The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW



The life of a base camp provides a good framework for the discussion of the many aspects of Military Environmental Protection that will be faced during a contingency operation. Many of these aspects are merely minor adaptations to the military decision-making process (MDMP) defined in FM 101-5 and the result of good battle-focused training as explained in FM 25-101. If these processes are performed incorrectly, your chances of success in Military Environmental Protection, or in any other area for that matter, are likely to be poor. In this discussion we will look at an example that highlights the application of Military Environmental Protection throughout the phases of an operation.


The life of a base camp begins with the formulation of an OPLAN. This is the conceptual stage. The birth of a base camp should originate with a series of potential packages with varied standards that are applicable to any given contingency or other type of operation. We have already identified some of these potential packages (i.e., force provider), and depending on the standards of construction, one or more of them may apply to the mission that an OPLAN is designed to support. Intelligence about the OPLAN's projected AO and the subsequent assumptions of the OPLAN set the stage. The continuing efforts to focus IPB on the AO should include efforts by the surgeon to obtain the most current preventive medicine information. The projected standards of construction, based on the assumptions about the expected length of stay of forces, provide a key element of the initial guidance to force planners. Planning decisions about the considerations of Military Environmental Protection are directly linked to these assumptions.

Base camps are really small towns and require all of the considerations that would be applied to them. The "city planner" or master plan functions must be included in the planning phase of the operation. Ideally, the staff will be able to bring in the expertise of the projected element that will function as the Base Camp Coordination Agency (BCCA) to assist with this planning phase. High standards of construction and a decision to develop a robust base camp and infrastructure dictate high standards of Military Environmental Protection. The designated environmental executive agent (EEA) must provide environmental guidance and standards for the operation. This guidance will be based on the EEA's overall risk analysis (FM 100-14). (Considerations for the integration of other service engineer assets and civilian contracting will ideally be included to optimize each of the focused skills and capabilities that are available.)

"Lucy," the base camp in our example, was conceived nearly three months before deployment into the country of Krasnovia. The chief of staff ensured that the planning parameters for the OPLAN were well understood and that this plan had environmental guidance and assumptions. Annex L of the OPLAN (Environmental Considerations) was prepared and environmental considerations were applied as appropriate. Fortunately, the IPB included initial evaluations of potential base camps and other sites (to include environmental considerations) from staff analysis performed by each section of the staff. One of the key elements of information, obtained as a result of the surgeon's analysis, was an updated package of information provided by the DIA on preventive medicine considerations for all potential sites in the AO. The likelihood of success was high as reconnaissance teams were deployed to begin physical reconnaissance of sites, to include the location that would soon be known as Lucy.

The JAG is a critical player in the planning process. He needs to be fully aware of laws and regulations surrounding the environment. Besides knowing internal guidelines and regulations, the JAG must understand the international laws and agreements that impact operations. The effect of the Basel Convention on the transit of HW for operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina is a classic example of this. Host nation laws, regulations, and national sensitivities are also critical for the JAG to understand and incorporate their ramifications into the planning process.


The team performing the reconnaissance of the future base camp was comprised primarily of military personnel. Since it was anticipated that the site would be a maneuver brigade headquarters, the leader of the reconnaissance team was LTC Jones, the brigade XO. He brought along the HHC company commander to ensure the commander knew his role as mayor of Base Camp Lucy. A representative from the brigade S4 was on hand to collaborate with the HHC commander and ensure that the camp and its facilities would be up quickly and running efficiently, taking into account the appropriate Military Environmental Protection considerations. Since the team risked hostility from the local population (fairly low risk, but present nonetheless), the security element for the team was provided by the brigade scout platoon. The element also contained a chemical reconnaissance section equipped with the M93 NBCRS (whose mobile mass spectrometer had the "industrial/environmental" chip). This capability, linked with the preventive medicine expertise in the security element, ensured that the brigade was not selecting a site that looked good on paper, but would be a health hazard to the troops occupying it. Casualties from health and environmental considerations (to include safety lapses) can be the greatest threat to soldiers. Historically, disease has killed or incapacitated a greater number of soldiers than any other factor.

