Oct. 1, 2009

Girl Scouts, Environmental Program team up at Fort Pickett

By Sgt. Jesse L. Houk
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Nine girls from the Richmond-based Girl Scout Troop 138 were involved in construction on Fort Pickett Sept. 26 that will benefit all servicemembers for years to come. 

  National Public Land's Day

Col. Tom P. Wilkinson, Fort Pickett commander, helps his daughter Meagan tighten screws to join pre-cut pieces of wood that would become the post that a bat house would be attached to. The project was part of National Public Lands Day celebrated on Sept. 26 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Sgt. Jesse L. Houk, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The construction wasn’t on a state-of-the-art barracks, nor was it an addition to the air assault course. The Girl Scouts, in association with the Virginia National Guard Environmental Program, installed rain barrels to help with water conservation while also assembling and erecting eight bat houses that will potentially become the home for hundreds of bats on post.

The projects that were planned and completed on Fort Pickett were just two among the many environmental projects that took place throughout the country in response to National Public Lands Day.

“The environment is critical for what we do here at Fort Pickett,” said Col. Tom P. Wilkinson, commander of the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center. “We have to be good stewards of the land and the ranges to ensure that we don’t create a problem that would prevent training on the post.”

National Public Lands Day is sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation and this year there were over 2,000 sites hosting over 2,300 service projects planned on public lands across the nation.

“We were so fortunate that a local Girl Scout troop found us on the National Public Lands Day website,” said Gary L. Williamson, environmental program manager and a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia National Guard. “First of all, it's getting community exposure for Fort Pickett. Secondly, it serves as an educational tool for the Girl Scouts.”

  National Public Land's Day

Gary L. Williamson, Dave K. Short, and Bev A. Boyko helps girls from Girl Scout Troop 138 position one of eight bat houses at Fort Pickett Sept. 26. The bat houses can accommodate up to 200 bats and are located along the Joy Nature Trail. (Photo by Sgt. Jesse L. Houk, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The connection between Fort Pickett’s Environmental Program and Girl Scout Troop 138 may not have been possible if it wasn’t for the high visibility of being listed on the National Public Lands Day website. Williamson and his team applied for a grant and was one of just 36 organizations to receive funding.

The connection was also facilitated by the fact that Wilkinson’s wife and daughter are a part of Girl Scout Troop 138.

“Being the commander here at Fort Pickett and being a team as a family, it’s neat to get them down here,” said Wilkinson. “It’s always good to be able to do things with your family.”

“One of the things that Girls Scouts are all about is about learning of the environment, natural resources, and one thing I think this generation is all about and that’s learning about recycling and learning about the necessity for ecosystems” said Jayne Randall, Troop Leader.

The Virginia Guard Environmental Program team, which consists of Williamson, Amy O. Haynes, Dave K. Short, and Bev A. Boyko, planned the project and assisted the Girl Scouts as they put together the bat houses. The project was so environmentally conscious that recycled ammo boxes were used as the homes in which the bats will live.

"The bat houses were fabricated from recycled metal ammo boxes with a plywood insert that the bats use to roost on," Haynes said. "So you end up with an inverted ammo box with a metal bracket welded on the top holding it to the post. It's another way to reuse a waste stream generated through military training into bat houses."

  National Public Land's Day

Amy O. Haynes, environmental specialist with the Virginia Guard Environmental Program, assists a Girl Scout from Troop 138 in attaching a recycled ammo box that would serve as a bat house to the assembled posts. (Photo by Sgt. Jesse L. Houk, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

This project was important because it was recognized by public works that bats were actually starting to roost in the barracks.  This project will help service members as they stay on Fort Pickett because the bats will be prevented from entering the barracks and given an alternative place to live far from the barracks.

The project not only serves to help Fort Pickett, but it also helps the girls to achieve their goal of obtaining badges. This project will help the girls qualify for four potential badges.

"The badges are bragging rights on the vest,” said Randall. “Patches are on the back and they receive one when they attend an event. When they have a lot of badges on the front of their vest they are popular because they are hard to get.”

The rain barrels are located at the Hanson House and will collect rain water to irrigate shrubbery.  The bat houses were installed on Joy Nature Trail, which is open to the public for recreation.  The Hansen House and Joy Nature Trail are located on Dearing Road.

“The girls have been energetic in wanting to work,” said Haynes. “They have drilled, hammered, used wrenches, done problem solving, team lifting, and they have just worked well together. I am happy.”

Wilkinson stated that he hopes this could be a project that creates a long and lasting relationship with both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts which will lead to future projects on Fort Pickett.

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