self-contained battery systems replaced the diesel operated generators that are utilized as auxiliary power units for the Huey.

Utilizing these systems reduced harmful air emissions generated by the burning of fossil fuels and the transport equipment needed to move diesel-powered generators. Not only is the impact to the environment decreased and energy conservation increased, work areas are safer for team members in the area.

“Without the UH-1N team’s understanding of our environmental goals and their efforts to improve performance, we would not have won this award,” said Azok. “This initiative had positive impacts which went far beyond just improving their processes. It shows that our workforce is actively involved. They’re looking at these challenges and finding the solutions.”

Azok credits FRCE’s leadership over the years for instilling the importance of environmental compliance at the depot. He said the depot’s emphasis on workplace safety stresses the importance of personnel looking after each other.

“Safety is a very important part of the culture here at FRC East,” said Azok. “Our environmental program integrates well with this because it’s also about protecting the workforce, especially the health of the people 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. What we are doing now protects the future health of our personnel as well as safeguarding the environment they live in.”

Azok said FRCE’s environmental efforts have garnered an impressive list of accolades that highlight the depot’s commitment to being good stewards of their environment.

In addition to receiving five SECNAV Environmental Awards, the depot has also received the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award, two Secretary of Defense honorable mentions, eight Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Awards and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s P2 Award for pollution prevention, in addition to two Sustainability Awards from the state.

Despite these past successes, Krelie said the depot remains focused on current and future environmental objectives and mandates.

“Ultimately, we have an obligation to meet all of our environmental regulatory commitments,” said Krelie. “This goes beyond meeting regulations and complying with instructions. We have an obligation to our local community and to the warfighter. Meeting our environmental commitments ensures that we are protecting our community and providing our warfighters with capable and combat-ready aircraft. Everyone at FRC East takes this responsibility very seriously.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

NAVAIR release

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