For engineer expertise, the element included MAJ Smith. She provided the staff integration for Military Environmental Protection considerations, and used her engineering expertise (construction/general engineering/tactical engineering) to ensure that the site would accommodate the units and all facilities. (The decision about how to site a base camp should be based on a variety of considerations. The issue of positioning to perform the mission and the inherent force protection issues associated with this should be the first consideration. There may be political considerations attached to the decision or contracting challenges that will limit where a site may be located, but a site should always be sound from a tactical point of view and force protection in general.) Fortunately, MAJ Smith had several camp templates that had been chosen as potential sites from a map analysis and from information available in the OPLAN. She was prepared to provide a recommended solution for layout of the base camp at the completion of the reconnaissance. Her expertise was absolutely vital to the team.

A real estate expert (from a corps real estate support team [CREST]) was also with the security element to ensure that the lease written on the site accounted for existing conditions as documented by results of the initial EBS (see Appendix B of FM 20-400/MCRP 4-11B).

The primary purpose of the initial EBS at this point was to ensure the site would be a healthy one for troops. A copy of the initial EBS was included in the contract packet for the site. In this secondary role, the initial EBS served to protect the U.S. from claims and liability for the site. This packet grew over time as any environmental compliance reports were added. Ultimately, it contained the closure EBS that established the environmental life of the base camp while under U.S. control.

Assisting the real estate agent and the element leader was CPT Law, who was an expert in international law. Before deployment he brushed up on his knowledge on the specific environmental laws of Krasnovia and the conventions to which the Krasnovians were signatories. The reconnaissance team was well served by CPT Law's expertise and was able to avoid any mistakes in this area.

The team was also able to meet all the demands of the site reconnaissance and perform reconnaissance of the routes leading to it. Before the team departed, it met the initial quartering party requirements for the brigade and provided important information to the element that would function as the brigade's advance party.


The brigade commander was pleased with the report from the reconnaissance element and the brigade XO. There were minor considerations, but overall the site was a good location for a base camp and headquarters for the brigade. Based on the reconnaissance, the brigade was able to adjust their OPORD to reflect information about the site that would be their home for the next six months. It was not clear at this point how much longer the operation would continue beyond six months; however, the decision was made to apply a temporary standard to site construction (with up to 24 months expected use). Some thought was also given to extended occupation and to what standards would be changed if a decision was made to stay longer. These decisions would affect the level of environmental considerations for the site such as whether or not a sewage system, linked to a separation plant, would be developed.

The advance party had a clear idea on what the base camp layout would be and the conditions of the routes leading to it. Using information gained from the reconnaissance, the brigade deployed its quartering parties to the site as construction of the base camp began. The engineer unit responsible for the construction of Base Camp Lucy was a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB). The camp could have been constructed by any joint service engineer organization or even a civilian contractor, so having common information for standards and design of a given site are critical to ensuring standards are understood and expectations are met.

Fortunately, the theater commander and his staff had identified the requirement for an organization to function as the BCCA when the OPLAN had been written, and an appropriate unit had been on the TPFDL and trained to perform in this role. It contained an element organized, manned with the proper expertise, and trained to perform in the role of the Base Camp Assistance/Assessment Team (BCAT). This organization was especially important for assisting commanders with the integration of Military Environmental Protection throughout the AO. When deployment occurred, this unit was one of the first units to deploy since it had critical responsibility for establishing the base camps and other sites within the AO in support of the contingency. The subordinate BCAT organization provided expertise that was well received at Base Camp Lucy and all of the other sites in the AO. With this sort of preventive assistance, quality of life and the overall health of the soldiers within the AO was improved as sites were set up to deal with environmental (and the imbedded preventive medicine) issues.

