April 20, 2017 –
With an area of operations that covers more than one third of the United States, there is a lot of literal and figurative ground for the 88th Regional Support Command to cover.
When planning events for Earth Day, the 88th RSCs Directorate of Public Works’ Environmental Division found something that impacts each of the 19 states within the RSC footprint: bees.
“Without something as simple as bees, we wouldn’t have food,” said Melani Tescher, chief, Environmental Division, DPW, 88th RSC. “They are a key component to our survival. With the pollination, they pollinate the trees so we have our fruit, the crops so that way we have our grains, strawberries or whatever it is you choose to have.”
There is a display set up at the 88th RSC headquarters that highlights the usefulness of bees and what it takes to become a beekeeper on your own.
According to a 2015 report from the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), there has been a 37% decline in the worldwide bee population.
A similar study by the Center for Biological Diversity found that nearly one in four native bee species in imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.
“Some of the bees are becoming endangered or threatened because of pesticides,” Tescher said. “Our display is all about informing people on if you want to be a beekeeper, here’s how you can do that. Some of the importance of it and some of the endangered species we’re looking for and trying to support as much as possible.”
For Kevin Brown, a real property accountable officer with the 88th RSCs DPW, being an at-home beekeeper allows him to have a known outcome for a product he enjoys so much: honey. The benefits to the local environment allow others to reap the rewards of a well-maintained hive as well.
“For me, I like the honey, versus buying the supermarket honey that you don’t know what or where it came from necessarily,” he said. “Along with that, a large part of our area here is agricultural, so by having bees you’re indirectly helping the agricultural business with the pollination that they do.”
Brown has a small operation, comparatively, with only two hives. There are larger beekeeping operations that serve to pollinate large swathes of the United States. That pollination process is part of what allows crops, flowers and other life-sustaining agricultural areas to thrive.
A strong agricultural landscape is also vital to the training and readiness of the U.S. Army Reserve. Without healthy vegetation, there would be no terrain on which to train. Without a healthy crop supply, there would be no food for Soldiers to eat.
Killing bees en masse is a danger to the land and it is also threatens the readiness of the American fighting forces. There are, however, ways to stop the destruction of the bee population.
Included in the static display at Fort McCoy, and at various locations throughout the 19-state region, are wildflower packages. These seeds can be planted and will help attract bees to pollinate them and in turn keep their population healthy, strong and able to pollinate crops, trees and everything else.
Another way, Brown said, to keep the bee population thriving is to not think of all bees as a single 1category.
“A lot of people just lump bees into one big pot – wasps, bumble bees, honey bees, they’re all just bees – and they want to kill them because they sting and I don’t want my kids or my pets to get into them,” Brown said.
Instead, he cautions that you should let bees be, especially when they are in a cluster away from their hive.
“Honey bees aren’t typically aggressive, so if you see a cluster of bees outside of a hive environment, don’t just spray them with any of those pesticides,” Brown said. “They are part of another hive that’s trying to move on because it either got too big or the hive swarmed and it’s looking for another place that’s suitable.”
In addition to the bee education and wildflower packets to commemorate Earth Day, 88th RSC environmental specialists are providing Earth Day presentations to elementary school students in Washington State and handing out reusable travel mugs and lunch cooler bags and mouse pads throughout the region.
There is an organized clean-up of the Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota scheduled for early-May. Additionally, in late-May to early-June, the 88th RSC DPW is planting native species of trees in the Joliet Training Center in Illinois.
Taking care of the environment affects everyone. From farmers to consumers to Soldiers at the range, ensuring the environment remains healthy and active is a key component to being the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal Federal Reserve force in the history of the Nation.
“It’s important we try to protect (the environment) as much as we can,” Tescher said.