VICKSBURG, Miss., Oct. 4 (UPI) —
A U.S. Army reservist has been nominated for a Nobel Prize due to environmental work he performed while deployed to Iraq, the Army says.
Sgt. Randy Sandifer of Pinola, Miss., joined the Army Reserves while still in high school, enlisting between his junior and senior years and eventually being assigned to the 412th Theater Engineer Command in Dec. 2001.
While still in his early twenties, he received orders to deploy to Iraq, something that interrupted his study of forensic chemistry at the University of Mississippi.
Once in country, Sandifer acted as an administrator before finding his place in an environmental team working in the soil laboratory. The team’s mission was to conduct soil analysis around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. Through these duties Sandifer would be recognized.
"Within this task, I had to test for the presence of hydrocarbons, then I had to go back and test for the parts per million of hydrocarbons; from my tests they wrote recommendations to excavate the soil and put down new soil or just clean it up, " he said, before further elaborating:
"Just a small amount of hydrocarbon being in the soil can throw an ecosystem completely off. Dealing with the Iraqis, and how they function, their ecosystem feeds directly to their livelihood because they raise livestock, they farm, they do so much in the environment they are in. They still live off the different rivers that run through there. Those hazardous materials being in the soil could seep into the water supply and go into the individuals’ natural resources so it was just keeping with the whole theme of we’re trying to leave Iraq better than the way we found it. I did so environmentally."
Sandifer was nominated for the award by Professor Jonathan Hutchins, assistant director of the Social Justice Initiative at Philander Smith College, located in Little Rock, Ark.
In 2006, Hutchins was a graduate student at the University of Mississippi when Sandifer detailed his efforts in Iraq during a speech at the campus.
"The environmental effects would have been horrific if it were not for the non-violent scientific dedication exhibited by Mr. Sandifer," Hutchins wrote in his nomination letter.
Due to complexities in the nomination process, it remains unclear exactly when Sandifer will be in the running.
"It could be this year or it could be next year, but just being nominated is a blessing in itself," said Sandifer.