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News | March 13, 2024

West Point Cadets Explore Environmental Engineering at SETAF-AF

By Capt. Billy Lacroix West Point

Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point explored environmental engineering during a visit to the Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) headquarters, here, March 7-8.

The visit, a pivotal component of the cadets' Environmental Engineering Capstone Design Program, aimed to provide real-world applications of their rigorous academic training. During their visit, the cadets engaged in discussions, participated in workshops, physical fitness training and explored the innovative environmental projects underway at SETAF-AF.

Throughout the academic year Cadets spend approximately 7 months studying the intricacies of storm-water distribution networks and develop best practices that could be adopted by SETAF-AF to decrease the amount of storm-water that discharged into the nearby river during intense rain events.

Col. Robert Hilliard, SETAF-AF chief engineer, was enthusiastic about the opportunity for the cadets. "This visit shows them how environmental engineering supports military effectiveness and innovation," he said. "Understanding the real-world impact of their studies is vital and it’s an opportunity for them to see the real-world impact of environmental engineering on military operations."

The visit showcased SETAF-AF’s efforts in sustainability, water conservation, and energy efficiency, highlighting the role of environmental stewardship in military planning. As part of the visit each cadet was presented the opportunity to see the network they've studied and present their recommendations to SETAF-AF and U.S. Army Garrison Italy leadership.

Cadet Kacy Colletto found the experience eye-opening. "Applying our studies to SETAF-AF’s operations has highlighted the importance of environmental engineering to the Army’s readiness and sustainability," she said. “Having the opportunity to meet and learn from senior leaders in the field of engineering is an experience that will help me over the next year.”

The visit emphasized the value of integrating academic learning with military operations, particularly in solving environmental challenges. To decrease discharge into the river, the cadets are recommending selective installation of green roofs construction of bios wales with native grasses, and the installation of permeable pavements that allows for storm-water to percolate into the soil instead of being discharged into the river.

"This visit has been a practical link between theory and practice for all the cadets," said Kevin Hace, facilities and construction chief at SETAF-AF. "It's vital for these future Army leaders to understand the importance of environmental stewardship and how it impacts military readiness."

For SETAF-AF, engaging with West Point cadets offers more than just educational benefits; it's a chance to influence the Army's next generation of leaders on addressing environmental challenges within military operations.

As the cadets return to West Point, they bring back an enhanced understanding of the strategic significance of environmental engineering in the Army, prepared to integrate this knowledge into their future roles.

About SETAF-AF: The U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa provides U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Europe & Africa a dedicated headquarters to coordinate Army activities in Africa and offer scalable crisis response options.