Litter Patrol: Soto Cano personnel clean up major Honduran highway
By Capt. Alysia Harvey, Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs
/ Published April 27, 2007
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, REPUBLIC OF HONDURAS -- Approximately 20 U.S. military from here spent three hours picking up trash on a one-mile stretch of CA-5, Honduras' single major highway and the one that runs in front of Soto Cano Air Base.
The volunteers, primarily from Air Force Forces, collected nearly three truckloads of trash. Plastic bottles and bottle caps made up the majority of the litter, but various items were collected, including glass bottles, engine and hydraulic oil cans, newspapers, personal papers, fast food cups and wrappers, candy wrappers and cigarette packs and butts.
"The purpose of this event was to improve the appearance outside the base perimeter fence and wall by cleaning up the trash," said Tech. Sgt. Michael O'Loughlin, the NCO in charge of Air Force Forces' Transient Alert, who organized the event. "For many people, all they see of Soto Cano Air Base is what's on the outside of the wall. It thought it would be nice to show people that we - the Americans and Hondurans who live and work on the base - take pride in the appearance of the area surrounding the base in the same way that we take care of the grounds inside the base."
The efforts of this volunteer team had such a significant impact that media from the surrounding areas came out to interview them about what they were doing.
"They wanted to know who we were, what we were doing and why," according to Herberth Gaekel, a Honduran Foreign Service National who serves as the Fire Inspector at the Soto Cano Fire Department. "Once I told them, they said we were setting a good example for the community and that they would challenge the local schools and civic organizations in the Comayagua Valley on tonight's newscast to follow our lead. They ended by telling us that we were doing a great job and that they really appreciated what we were doing."
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tristen Wachter, also a member of Air Force Forces who works in Air Terminal Operations Center, was also interviewed.
"They asked me how the litter problem could be remedied, and I told them to teach children that littering is wrong from a very early age, and as they grow up that message will be instilled in them and they will be less likely to put trash on the ground," said Sergeant Wachter. "I also told them that we already know that Honduras is a beautiful country, and we just wanted to do our little part to make it even more beautiful so that people can continue to enjoy it in the future."
According to a local source, most people know they shouldn't throw trash on the ground because they are taught that it's wrong in school, but unfortunately there are no laws against littering in Honduras, so there is a lot of trash on the streets.
The clean-up was a volunteer effort among U.S. servicemembers who took to the streets outside the base, Joint Security Forces personnel and local policemen who controlled traffic in the areas where the servicemembers were cleaning, and cadets from the Honduran Air Force Academy, who did grounds keeping chores inside the base.
Sergeant O'Loughlin hopes to continue this clean-up effort on a quarterly basis and to make it a Joint Task Force-Bravo initiative.