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Guard Soldiers Have New Mission: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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As Iowa National Guard soldiers train at Fort Irwin, California for their mission to Afghanistan, they create a lot of trash. In the past, that garbage went straight to the landfill.

But now there's a big a effort to protect the environment.

Out in the Mojave Desert, soldiers pick up bags of trash several times a day.

"We have to, obviously, pick up anything we bring in. What you bring in, you take out. We try to leave the area cleaner than we left it," said 1st Sgt. Brian Lindner of Fort Dodge, who's serving with the 1-133 HHC.

Everyone follows a simple rule to keep the desert free of debris.

"If it doesn't grow, pick it up, aside from the rocks," Lindner said.

Later, Fort Irwin staff members sort through all the trash by hand and recycle as much as possible.

Of course, the military also recycles tires and oil.

"They try to make it as easy as possible so it's not a hassle," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Todd Kieffer, 46, of Waterloo, who's serving with Forward Support Company E of the 334 BSB.

Each time Spc. Jonathan Pickering, 21, of Knoxville uses the military's Freon Recovery Machine, it filters the chemical and allows the military to reuse the Freon. The process saves money and time.

"I can multi-task. I can set the machine to do what I want it to do and I can walk away to finish whatever else I'm working on," Pickering said.

This new focus on the environment is quite a change for long-time members of the military.

"We didn't recycle anything. It wasn't uncommon to see people spill oil on the ground and let it sit, or even dump oil on the ground," Kieffer said.

Now, recycling has become a requirement and soldiers consider guarding the earth part of their mission.

Some funds raised from collecting and selling recyclables benefit Fort Irwin. The military has already used portions of that money to build a new skate park and car wash on the base for soldiers and their families.

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