BMGR benchmark natural resources program wins award

  • Published
  • By Ms. Teresa Walker
  • 56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office
The Barry M. Goldwater Range, southwest of Luke Air Force Base, is a national asset for training fighter pilots. It is also considered a model for its cultural and natural resources programs.

The Defense Department has been charged with preserving cultural history while conducting operations on its installations. In the case of BMGR, the 56th Range Management Office Environmental Sciences Management Flight was recently awarded the General Thomas D. White Cultural Resources Management Award for doing just that.

The Air Force-level award recognizes the installation as conducting the best or most improved cultural resources management program during the previous three years. The review board considers all aspects of the program.

"What a thrill it is to win this award," said Adrianne Rankin, 56th RMO archaeologist. "We won the award at AETC level, but to be recognized at the Air Force level is a real honor. It's a testament to our hard work and recognition of our innovative cultural resource programs. We are setting precedents for other installations with a number of our programs."

More than 55,000 sorties are flown on the Goldwater Range - East each year with more than 1,260 cultural resource sites located on the BMGR to date. One of the reasons so much history is still intact on the range is because military operations are confined to less than six percent of the range's 1.1 million acres. When bombs are dropped, impact is further limited because the targets are specific; bombs are dropped in the same spots over and over and 98 percent of those are inert, further minimizing the operational impact.

The archaeological history is so abundant on the range that Ms. Rankin co-authored Fragile Patterns, a 780-page book detailing 15 years of range research. She wrote six chapters herself and co-edited the encyclopedic book. Dr. David Doyel, another RMO archaeologist, also contributed to the book, which is available at the Luke library.

The cultural history on the range is so far-reaching that scientists from all over the globe request access to the range for various reasons, but ultimately so they can study the diverse archaeology. The RMO has its own team of experts to dust off history on the range and to insure that military operations will continue for many more generations. The RMO archaeologists are charged with providing operational alternatives to minimize impacts and conserve resources while enhancing training activities on the range.

Preservation of cultural resources is integrated at every level of decision-making when it comes to the Goldwater Range - East. Environmental sciences personnel consult regularly with airspace and range operations personnel to deconflict mission requirements for the Air Force.

"Good cultural resource management practices, including compliance with historic preservation laws and regulations are an important facet of the RMO's mission on the BMGR," said Carol Heathington, RMO operations planner with an education in archaeology. "These practices include consulting with the State Historic Preservation Officer and tribes whose ancestors lived on or near the range, conducting surveys to locate archaeological sites, monitoring the condition of recorded sites, and taking steps to protect sites from the effects of military training, public recreation, and erosion."

The RMO is widely recognized for its conventional interagency relationships. Because the scientific disciplines are so specific, RMO works closely with many federal and state agencies, including Arizona Game & Fish, Bureau of Land Management, and Border Patrol, among others. This interagency effort acts as a force multiplier by leveraging skills to accomplish research and surveys that are essential to minimizing impact on the range.

"To the extent possible, new activities and range improvements are planned to avoid impacts to cultural resources, thus preserving them for future generations," said Ms. Heathington.

The BMGR Site Stewards program was recognized by the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office during a local workshop, for drawing a huge number of participants who then contributed their time to volunteering on federal land within Arizona.

RMO staff also provides training to explosive ordnance disposal personnel who traverse the range daily educating them on how to recognize and avoid impacts on cultural sites has reduced damage to the sites.

Another area of significant impact with high dividends is the ongoing consultations with Native American tribes.

"The collaborative effort we have with the Native American tribes is hugely gratifying," Ms. Rankin said. "Sponsoring tribal studies, escorting groups on field trips, and collaborating on professional papers are ways to facilitate and appreciate our cultural histories. All of these efforts culminate in promoting cultural resources awareness."

The RMO will go on to compete against the other services for the DoD-level cultural resource management programs award.