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July - September 2005
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Where's the Trash?
By Robert Houston, Sean Sinclair, and Jim Robertson

An Air Force base is like a small city with a huge airport. Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, has approximately 7,600 assigned personnel who eat, sleep, and breathe the United States national defense mission. Environmental Flight within the Civil Engineering Squadron is responsible for 100 percent compliance with federal, state, and local laws along with Air Force regulations including those regulating solid waste (i.e., trash). Dyess Air Force Base has always been a leader in waste and recycling issues inside of the Air Combat Command. Recently the lid was lifted on another opportunity for Dyess Air Force Base to excel.

Master Sergeant Pope updates the attributes of a previously logged dumpster.

Tracking Dumpsters

Air Force Civil Engineering requires that trash and recycle dumpsters be tracked and logged for contract maintenance purposes. Surveys are performed on an annual basis to maintain records of dumpster locations and problems that need attention. The surveys were traditionally completed by driving around the base and recording data with a pencil and notepad.

Performing a handwritten inventory rather than using digital survey methods raised some issues: exact locations were hard to describe, the handwritten inventory notes had to be combined and interpreted, and unintentionally redundant data collection and other factors introduced error and made data collection inefficient.

click to enlarge
ArcPad Application Builder was used to create custom menus for dumpster data collection.

One of the main problems with the manual survey was the amount of time required to collect the data. Because several dumpsters would have been relocated or removed during the 20-day data collection process, the survey was out of date even before it was completed. A standardized method that was more efficient and comprehensive was needed to track and inventory trash dumpsters on the base's 6,000 acres.

Assessing Requirements

The Environmental Flight Chief approached the Dyess GeoBase office with a request to develop a better process to track and maintain the dumpster inventory at the base. [The Air Force GeoBase program supports use of geospatial information technologies at air force installations as corporate knowledge management resources.] The GeoBase office met with the entire environmental team and discussed the problems and the shortcomings of the manual data collection/maintenance system. Out of that meeting came the following requirements list.

  • Quick-and-easy data collection
  • Customizable collection of attributes
  • Attribute choices rather than entry of descriptive text or feature type
  • Ability to add or remove data and attributes
  • Trend and problem area analysis
  • Direct import and export with GIS
  • Tracking of dumpsters' physical conditions
  • Ability to easily relocate features with GPS
  • Easy integration of new data into existing dataset
  • Equipment that is portable and easy to carry
  • System requiring a short learning curve to basic proficiency

Continued on page 2

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