Aviation and Missile Command members were recognized for their role in winning the 2023 Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Army Environmental Excellence in Weapon Systems Acquisition, Individual/Team awards.
The Environmental Excellence in Weapon Systems Acquisition, Individual/Team awards recognize efforts to incorporate environmental, safety and occupational health requirements into a weapon systems acquisition program's system engineering, contracting and decision-making processes.
AMCOM logistics engineers and Corpus Christi Army Depot members collaborated with civilian and military subject matter experts from nine military commands and multiple industry partners to create the Acquisition and Logistics Heavy Metals Sub-Working Group.
The working group's mission was to address specific acquisition and life-cycle issues related to hexavalent chromium heavy metals in equipment, parts and repair process issues. The HMWG-AL was recognized for their part in mitigating hexavalent chromium exposure to Army civilians and Soldiers during depot and field-level repairs, as well as providing a mitigation roadmap benefiting the entire Department of Defense.
Mark Feathers, team lead and AMCOM toxic metal reduction program manager, highlighted the team's collaboration and professionalism as significant factors in their success.
“The team is composed of a highly capable group of engineers, scientists, and acquisition personnel who understand the environmental risks to our depot and field maintenance processes, understand test protocols, and work well with the Army community to move these technologies forward,” said Feathers. “This diversity of thought and expertise allows us to address and resolve issues involving hexavalent chromium. It's a team effort.”
Finding safer alternatives to hexavalent chromium in weapon systems is a challenge that has plagued the DoD for over 20 years. Hexavalent chromium is used as a coating to protect weapon systems from corrosion and wear. However, it is a known human carcinogen and can cause numerous cancers if not properly handled, managed and controlled.
“If the use of hexavalent chromium is not mitigated early in the system life cycle, it can greatly impact health, safety and the environment,” said Julie Halstead, AMCOM environmental engineer. “If we can remove any potential for hazardous dust, spills and other means of contact, the Army can secure big savings on health, safety and environmental costs in the weapon systems sustainment life-cycle phase.”
According to Halstead, the team's efforts are particularly significant given the potential financial implications of improper waste management, both for the Army and the environment.
“The team has paved the way for safer alternatives to hexavalent chromium in weapon systems while also providing cost-effective solutions to allow the Army to remain focused on its mission,” said Halstead.
“And you can't do it without that team. It's all about people getting it done. Without them, it wouldn't happen,” Feathers said. “I am most proud of the fact that we work so well together, and we do whatever is necessary to get the job done.”
Specific accomplishments of the working group included:
- Promulgated a new Army Acquisition Executive policy to reduce and/or eliminate the use of hexavalent chromium in weapon systems and maintenance processes.
- Implemented a process that clearly codes all system and spare parts with a searchable method to identify parts that contain heavy metals and created new national stock numbers that differentiate between hexavalent chromium and hexavalent chromium-free chemicals and products.
- Performed research and development that identified suitable alternatives to hexavalent chromium for various systems.
- Created and disseminated guidance for the implementation of the Army regulation, which mandates the reduction and/or elimination of hexavalent chromium in weapon systems and maintenance processes.