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124th Intelligence Squadron restores natural habitat

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachel Simones
  • 178th Wing

Behind the scenes of nature’s beauty often lies a deadly competition. Native plant species vie for resources in a struggle to survive. Reed Creek Nature Park is no different; the indigenous plants of this Georgian wetland are at war with an invasive species.

Chinese Privet, which comes from the genus of species known as ligustrum sinese, threatens plant diversity of the Georgian wildlife center by stealing nutrients from native species, pushing many to the brink of extinction. The plant, which was introduced into the park more than 50 years ago, finally overextended its welcome.

“Native plants are crucial to the nature park, because they improve water quality by removing pollutants and other toxic elements from water sources in the wetland habitat,” said Nate Hobbs, an environmental scientist and Reed Creek Nature Park volunteer. Hobbs worked for the park for seven years before transitioning into a volunteer status and he witnessed the negative effects of the disruptive plant on the surrounding region.

To restore the native species’ nutrients, Ohio Air National Guardsmen stepped up to the challenge of removing Chinese Privet. They used garden clippers, chainsaws, and herbicide to combat the rapid growth of this invasive species.

Forty-nine Airmen with the 124th Intelligence Squadron (IS) helped restore the park to its natural beauty during annual training June 13 at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

“Upon learning about the species and how it affects local plant life and wildlife, I understood why it was important to help remove the Privet and how important it was to the wildlife center that we assist them in the short time we had in Georgia,” said Senior Airman Jeremiah Robertson, a member with the 124th IS.

“It’s a great place to hang out with your family, walk your dog, bird watch in the afternoons and go fishing in the creek,” said Hobbs. “By removing the Chinese Privet plant, it improves the aesthetic of the park and allows native species to flourish.”

Airmen cleared the unruly plant from more than an acre of the park grounds. They worked as team to create a space for plant diversity to prosper.

“Through working side-by-side, both in our daily work and volunteering in the local community, we realize that in all that we do we’re contributing to something bigger than ourselves,” said Tech. Sgt. Amanda Jenkins, a member with the 124th IS. “In coming together, the effect we have is greater than the sum of our individual contributions.”

Park visitors can now walk through the park with unobstructed views of the surrounding greenery. After finishing their task, Airmen departed Georgia with a renewed sense of volunteerism and a stronger spirit of selfless service, knowing they made the park a better place for visitors they will never meet.