Fort Pickett celebrates Earth Day

Employees of the Virginia National Guard and Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center celebrate Earth Day at Fort Pickett with 2nd graders from Blackstone Primary School April 27. The celebration included interactive displays from the Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Program and many more. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va.—The Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center held its annual Earth Day event April 27 to provide valuable information on the many ways agencies on and around Fort Pickett work to promote environmental stewardship at the training facility and to the community. Open to the public, the post invited approximately 150 schoolchildren from nearby Blackstone Primary School and Kenston Forest School to Fort Pickett to attend the event and view the 14 exhibits displaying contributions to the environment.

The students attending the event met with McGruff the Crime Dog and Smokey Bear and received a recycled grocery bag with coloring books, bookmarks, posters and mazes inside. Each student also took home a pine seedling provided by the Fort Pickett Forestry Department in addition to the knowledge received at each exhibit.

“They are here to check out some of the things we do here at Fort Pickett to promote environmental stewardship,” said Donna Martin, Department of Public Works. “We have 14 exhibitors here today with us from inside and outside Fort Pickett agencies.”

The exhibits included representatives from the Virginia National Guard Environmental Programs, the Fort Pickett Forestry Program, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Fort Pickett Integrated Training Area Management Program, the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Fort Pickett Recycling Program, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. Navy representatives featured a compressed earth block exhibit while others displayed compost exhibits, re-purposed pallet exhibit, pine seedling planting and a wildlife exhibit.

Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force celebrate Earth Day at Fort Pickett with 2nd graders from Blackstone Primary School April 27. The Counterdrug personnel showed the students the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol during the presentation. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“We have a little bit of everything for everybody just to start teaching the importance of sustaining our environment for future generations,” said Martin.

The reach of the event has increased over the past several years, creating more opportunity to reach the area youths and impress the importance of taking care of the planet.

“We went from about 70-80 students last year to about 150 this year. It’s terrific, I think the word gets around,” she said. “The kids are excited about it and that makes us excited. I love seeing the smiling faces.

“Everything is fascinating to them, which is wonderful. They are like sponges, so now is the ideal time for us to reach them. They are fascinated by everything. This is an educational and teaching opportunity.”

In addition to focusing on being good stewards of the environment, the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug exhibit also focused on being good stewards of individual health and safety. The exhibit showed the children the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol. The Soldiers and Airmen of the program demonstrated the effects of smoking and drinking on the human body.

“We speak with the children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco so they can get the total picture,” Tech Sgt. Cynthia Waller, Counterdrug Task Force. “Because the children are so young, we just try to focus on things we hope they haven’t been subjected to. We talk about the tobacco, and what it does to your lungs, your teeth and your gums.

“We also did a scenario with the drunk goggles to show them what it does to you to be impaired. We have them drive trikes without the drunk goggles to show them how easy it is to maneuver and then we put the goggles on them and have them do it again and then they see the difference in how their vision is impaired,” Waller said.

Approximately 200 U.S. Army installations, major commands and organizations in the United States and around the world celebrated Earth Day. The Army’s 2012 Earth Day theme is: “Sustaining the Environment, for a Secure Future”. This theme reflects the Army’s commitment to meet the current and future needs of Soldiers, their families and the nation through the sound stewardship of environmental resources.

“We are very fortunate to have a commander here at Fort Pickett who realizes the importance of sharing the wealth here with our community, with our employees and especially with the youth because they are our future,” said Martin.

To view photos from this event, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157629569382806/with/7128712023/

To view this video on Facebook, visit: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10100589254571166