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A Friend in Need

  • Published
  • By TSgt Javier Cruz
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

The temperature rose steadily as the regulating system of the cooler started to malfunction. The situation would only continue to worsen as the transplants began to die, caretakers from the Tombigbee National Forest, United States Forestry Service, needed to act quickly to save over six thousand new seedlings. The solution came in the form of the 14th Civil Engineering Squadron, when the Natural Resources office, with help from pilots of the 49th Fighter Training Squadron and military youth from the Child Development Center, stepped in to lend their shovels.  

“We have a memorandum of understanding with the Tombigbee and Holly Springs National Forest for bird habitat management and invasive species eradication. They reached out to ask if we could take any (seedlings), I said sure we’ll take a few, and they brought a couple thousand,” said Samuel D. Akers, 14 CES, Natural Resources, environmental scientist. 

Coincidentally, Arbor Day, was planned to be celebrated with the planting of special heritage trees, however, the opportunity to reforest a recently harvested forest area in the northwest corner of the installation, could not be passed up. 

“In the spirit of Arbor Day, in the morning I met with a few volunteers from the 49th Fighter Training Squadron and we planted 1600 seedlings,” said Akers. “We had plenty of leftover seedlings, so we sent each of the kids from the Youth Center home with their very own Shortleaf Pine seedlings.” 

As part of the official observance for Arbor Day, the Natural Resources office and representatives from the Mississippi Forestry Commission planted four unique American Heritage trees: Amelia Earhart Flowering Dogwood, William Faulkner White Oak, Franklin D. Roosevelt Southern Magnolia and the Medal of Honor awardee Sgt. Alvin C. York Tulip Poplar. The trees are raised from seedlings found at the homesteads of these historical figures.  

“Columbus Air Force Base has an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan that drives the conservation efforts here,” said Akers. “This plan is built and approved with Air Force Civil Engineer Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and Tribal stakeholders. Our day to day in the Natural Resources position is diverse. Common duties include planning of outreach such as our Arbor Day event, trail maintenance and planning for the Strategic Air Command Lake nature trails, monitoring and managing for threatened and endangered species in our area, human and wildlife conflict resolution, supporting the bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard mission through depredation, acting as liaison between the USAF and partners such as the United States Forestry Service and United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and hosting our recreation portal for hunting and fishing opportunities inside the fence line.”  

Akers explained the role of reforestation and its importance. 

“Reforestation is important for a multitude of reasons,” said Akers. “A few key points would be the reduction of storm water runoff, improving air quality, species selection for controlling wildlife foraging opportunities (keeping deer away from the airfield), carbon sequestration, improved soil fertility, and shade for habitats.” 

The comprehensive goal of ecosystem management on Columbus Air Force Base is to maintain and improve the sustainability and biological diversity of native ecosystems while supporting the Air Force mission, legal requirements and the needs of the military community.