One priority this year is to ensure the Army makes a strategic paradigm shift in how we view the environment and training in synchronization. Historically, environmental factors were considered in isolation, addressed and managed independently. Environmental factors are now recognized as strategic assets critical to the Army’s warfighting readiness mission. We now realize that the mission supporting capabilities of our training and testing sites are directly impacted by the loss or alteration of natural ecosystems. Limitations on the timing of training and testing, loss of range facilities and assets due to increases in wildfires and floods, and training restrictions due to protected species and habitats are some of the documented impacts.
The environment is the infrastructure of the Army mission. Battlefields are expanding in geographic scale and soldier training must be tough and realistic. The Army trains to fight not only in the land, sea, and air using combined arms, but in all domains, including cyber, space, and the electromagnetic spectrum. The Army is expeditionary and trains to deploy in high intensity conflict areas by conducting major training operations that involve large-scale combat with Division and Corps-level maneuvers across installation landscapes. Modernization of Army combat systems results in vehicles, areal platforms and weapon systems that maneuver, shoot, and communicate across ever-larger distances. To test and train in realistic natural conditions requires assured access to maneuver areas and testing ranges. Sustaining natural landscapes and the environment ensures training and testing realism, and also makes certain natural infrastructure assets remain viable and accessible.
The need to train as we fight is fundamental to our armed forces. Ranges are some of our most valued assets because they closely resemble the operational environments of assigned military missions. Installations are also critical for maintaining military readiness and mission effectiveness. As such, ranges and installations must be available when and where needed and have the capabilities necessary to support current and future military mission requirements. Creating and sustaining a long-term network of ranges requires a management framework that effectively addresses mission requirements, environment and natural resource management, and the interests and aspirations of the local community.
Photo: The Puerto Rican boa is one of Fort Buchanan’s two federally endangered species. Fort Buchanan leverages many stakeholders including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and installation schools to assist with the study, management and conservation of the snake.