Even when he was a little boy, Air Traffic Controller 3rd Class Zachary Dove used to admire the cared-for lawns in the neighborhood where he grew up, so it didn’t take him long to notice the grounds around Building 468 – the single enlisted barracks – needed a little love.
Arriving at NAS Patuxent River in December 2018, Dove was requesting permission by the following spring to volunteer his time to clean up the outdoor barracks area.
“I think it’s a morale booster,” said Dove, a resident of the barracks. “I want people to be outside, to have a sense of community and know that where they live is being taken care of. If I can see people come outside and enjoy themselves, that’s enough for me.”
Permission granted, Dove began his efforts by pulling a seemingly unlimited number of weeds from the landscaped areas and bushes.
“I pulled weeds around the short palms that are planted out there and cut off some dead leaves,” he said. “I also cleaned the bush areas of overgrown weeds. It’s a lot. It took me about two weeks just to pull out the weeds from the palms. I have a number of projects I want to do out there and when I finish one, I’ll move on to the next.”
One of those planned projects is cleaning up the existing sand volleyball pit that’s being claimed by unwanted grass.
“I bought a sifter so I can dig out the grass [clumps], put that in there, sift out the sand to save for the pit, and toss out the grass,” Dove noted. “I haven’t spent much of my own money, though; just a little here and there.”
Dove has also noticed the sidewalks near the parking lot have overgrown grass and twigs that need removing, so he’s been pulling that out and raking up the twigs to freshen the area. And he does it all on his own time, whenever he can find a few extra hours – hours that now total somewhere around 60.
“But I don’t worry much about that,” he added. “It’s more about the accomplishment – looking at something and saying ‘I did that,’ and hoping people might want to be around the area because it looks nicer than before.”
On Dove’s wish list is a clean volleyball pit where Sailors would want to come outside and play a few games, and he’d like to put new stakes down in the horseshoe pit and get the grass out of the sand there too; and maybe eventually plant some more flowers.
“But that’s down the road; right now it’s just about pulling weeds and cleaning up,” he noted. “It’ll take a little while to get there, and once there, it shouldn’t be too much to maintain.”
Dove’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
“I think it’s an awesome thing AC3 Dove is doing here at the barracks,” said Chief Culinary Specialist Octavia Jones, Unaccompanied Housing leading chief petty officer. “I love the fact that he understands this is his home and dedicates his off time to making it a place where his shipmates can enjoy outside activities. That type of pride and ownership speaks volumes to the type of Sailor he is. These are qualities that we seek in all of the Navy’s future leaders.”