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Eglin Cultural Resources Named Best In DOD

  • Published
  • By Mike Spaits

To quote baseball legend Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

The Department of Defense recently announced Eglin as the winner of the 2023 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Cultural Resources Management, Team Award.

This makes the sixth DOD award to the Eglin Environmental Management Branch in the last 10 years – an unprecedented decade of success.

The Cultural Resources Team’s purpose is to support the warfighter by meeting present compliance responsibilities, planning future activities to minimize cultural resources impacts, and managing those resources responsibly.

The team consists of 12 archaeologists and technicians. They have the unique challenge of managing the cultural resources in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range, which comprises nearly 123,000 square miles of airspace over the Gulf of Mexico - an area with a rich maritime history and known for submerged archaeological sites and historic shipwrecks.

"Being recognized six out of the last 10 years as the best in DOD is a direct result of the professionalism and care that our team brings every day to the management of Eglin's cultural resources,” said Maria Rodriguez, Eglin Environmental Chief.

Credit for the accomplishment goes well beyond the team, said Rodriguez.

“It's also a reflection of the dedication to stewardship by our base leadership. Understanding the military missions here can thrive because our cultural and natural resources are thriving, not in spite of it, is key to having total buy-in to our management practices," Rodriguez said.

To improve EGTTR mission readiness, the Cultural Resources Office’s Team established partnerships, consultation parameters, and standard operating procedures to assess effects on cultural resources and ensure National Historic Preservation Act compliance. The SOPs saved an estimated $40 million expenditure during an EGTTR fiber-optic cable project.

"Our team came up with some very innovative processes that helped save millions of dollars for the test and training missions here," said Mindy Rogers, Eglin Environmental Assets section chief.

During the award period, the Team culminated years of collaboration with stakeholders, including six Federally recognized Native American Tribes, when the Cultural Resources Management Team finalized and established a programmatic agreement among Eglin, the Florida State Historic Preservation Officer, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding the management of Eglin’s historic properties. This extremely comprehensive PA improves and streamlines Eglin’s ability to assess cultural resources impacts more effectively and ensure NHPA compliance.