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AFCEC revives in-person AICUZ training

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center hosted the Air Installations Compatible Use Zones Program conference at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 27, 2018.

Meg Reyes, Joint Base San Antonio Community Initiatives director, addresses attendees at the Air Installations Compatible Use Zones Program conference at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 27, 2018. The Air Force Civil Engineer Center hosted event brought AICUZ personnel from all around the Defense Department, as well as representatives from the Office of Economic Adjustment and Department of Agriculture to discuss and share best practices with each other. The overall goal of the program is to protect the health, safety and welfare of those living and working on or near military installations while ensuring the continued flight operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Malcolm McClendon)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AFNS) -- -- In support of missions around the globe, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center revived a workshop long lost to the world of online training.

For the first time in six years, Air Installations Compatible Use Zones representatives from across the Defense Department gathered at a workshop on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 27 – 28, 2018.

Fred Pierson, Air Force AICUZ manager, said the event was designed to bring AICUZ representatives together and create a network in order to keep the missions going at installations.

“That’s our whole job here. We support the warfighter. If they can go out and train the way they need to train, then we did our job,” Pierson said.

The AICUZ program forms the basis for the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force encroachment programs. It promotes compatible land-use development around military installations, promotes public health and safety in areas adjacent to installations, and sustains the operational capabilities of the installation. The program also identifies runway clear zones, accident potential zones, and noise zones, and recommends land-use guidelines for achieving compatible land use in these areas.

“When you look at the bases and encroachment, it’s like sea waves coming up on a cliff and eventually eroding it away. Sooner or later you reach a point where you can’t do your mission,” Pierson said. “With proper land use planning, you can stop this and, in some cases, reverse it.”

This year’s event included representatives from the Office of Economic Adjustment and the Department of Agriculture, and covered topics such as the role of leadership in encroachment management and review of program implementation case studies.

“We had more than 100 attendees from bases around the country and all the services are,” Pierson said.

The online training that replaced the course for the last several years missed the much-needed human element, he added.

“The synergy in there is contagious, Pierson said. “You can talk to someone who’s had the same problem and take it back to your installation. This is how we solve issues with encroachment.”

Navy Capt. Erik Spitzer, commander of Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, spoke at the workshop and said it was good to hear from other representatives and to learn about their practices.

“For me, some of it was a refresher, but a lot of it was looking at the different tools the other installations use, their mitigation strategies and how they go out and try to partner and build relationships,” Spitzer said. “You really need a team that goes out to the local community and can engage them.”

Community involvement is the key to program success, Spitzer said.

“If you don’t have a team dedicated to community outreach, you’re already behind,” he said. “They need to be attending community meetings and functions, because these meetings are where future developments are discussed and by simply being there, future encroachment problems can be averted.”

Pierson said he hopes attendees will take the tools learned here to their installations. He plans to hold the workshop annually and make it more accessible.

“We are giving them the tools they need to be successful and, as always, we’re here to help if they need anything,” Pierson said.