Pfc. Jonathan Carpenter, a self-proclaimed native of the backwoods of South Carolina, said he was not exposed to recycling until he joined the Army.
“Recycling — what’s that?” Carpenter recalled of his knowledge of the practice. “I knew nothing about it, like [the fact that there are] different types of plastic. I just knew it was a plastic bottle and it goes in the trash can when you’re done with it.”
The wheeled vehicle mechanic, with Company B, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, said his education came quickly, however, after he was put in charge of his company’s recycling program in September 2011 and received environmental compliance officer training at Fort Stewart shortly thereafter.
Capt. Bradley Cooper, commander of Company B, 703rd BSB, said that as Carpenter’s knowledge increased during the past 11 months, the success of the company’s recycling program grew tremendously. Thanks to Carpenter’s diligence and aggressiveness, Cooper said, Company B was chosen in July to receive Fort Stewart’s Recycling Incentive Award for the third quarter.
The unit will receive the award — which includes a plaque and a $1,000 in unit Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation funds — for passing a 19-point inspection and for being selected out of a pool of 10 unit finalists, said Johnny Davis, compliance and assessment manager for the Department of Public Works’ environmental division.
“I don’t have to worry about recycling because I know Carpenter’s got it,” Cooper said. “He definitely stays on all of us about it and [has taught us about] recycling procedures and what right looks like.”
Carpenter said effecting change in his unit began with working to build a healthy recycling culture in the motor pool, the company areas and at the barracks.
“It’s mainly at the user level that issues arise,” Carpenter said. “If you read the Dumpster it tells you exactly what can go in it — it’s the simple things that [lead to behavior change].”
Carpenter said company and battalion-level leadership supported him in his efforts, which led to a night-and-day difference in the unit’s recycling program. Taking little credit for himself, Carpenter said earning the award is the result of a group effort.
“It feels great because you put a lot of hard work into something,” he said. “Whether you actually see a physical reward or not, just knowing that you’re doing the right thing and doing a good job is enough, but it’s nice to get the recognition that comes along with it. It makes it worthwhile, [and] it makes you work harder.”
Cooper said his company will receive the award during a ceremony in August.