Operation Joint Endeavor

By Maj. Donald F. Archibald, USA, and Stephen W. Hughes  

Article originally published in the October-November 1987 issue of The Military Engineer.

The Dayton Peace Accord, signed in December 1995, sent NATO Armed Forces, including some 20,000 U.S. troops, to over 30 bases in Bosnia, Croatia, and Hungary in Operation Joint Endeavor by April last year. And, the Corps’ of Engineers’ Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract with Brown & Root sent civilians to these bases to provide construction, logistics and environmental services in support of the operation.

Since then, military and civilian personnel have worked together on a number of environmental tasks in co-ordination with the Army’s headquarters—USAREUR—in Germany. A number of lessons were learned; we describe the key ones here.

Military Operations

Environmental stewardship starts at the top. Early on, USAEUR’s commanding general directed commanders to designate environmental officers in each deploying unit and to ensure that hazardous wastes were disposed of through the Defense Logistics Agency. This put a high priority on environmental matters and set the tone for all operations that occurred during deployment.

Integrate environmental and operations staffs and actions early. The environmental staff was involved in initial deployment planning from the beginning, allowing identification and action on known environmental matters before they became problems.

We devoted major efforts to learning about the environmental regulations and programs of these countries prior to starting the deployment. 

Determine environmental authority early on and reinforce it often. Each deployment operations plan had an environmental annex; these established authority, designated responsible parties, and issued “how-to” guidance on environmental matters in the new theater of operation. This assignment of accountability ensured environmental matters would be, and remain, high priorities.

Understand environmental requirements in the area of operation before they begin. We devoted major efforts to learning about the environmental regulations and programs of these countries prior to starting the deployment. Still, had we had more foreknowledge of their requirements, our forces would have been able to obtain more quickly the approvals needed to set up and operate base camp support systems and infrastructure.


Baseline Surveys

In early December 1995, Brown & Root sent environmental specialists to Hungary to do environmental baseline surveys (EBSs) at properties leased by the U.S. military; these included Hungarian army and air force bases, a municipal airport, and various warehouse and vehicle maintenance facilities. The team completed their reports by the end of January 1996.

The goal of the program was to ensure that all hazardous waste generated by the U.S. military in the theater was collected, containerized, stored, labeled, recorded, transported, and disposed of in a way that satisfied all applicable host nation, international, and U.S. regulations and guidelines.

The team, and another, then did EBSs at properties in Bosnia and Croatia; these consisted of military bases, operating industrial and commercial facilities, heavily damaged and abandoned industrial and commercial facilities, and greenfield (agricultural) lands. The investigations were done by the end of February and the reports were completed by the end of April.

Some of the lessons learned included:

Fast-track EBSs are cost-effective and reduce U.S. liability. These surveys documented environmental conditions during the occupancy of the properties to determine potential health hazards and preclude the U.S. military from unfounded claims for past environmental damage. Although most surveyed properties had no significant environmental or health problems, recommendations were made to correct the problems or to avoid using a property.

A two-phase approach to EBSs proved most effective. Due to the rapid deployments, tight time constraints, and the need to identify health hazards before the properties were occupied, the EBSs were conducted in two phases. The first provided an overview of properties using real-time field sampling equipment. A second investigation was done only when the first indicated the possibility of a significant environmental or health hazard. The latter was more comprehensive, and was used to quantify any identified hazards and develop exposure and liability mitigation strategies.


Hazardous Waste Management

Definitive plans to collect and dispose of hazardous waste during a contingency operation of this size had not been developed by the U.S. military. Therefore, USAREUR’s Environmental Office set up a theater-wide hazardous waste management program that focused on simplicity and the reinforcement of environmentally sound practices usually used at the home bases of the deploying military units.

The goal of the program was to ensure that all hazardous waste generated by the U.S. military in the theater was collected, containerized, stored, labeled, recorded, transported, and disposed of in a way that satisfied all applicable host nation, international, and U.S. regulations and guidelines.

Lessons learned during this program include:

Environmental training of U.S. Forces is effective. Both pre- and post-deployment environmental training significantly decreased improper handling and disposal of hazardous waste.

Pre-deployment hazardous waste management are essential. The lack of space on military transportation limited the hazardous waste collection supplies and spill response materials that could be carried by deploying troops. However, prearranged contracts ensured these supplies and materials were available at base camps.

The hazardous waste collection program did not adversely impact operations, human health, and the environment. Our jointly developed hazardous waste collection allowed military units to turn over base camp-generated hazardous waste to Brown & Root environmental specialists shortly after the wastes were generated.


Spill Response

An emergency spill response program was set up to provide rapid response and cleanup capabilities in the event U.S. military or its contractors created the release of a hazardous material. While immediate response is always a military responsibility, large spills required qualified personnel and dedicated equipment. Brown & Root personnel were selected for this because they were at every base camp.

The lessons learned during the deployment include:

Spill response contracts must be set up before deployment. Comprehensive emergency spill response contracts were not in place prior to deployment. While they were set up four months after deployment began, initial responses to spills resulted in complicated contracting mechanisms and greater cleanup costs.

Integrating spill responses into the hazardous waste management program reduces operational costs and increases military effectiveness. Brown & Root’s hazardous waste management personnel also served as the emergency spill response team. This reduced the need for additional hazardous material specialists and allowed military engineering assets to focus on their primary missions.

The environmental expertise of local contractors affects what can be done in-country. In Hungary, emergency spill response was contracted to a local firm but, in Bosnia and Croatia, Brown & Root performed spill response because local firms had little or no expertise.

Rapid spill response reduces cleanup costs and future liability. The rapid spill response capabilities allowed the firm to clean up over a dozen major hazardous material spill incidents, recover thousands of liters of spilled hazardous materials, and initiate three soil remediation projects.



During the planning stages of Operation Joint Endeavor, the U.S. military committed itself to minimizing risks to human health and the environment and compliance with applicable environmental regulations. Environmental experts from several organizations worked together to integrate environmental considerations into the Army’s daily operations and solve issues associated with these operations. The development of practical programs to address spills; dispose of solid, hazardous, and bio-medical wastes; and conduct environmental baseline surveys are but some of the ways environmental experts protected the health of deployed personnel and minimized environmental impact.

The Operation Joint Endeavor deployment was the largest U.S. troop mobilization in Europe since World War II. The use of an environmental program of this nature in a contingency operation of this size marks a new chapter in Department of Defense environmental stewardship. The innovative approaches used to establish these programs and solve problems are being incorporated into Army doctrine and training.

[Article first published in the October-November 1987 issue of The Military Engineer.]