AT-TAQADDUM, Iraq --
The lot was atrocious. Barrels of hazardous material covered the ground with even more piled in shipping crates. The daunting process of clearing out the mess was expected to take a month.
Cpl. Jacob R. Sharbono completed the task in under a week.
“This looks pretty compared to what it was,” commented Sharbona, staring across the now seemingly empty lot, which was once a veritable disaster area for any cleanup crew, let alone one man.
For Sharbono, an environmental hazmat inspector with Base Safety and Environmental, 1st Marine Logistics Group, a task such as this didn’t phase him.
“It’s a new deployment but it’s not new to me,” the 23-year-old from Charlo, Mon., said.
Sharbono was tasked with clearing out hazardous material from the storage lot and moving it to Kellogg, Brown and Root’s hazardous material lot. KBR handles the storage of hazardous material and ships it out, which would allow base safety to use their lot for their own projects.
KBR is responsible for sorting all of the hazardous waste for at-Taqaddum, with the exception of biohazard materials, explained Enis V. Urquhart, an environmental technician on the base.
They plan on opening up the newly cleared lot for materials that KBR can’t take and start an incinerator program to dispose of the materials safely.
The use of an incinerator will help put barrels being used to store hazardous materials back into the recycling plan, once their contents are burned, explained Sharbono. This will help save money on barrels and shipping costs to ship out the materials.
For the most part, Sharbono spearheaded the whole project, explained Master Sgt. Brian A. Pujols, Chief of Base Safety and Environmental.
“(Sharbono) is the definition of initiative,” Pujols said about Sharbono’s work ethic.
The praise may be complimentary, but it doesn’t faze Sharbono.
“It’s just my job, nothing special. I know the ropes and the people we work with and we help each other out,” explained Sharbono.
Sharbono is serving his second tour in Iraq with the 1st Marine Logistics Group and has reunited with some of the employees with KBR who have helped Sharbono with his project.
“I was out here last year and it makes it a little easier knowing people. Some of the KBR people are still here and I still have points of contact with the old contractors which makes things move more fluidly,” Sharbono said.
Urquhart, from Providence, R.I., worked alongside Sharbono who would bring the hazardous material over to his lot for storage. Urquhart described their working relationship as being like “a band of brothers.”
“In my eleven years working with Marines, (Sharbono) is the best person I have ever worked with,” said Urquhart, who served in the Corps for four-and-a-half years. Urquhart was impressed with his professionalism, describing him as a “stand up individual,” never afraid to get right into the project and work alongside the workers at the KBR lot.
“If you wanted a picture perfect NCO-slash-supervisor-slash-worker, he is it. He gets up and knows what the job is and knows what to do. You can leave and not look back knowing the job is complete,” said Pujols, from Tampa, Fla.
The hard work noticed by his superiors is appreciated, but for Sharbono, it is everyday work.
“Some people sit at a desk, that’s not for me,” he said. “I like to be hands on and able to see my accomplishments and keep moving.”
Sharbono has been at at-Taqaddum for more than a month and has already made drastic changes for the base’s environmental outlook. He has another eleven months to clean up the rest of the base.