The Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) had an opportunity to demonstrate the command’s commitment to environmental protection during a recent visit by North Carolina Secretary of the Environment Elizabeth Biser.
FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. James M. Belmont welcomed Biser to the depot on September 6 to learn about the command’s operations and tour the facility, with a focus on FRCE’s work to protect the environment, of the workforce and the surrounding community.
“It is an honor to host Secretary of State Biser and to have the opportunity to highlight FRC East’s proactive attitude in meeting and exceeding our environmental goals,” Belmont said. “Our aircraft and component maintenance, repair and overhaul operations are extensive and complex, but so is our commitment to protecting the environment. Our workforce recognizes the importance of protecting and preserving our community’s natural resources now and for generations to come, and conservation and sustainability are built into all our processes.”
FRCE’s environmental performance goals, which include an aggressive drive for regulatory compliance and sustainability benchmarks, have been recognized regularly by state, federal and defense agencies, including being named a steward in the 2004 Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) program of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Stewards are the initiative’s elite members and demonstrate a commitment to environmental excellence that goes beyond legal requirements.
These efforts helped the depot exceed its 2021 environmental goals, including reducing industrial wastewater generation by 45%, reducing energy intensity by 18%, and achieving a landfill diversion rate of 61%. In addition to meeting environmental goals, the depot’s environmental program also successfully completed multiple audits and inspections in 2021 and 2022, each passing without major findings.
“These metrics, particularly the reduction in wastewater generation and landfill diversion rate, are something to be proud of,” Biser said. “The operations here are very large, but with a comprehensive program and a proactive approach, it’s clear that you go well beyond that in your responsibility for the environment.”
Partnerships with the state’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative and private industry helped the command identify areas for improvement and meet its sustainability goals, said Amy Morgan, director of compliance and quality at FRCE.
“This is how we leverage the Environmental Stewardship Initiative,” Morgan explained. “We’ve been to several companies across the state trying to get ideas on how to implement their environmental protection processes in our facilities to save water and energy and increase recycling.”
During the visit, Morgan and chief of the depot’s environmental department escorted Biser on a tour of FRCE that focused on the command’s operations and environmental protection and pollution prevention initiatives. The group stopped at the future location of the F-35 lift fan facility, currently under construction and funded in part by a $5 million government investment. Other points of interest included a structure with a cistern system that collects rainwater for use in the building; an office and hangar complex designed with green building standards in mind; the advanced air filtration systems used in the depot’s aircraft paint shops and cabins; and the grinding processes of the V-22 and H-53 aircraft production lines.
These initiatives and FRCE’s overall environmental performance can only be implemented if all levels of the workforce agree, Belmont said.
“What you see here are some examples of our team’s out-of-the-box thinking, but it’s also a testament to how sustainable environmental responsibility is embedded in our day-to-day operations,” he said. “Every step we take, from our hangar deck craftsmen to senior management, thinks about protecting the environment – not just because it is required by law or mandated, but because it is the right thing to do.”
FRCE is North Carolina’s largest provider of maintenance, repair, overhaul and engineering services with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual sales exceed US$1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the larger US Navy. Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.