The Thomas D. White Environmental Awards recognize Air Force installations conducting the best or most improved environmental programs in various categories, and the teams and individuals that contribute the most to environmental efforts each year. The awards are named in honor of General. Thomas D. White, the Air Force Chief of Staff from 1957 - 1961, who charted the course for Air Force environmental programs. Winners of the Air Force awards go on to compete for the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award.

Air Force officials recently announced 2021 winners of the annual awards:

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Schriever Air Force Base – Cultural Resources Management – Small Installation

Among the 50th CES’s achievements of the past two years were a complete rewrite of its Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan to capture new data and best practices. The base’s cultural resources team also implemented a new Installation Tribal Relations Plan and established strong working relationships with Native American Tribes and the State of Colorado. For the first time in nearly 30 years, walking surveys of the entire installation for archaeological and architectural resources were conducted, discovering dozens of new sites and artifacts from both historic and prehistoric eras. These initiatives enabled the Cultural Resources Program team to remain compliant with the National Historic Preservation Act as Schriever AFB undergoes rapid development and construction.


Shaw Air Force Base  Environmental Restoration Installation

Among the 20th CES environmental restoration program’s achievements of the past two years were the unprecedented execution of over $59M in environmental remediation contracts, including 3 performance based remediation contracts and a six-year optimized remediation contract.  The environmental restoration team also executed an Expanded Site Inspection and awarded a contract for a Remedial Investigation to evaluate the nature and extent of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) releases associated with legacy operations and training activities.  The team also utilized innovative environmental cleanup technologies to target hard-to-reach contaminant hot spots and significantly shrink the size of contaminated groundwater plumes, including the use of ozone/atmospheric air-generating trailers for the treatment of solvent contaminated soils and groundwater, and drilling a 2000 ft long 65 ft deep treatment line under restricted portions of the airfield without impacting flight operations.   These and other actions demonstrate that an effective environmental restoration program is not incompatible with the mission.


Thomas E. Penders – Cultural Resources Management – Individual – Team

As the cultural resources manager for the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, Mr. Penders is responsible for over 500 cultural resources, including prehistoric and historical archaeological sites, missile sites, launch complexes, the Man in Space National Historic Landmark (NHL) District, World War II resources, cemeteries, a lighthouse, and historic missiles.  Among his achievements of the past two years are: the in-house development of the 45th Space Wing’s Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan (ICRMP) and completion of the 5-year ICRMP update, actions that avoided $85,000 in contract costs; obtaining approval from the Florida State Historic Preservation Office for laser scanning as an improved technique for Historic American Building Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) recordation; initiation of a six-year program to conduct high definition three-dimensional laser scanning of six NHL launch complexes and launch-related facilities slated for demolition or reuse;  and maintaining on-going dialogues and consultation with the National Park Service, NASA, federal and state historic preservation offices, federally recognized tribal governments, and other cultural resources stakeholders.  These and other actions directly support the 45th Space Wing’s long term development plan, and planned and future launch operations. 


Yokota Air Base – Environmental Quality Overseas

Among the 374th CES environmental element achievements of the past two years were conducting 174 environmental inspections in FY20 that identified and corrected 17 of 19 discrepancies and increased Yokota ABs environmental compliance status by 90%, and working with the base Inspector General (IG) office to coordinate inspections in concert with other base-wide programs, resulting in fewer shop interruptions.  Other notable achievements include authoring the inaugural quarterly base bilingual hazardous materials newsletter as a means of educating military and civilian personnel on the hazardous materials/hazardous waste program, partnering with the United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka's Qualified Recycling Program (QRP) to reclaim 8.9 tons of scrap metal and 53 tons of batteries while avoiding $50K in disposal costs, and executing an in-house storm water re-engineering solution to clear a 128-mile drainage system to eliminate flooding and preventing pollutants from reaching the local community waterways.  By mitigating environmental impacts from 21 airfield improvement projects associated with the bed down of the high altitude, remotely piloted RQ-4 surveillance aircraft, the environmental element enhanced the ability of Yokota AB ability to collect mission essential intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information.


