MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- From the bow and arrow to the service rifle and signal fires to radios, military technology has evolved dramatically over the years to overcome the challenges of the time. Military leaders have discovered that with advanced equipment spread across the battlefield, today’s new challenge is energy.
The Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office brought together industry and individual Marines during the Expeditionary Energy Concepts symposium hosted this year at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California May 3-5, to refine energy usage in current and future conflicts.
Several representatives brought their new and developing technologies to the base to present directly to Marines who would use the items if put into production.
“When we identify a capability that is lacking in the energy realm, we take that information to industry to find out what technological solutions they might have,” said Capt. Michael Herendeen, a science and technology analyst with the Expeditionary Energy Office at Headquarters Marine Corps.
The direct communication between developers and users of new equipment allows the minds behind the gear to tailor their product to the needs of the Marine Corps.
“An engineer in a laboratory might create something that makes absolute sense to them, but they’re not going to use it in the environment a Marine is going to,” said Lt. Gen. David Berger, the I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general. “He’s going to look at it and go ‘Can we drop that off a roof?’ or ‘What happens if it gets wet?’ He’s going to ask the right questions because he knows what the environment is like in the field.”
According to Col. Brian Magnuson, the director of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, energy efficiency in combat is not just a matter of cutting cost or saving money, it’s about saving lives.
“Expeditionary Energy Concepts was started in 2009. We were losing Marines in combat while doing resupply, predominately taking food and water up and down the battlefield in convoys which exposed them to enemy attack,” said Magnuson.
Magnuson explained that the main focus of this year’s E2C is finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield. Fewer resupply needs means fewer convoys on the road.
“In the future we are going to fight in much smaller units so we can use the agility of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to maneuver around the enemy,” said Magnuson. “In order to do that, those smaller teams need to be able to exist longer on the equipment that they have.”
Efficiency and sustainability can make combat units more effective, but leaders are also exploring how it can improve medical care in a combat zone.
“Reducing the size, weight, and power of medical technologies would enable the Forward Resuscitative Surgical System and the Shock Trauma Platoon to take care of the Marines as far forward as possible,” said Magnuson.
According to U.S. Navy Capt. Theodore Briski, the commanding officer of 1st Medical Battalion, I MEF, having treatment closer to the front line could increase wounded service members’ chances of survival exponentially.
E2C is only the first step to getting new gear from the laboratory to the battlefield, but five programs presented at E2C in previous years have already been put to use in training and combat, one of which was seen in the background of E2C this year.
The Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Network System is a power generation system that incorporates solar panels and batteries to generate enough power to run a battalion combat operations center.
Herendeen, who served as an artilleryman before working in the Expeditionary Energy Office, said the system is invaluable to a unit that needs to operate in remote areas.
“On the gun line, we used the GREENS to power our fire direction control center,” said Herendeen. “It really cut the tether and allowed us to run without resupply for a long period of time.”
This year at E2C, GREENS2, which incorporates improvements in weight and portability suggested by Marines, showed its versatility by powering computers at the symposium.
The technology presented at E2C this year included ways to scavenge energy from the local environment, means to store and repurpose electricity, portable water purification, and more versatile and efficient versions of lights and medical sterilization equipment.
Every device or system presented was designed to help give warfighters more access to and control over the energy they need.
“The ability to understand how we use our energy, be able to harvest it where we need it so we don’t have to provide the logistics, and the ability to conserve it and use it exactly when we need it, gives us the agility to fight better,” said Magnuson.
The expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps means that they strive to achieve maximum effectiveness in any and every situation. New technology developed with direct input from the Marines who will use it keeps the force ready to face any challenge, anywhere.