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Ascension wins Air Force award for best overseas environmental quality

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Ascension Air Field, a vital link in the support chain of the 45th Space Wing, recently won the Air Force's Gen. Thomas D. White Environmental Quality Award for Overseas Installations.

This is the second time Ascension has won an award for environmental practices.
Sitting in the Atlantic Ocean 4,400 nautical miles from Patrick Air Force Base, Ascension is unique in its isolation.

"It's the end of the supply line," said Dale Hawkins of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron.
Yet despite the distance, among Ascension's achievements is continuing to have zero mishaps in transport of hazardous waste. Mr. Hawkins said that the head of Environmental Engineering at Ascension, Frances Dixon, deserves much credit. "I am real proud of Frances for her perfect record," said Mr. Hawkins.

Maj. Jay Block, commander of Detachment 2, 45th Operations Group, agrees. "I am very proud of our environmental team," he said. "They are the epitome of day-to-day excellence."

Ascension Environmental Engineering has also spearheaded multiple projects to improve and restore the island. For instance, it has formed a new policy requiring reduction of invasive acacia & Mexican thorn plants. Originally introduced for erosion control, the new policy requires an annual reduction of the invasive populations.
At the same time unneeded plants are being removed and one of the world's rarest plants, the Ascension Island Spurge, is being protected. The Environmental Engineering Office is currently contracting with the world's leading expert on the plant to survey where the plants are growing and helping the Ascension Island Conservation office to grow plants for seeds. These seeds are then either saved for the seed bank or distributed in known growing areas.

Animal life has also been protected. Obsolete antennas that posed a strike hazard are now slated to be demolished, protecting endangered birds. A study to move antennas resulted in a high-level analysis of the entire communication process, which led to changes that will ultimately save $300,000 in maintenance costs. Ms. Dixon and her coworker Robert Yon have also been very active in keeping the sea turtle nesting beaches free of invasives and trash that hinder nesting adult sea turtles as well as hatchlings, said Mr. Hawkins.

"Ms. Dixon and her team have consistently done outstanding work," said Major Block.

"[Their] work will have positive lasting effects not only on this base but the entire island for future generations."