Eglin Air Force Base – Natural Resources Conservation – Large Installation

Eglin AFB is home to 106 rare or endangered plant and animal species found in 34 distinct ecosystems.  Among the 96th CEGs natural resources team achievements of the past two years were conducting 162 prescribed burns across 153,577 acres of land, leading DAF efforts in restoring fire to the endangered long leaf pine ecosystem.  Longleaf pine seedlings and saplings need full sunlight to thrive, and without fire, faster growing plants shade them out.  The team also artificially raised and released 1,048 critically-endangered reticulated flatwoods salamanders and repatriated 2 new habitats, the first ever such action for the species. The team also surveyed 4,250 acres of land and removed over 14,000 invasive exotic plants threatening high quality endangered species habitats, and generated $450K in revenue for threatened and endangered habitat restoration via the sustainable on-base harvest of palmetto berries.  These and other actions, such as protecting and relocating 101 sea turtle and 150 shorebird nests on 18 miles of Santa Rosa Island shoreline, demonstrate the important role the natural resources team plays in ensuring the continued use of Eglin AFB for military training and operations.    


Whiteman Air Force Base – Sustainability – Team

Among the 509th CES sustainability team achievements of the past two years were directing the conversion of the base qualified recycling program and authoring a 3 year $692K recycling services contract that not only cut overhead by $200K, but increased the amount of recycling program revenues received by the base by 50%.  Additionally, 350 tons of recyclable materials, 4700 gals of used oil, and 150 tons of metal were diverted from the solid waste stream waste, avoiding associated landfill disposal costs.  Other notable achievements include natural resource management activities that reduced Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) risks and enhanced flight safety, identifying deficiencies in the base’s air quality permits, and negotiating permit modifications that simplified compliance while sustaining aircraft maintenance and engine test cell capabilities, and managing the environmentally compliance decommissioning of 150 old Minuteman II missile silos and 14 launch control facilities.  By implementing enhancements to the base Environmental Management System and securing cross-functional team member and base leadership commitment, the sustainability team strengthened base-wide understanding not only of environmental requirements, but also individual and organizational responsibilities to minimize impacts that could negatively affect mission.


The Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards honor installations, teams and individuals for outstanding conservation achievements, innovative environmental practices and partnerships that improve quality of life and promote efficiencies that support, without compromising, the Defense Department’s mission success.

In 2021, the Department of Defense selected the following 4 Department of the Air Force winners from 27 nominees:

Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation: Eglin Air Force Base, Florida — Developed a four-pronged approach to gopher tortoise conservation. Through a fiscal year 2020 memorandum of agreement with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Eglin became the primary recipient site for gopher tortoise populations that alternative energy production had displaced across Florida. During FY 2019-2020, conservationists moved more than 2,300 gopher tortoises to the installation and Eglin is on track to reach its goal of receiving 6,000 tortoises by 2023.

Environmental Quality, Overseas Installation: Yokota Air Base, Japan  — Employed an environmental inspection process that reduced the need for one-time shop ramp-ups for inspections. The team performed more frequent inspections spread throughout the year, which resulted in a smoother, more balanced workload. In FY 2020, Yokota Air Base conducted 174 environmental inspections and identified or corrected 17 out of 19 significant discrepancies, which increased environmental compliance by 90%.

Environmental Restoration, Installation: Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina — Completed two years of intensive Installation Strategic Acquisition Planning, which resulted in the early awarding of a multiyear $16.3 million Optimized Remediation Contract in August 2020. The three restoration projects achieved a record 10 site closeouts, two response complete milestones, and 11 optimized remedies.

Cultural Resources Management, Individual/Team: Thomas E. Penders, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida — Led six archaeological surveys, saving the 45th Space Wing an estimated $480,000. The surveys paved the way for the use of lands for the development of critical defense and launch programs identified in the 45th Space Wing General Plan while complying with the National Historic Preservation Act and Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Click on the year below for more information about previous Department of the Air Force Secretary of Defense Environmental Award recipients or visit here.

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F-35 Joint Program Office, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio












Water droplet image with title Air Force PFOS/PFOA Approach