As subordinate units of the brigade deployed and moved into their respective areas of Base Camp Lucy, they received guidance on a variety of SOP items, including those peculiar to life at Lucy. As part of this guidance, units also received a series of environmental guideline standards that would make their quality of life better. These standards and procedures were based on the theater-wide guidance provided in the OPORD by the theater commander and his staff.


Sustainment of Base Camp Lucy is the story of a small town. The mayor, in this case the brigade HHC commander, has a key role in minimizing the time the brigade commander needs to focus on base operations and in providing him with recommendations on decisions that need to be made. The mayor's staff will be small, but he will need the staff to do his job correctly. Several key and dedicated NCOs make a big difference in helping the commander in his role of mayor and managing the environmental program for the camp. The mayor needs to make use of the BCAT. While this team serves the higher commander as a reporting agency (base camp status may be on the higher commander's CCIR list), it also has an equally important role in providing assistance to the mayor of the base camp. The mayor and his staff ensure the environmental sustainment or improvement of the site. They make use of periodic environmental conditions reports that they perform and BCAT assistance inspections (using standardized checklists). The BCAT visits will help to define site conditions, document site status, and assist the site leadership.

A key player for the brigade commander and the mayor in sustaining the site is the logistician (brigade S4). The logistician has the staff responsibility for coordinating the construction of facilities and installations, field sanitation, food preparation, water purification, unit spill prevention plans, and the storage, handling, and disposal of hazardous materials and hazardous wastes. These considerations must include the issues of preventive medicine (to include field sanitation and mess and the basic healthiness of a site), pollution prevention, and the related questions of environmental management. Although not specifically mentioned in FM 101-5, the logistician also has responsibility for coordinating with the surgeon on all matters related to medical waste. The G4 will spend considerable time coordinating with the BCCA and other agencies to ensure that the base camp has what it needs to do the job. Hopefully, issues such as hazardous waste removal will be accomplished through DLA/DRMO agencies or contracts that have been put in place to meet those requirements, or the brigade G4 and his fellow military logisticians will find it necessary to find a solution using military assets. This will create a less than desirable situation that expends military assets better used for other missions.

Infrastructure upgrades are a collective responsibility based on the needs of the site and guidance from higher headquarters. Commanders responsible for base camps and other sites forward their requests to the BCCA. The BCCA is responsible for developing and maintaining a list of construction projects for the AO. This list is approved by the appropriate theater organization (USACE).


At some point the base camp is turned over to another unit or prepared for closure. If the base camp is turned over to another unit, it becomes a property book issue along with normal procedures for a relief-in-place as related in tactical doctrine. The basic concepts for a relief-in-place (not under pressure) apply, and both the S3 and the S4 are key players. In this case, a closure EBS is not performed, but there will be guidance that directs an interim report within a certain number of days from the base turnover date. The BCAT should assist with this and act as a third party expert for both the incoming and outgoing units.

If the base camp is closed, the focus is different. A closure EBS is now essential and the personnel involved in the process should be included in the BCAT. The closure EBS verifies site conditions and provides the "final snapshot" included in the folder for the base camp. If there are any environmental surprises at this point, the base camp leaders were likely poor performers during the operations phase of the operation. Higher headquarters will have made closure standards clear to the site commander and his mayor, providing guidelines for the salvage or disposition of materials that went into development of the base camp. Guidelines will also be provided as a part of defining standards for base camp decommissioning or closure. The closure EBS is more focused on potential liability for the United States than on health conditions for the soldier, but may later be used to provide data to medical investigators when situations like the Gulf War Syndrome occur. When the closure EBS is compared with the initial EBS and any ECRs or other available information is incorporated, a series of snapshots provide the facts necessary to define the life of a specific base camp.

The base camp should be a fond memory that is put to rest in a proper fashion, not a sad story that resurrects itself in a series of claims against the United States.

btn_tabl.gif 1.21 K
btn_prev.gif 1.18 KAppendix A: OJE Hazardous Waste Generation
btn_next.gif 1.18 KAppendix C: NTC Spill Residue Costs

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias