FORT DEVENS, Mass. (Oct. 24, 2014) -- As the Army rightsizes and transitions to a more expeditionary force, how efficiently its Soldiers can live during deployments becomes increasingly important.
Current and future technologies that will help realize that goal by saving fuel, water and money were on display here, Wednesday, during the annual stakeholders meeting at the Base Camp Integration Laboratory, or BCIL, which contains systems that are already deployed, those being tested, and new technologies.
Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, supported this event, hosted by Lt. Gen. Gustave Perna, the Army G-4, and Scott Davis, program executive officer for Combat Support and Combat Service Support. They and other attendees saw everything from energy-efficient rigid-wall shelters to next generation photovoltaics.
"Operational energy is about force protection," Perna said. "You're going to see some great efforts on how we are improving our capabilities to reduce operational energy, eliminate requirements in the force structure because of that, which will eventually save lives."
As Lt. Col. Ross Poppenberger, with Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems, pointed out, the BCIL is more than just an impressive technology display.
"It's proving those technologies so that those things go to the fight and make a difference for Soldiers (who) are in those fights," Poppenberger said. "At the end of the day, it's about rapidly integrating new technologies and putting capability in the Soldiers' hands."
Among technologies assessed at the BCIL already deployed in operational environments with Soldiers, are the shower water reuse system that recycles 75 percent of the water it uses, and a microgrid that reduces fuel usage by 30 percent. The ultimate goal is a "zero footprint" base camp.
"It's really all about, within the force structure and funding constraints, how do we protect the real tooth of our formations by reducing the tail and not requiring as much support to sustain our formations?" Davis said.
"I am impressed by the great work that Natick Soldier Systems (Center) and PEO Combat Support & Combat Service Support are doing in reducing the logistical tail of fuel and water in our contingency base camps," Hammack said.
The BCIL is getting plenty of practical use. According to Lt. Col. Steve Egan, the Fort Devens garrison commander, more than 35,000 Soldiers have stayed at the base camp over the past three years while training at Devens.
"We expect those numbers to increase as word gets out there," Egan said. "It's been a great opportunity for the Soldiers and a great capability for Fort Devens.
"They get to see what they're going to encounter downrange, which is huge," Egan said. "Given our primary customers are the [Army] Reserve and [National] Guard, this maximizes their training time. So this is a huge benefit."