Publix is teaming up with military veterans at FORCE BLUE to respond to environmental emergencies in Florida

November 9, 2023
FORCE BLUE and Publix logo

LAKELAND, Fla., Nov. 9, 2023 — Publix is the first company that will be providing funding to FORCE BLUE’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF), a team that will help Florida’s marine scientific community and environmental agencies respond quickly to coastal or marine environmental emergencies.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida is home to more than 8,000 miles of shoreline and diverse coastal and marine habitats. As a part of its mission to be responsible citizens in the communities it serves, Publix is committed to conserving natural resources and contributing to efforts that help sustain the environment.

Publix’s donation will provide FORCE BLUE the ability to quickly respond to environmental emergencies, covering all costs associated with the QRF deployments. This includes specialized training, equipment, travel, lodging and meals for up to six FORCE BLUE Special Operations veterans.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to work with FORCE BLUE to fund a team of military veterans who are dedicated to these important environmental efforts,” said Publix Director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs Michael Hewett. “Publix remains committed to the needs of our communities and environment as we continue to do good, together.”

This team will consist of former Special Operations veterans and military-trained combat divers who can respond quickly to events affecting the state’s coastal and marine environments.

The FORCE BLUE QRF will respond to

  • coral bleaching events or coral die-offs,
  • coral disease outbreaks (like stony coral tissue loss disease),
  • hurricane damage to coastal or marine ecosystems,
  • marine debris cleanups after a storm and, 
  • marine mammal strandings.

“Working with Publix to create a Quick Reaction Force that can help Florida’s marine scientific community whenever environmental emergencies arise has the potential to be a game changer, not just for the state, but for our planet,” said FORCE BLUE Executive Director Jim Ritterhoff. “It’s precisely the sort of collaboration FORCE BLUE was founded upon, and we are beyond proud of Publix for leading the way.”

Established in 2016 as a means of addressing two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapidly declining health of our marine resources and the difficulty far too many servicemen and -women have in adjusting to civilian life once their service ends — FORCE BLUE is the only nonprofit organization in the world that retrains and redeploys former Special Operations veterans and military-trained combat divers to work alongside scientists, environmental agencies and leaders on marine conservation missions.