Once there is no longer a need for a dirt-block training structure, like this one in a Fort Carson training area, it can simply be knocked down and the soil leveled into the landscape. Provided by: Dan Benford
by Dan Benford, Fort Carson Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security
Fort Carson continues to make progress toward increasing the sustainability of its ranges and training lands.
During the past year, the Fort Carson Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Range Division has put several sustainability initiatives to the test and is analyzing and considering new initiatives.
A major training-land sustainability initiative this year was the purchase of a compressed-soil block machine. The machine compresses dirt into solid blocks, which are used to construct small, temporary buildings, courtyard walls and 'villages' used for training scenarios.
Previously, temporary training buildings were constructed of lumber. The disadvantages to using lumber included cost, construction labor, and removal and transport of used wood to local landfills.
The use of soil blocks instead of lumber has reduced costs and solid waste produced and is more realistic to the type of construction encountered in the current combat environments. When training is completed, the dirt block buildings are simply knocked down and the dirt is spread out to match the existing contour of the surrounding area.
Other initiatives include adding fertilizer and native-grass seeds to the soil while making the blocks in an effort to speed the recovery of the training lands following a training event after the soil is knocked down and leveled.
To date, the compressed-soil block machine has produced more than 70,000 compressed-soil blocks that have been used for urban-terrain building structures for training Soldiers on Fort Carson and at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
Several other Range Division sustainability initiatives have also gained traction downrange. Renewable energy systems are now a common sight at Fort Carson and Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site firing ranges, training facilities and maneuver lands. The goal is to eliminate the use of commercial power on the ranges and in the training areas. There are more than 200 individual photovoltaic solar panels currently in use operating target devices, communication systems and recharging batteries.
The amount of solid waste produced during training has been reduced in the past year. A recycle yard has been constructed that provides the ability to recycle wooden targets, plastic targets and steel materials that are used by training units during exercises.
An initiative in the planning phase is to replace half of the existing 50-year-old dry-vault latrines with new self-composting latrines. The self-composting latrine initiative would reduce generated waste, reduce required service and maintenance costs, and enhance the quality-of-life for Soldiers while training.