By Simone Lightfoot
A couple of times a year, I look forward to making the trek over to George Washington University in partnership with Veteran’s Campaign – to instruct a class of military personnel and veterans how to run for political office.
While the classroom experience is always rich, I get the best insight after hours relaxing and shooting the breeze with military officers and enlisted personnel from the Pentagon, the White House, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, US Coast Guard, US Army Corp of Engineers and the National Guard.
But over the past few classes, one increasingly striking phenomenon persists and that is the high-level of green jobs and training soldiers of today have – not to mention compared to when I served over twenty years ago.
Whether constructing vital infrastructures for the safety and stability of nations or simply understanding that green value is measured by what is not lost, there is a natural correlation between the expertise of military personnel and the green needs of urban centers across the Great Lakes Region. In fact, they should roll out the welcome mats and recruit qualified returning veterans.
Cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati and Cleveland along with Columbus, Toledo, Gary, Indianapolis and Buffalo are precious population centers that house the regions cultural and economic vitality. They remain critical to our broader, collective success addressing shared interests.
Things like public policies, energy efforts, waste management, wildlife preservation, invasive species, air quality and sewer systems to name a few.
Today’s soldiers understand land-use, transportation linkages, establishing baseline standards, environmental targets, blight, crime and policing in an urban center. They have experience working with pollution, contamination, water levels, zebra mussels, agriculture, runoff and threats to fisheries. They view disaster recovery, coordinated public works and timely, accurate and actionable solutions – all in a days work.
Our military use an arsenal of both aging and state of the art tools to thwart, mitigate and resolve some of the same infrastructure, severe weather responsiveness, power generation, diesel emissions and waste management threats urban centers strain to grapple with.
Soldiers are already trained to address toxic threats, recycling, commercial inlands, distributed and centralized baseload power, retrofitting government owned vehicles, securing and patrolling international waterways and border crossings.
They are experienced managing critical public structures exposed to great pressure and large amounts of water like bridges, retaining walls, docks, public marinas and downtown waterways.
Milwaukee for example, could benefit from infrastructure professionals that understand building performance, environmental remediation and lifecycle costing.
Those with experience increasing and restoring water treatment capacity, constructing and deconstructing facilities, water management and low carbon, renewable construction practices.
Soldiers understand strategic crossroads, synchronized operating systems and how to align multiple campaigns (operations) in a complex, resource-constrained environment. Our men and women in uniform could help city, county and state leaders further bridge those inextricable connections between turnkey solutions, intact ecosystems and thriving cities.
Visit the National Wildlife Federation’ Great Lakes Regional Center at http://www.nwf.org/Regional-Centers/Great-Lakes.aspx
US Air Force veteran Simone Lightfoot heads up Regional Urban Initiatives for the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Region. She integrates the work of the NWF with the regions urban green efforts including air and water quality, sustainability, climate change, solid and hazardous waste, recycling, environmental justice, water conservation, invasive species, aged infrastructure, mass transit, wind energy, community college trainings and new economy jobs. Her territory includes Chicago, IL; Indianapolis and Gary, IN; Milwaukee, WS, Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland, OH, Detroit, MI and Buffalo, NY. She can be reached at 313.585.1052 or [email protected]