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Army green, environmentally green

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephen Musal
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
A huge truck. Fifty-gallon drums of fuel for a diesel engine. Piles of unserviceable, wrecked office equipment scattered in a seemingly haphazard arrangement. These hardly seem like the props for an ecologically beneficial way of life, but they are - with the help of one Army noncommissioned officer.

Staff Sgt. Roger Smith, a firefighter assigned to the Army's 344th Military Intelligence Battalion, has a passion for recycling and reuse. His 1998 Dodge Ram 3500 runs on home-made biodiesel rather than fuel from a gas station. Furthermore, his skill in replicating the villages of Iraq and Afghanistan at the Army's Camp Sentinel field training exercise area has resulted in office chairs, desks and other unserviceable items that might otherwise go to the trash heap finding new life in the mock villages, markets or improvised explosive device training lanes.

"I've always recycled at the house," Sergeant Smith said, "and with fuel prices the way they were last year, I was searching for a way to save money. I did my research, and found a way to save cash and recycle at the same time - my truck." His truck already ran on a diesel engine, and no conversion was necessary to begin using biodiesel.

After researching various biodiesel sites on the Internet, Sergeant Smith settled on one mix which he has used for almost a year now. Asking restaurants for used corn oil, peanut oil or any other kind of cooking oil, he came up with enough for a 150-gallon batch. According to Sergeant Smith, restaurants would otherwise have to pay professionals to take the oil away, so they are often more than happy to donate it to him.

After making his own holding tanks out of recycled 50-gallon drums, he lets the oil settle for about a week. After filtering the oil several times, he mixes in 5 gallons of kerosene to break it down, 2 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline for a cleaner fuel burn and 3-4 ounces of diesel additives (available at any auto parts store). The total cost per gallon, according to Sergeant Smith, is about 48 cents.

"It's 100 percent biodegradable," Sergeant Smith said of the truck which other Soldiers have taken to calling the 'Big Green Machine.' "I'm happy, the restaurants are happy and the environment is happy," he added. "I'm getting about 28-38 miles per gallon on the highway, which is pretty good for a truck this size."

Much like the oil he recycles, the furniture and equipment at Camp Sentinel is unserviceable for normal use. However, Sergeant Smith found a way to use it. Nearly every wooden structure at the mock village is made from recycled lumber from the previous village, and almost every room in the concrete compound has a desk and a chair, both of which have seen better days. For items which might be too broken to use, Sergeant Smith and his fellow cadre set them up on the IED lane, representing places where terrorists might hide the deadly explosives.

Sergeant Smith stresses that the re-use of equipment is a unit team effort amongst. He also admits that he's not the first at Goodfellow Air Force Base to use biodiesel, but he said he hopes to set an example for others.

"The important thing is to do your research," Sergeant Smith said. "There's a lot of good help out there, but there's a lot of scams as well. Be careful."