Strategy charts path to fuel-efficient forward operating base

By C. Todd LopezOctober 26, 2015

Strategy charts path to fuel-efficient forward operating base
Renewable Energy for Distributed Under-Supplied Command Environments, which is a mobile, scalable framework of solar panels enabling remote power generation, upgraded energy storage devices, and power management controls that reduce power requirement... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 23, 2015) -- "Energy and water issues - operational energy, water and waste - these and other aspects of sustaining our force create vulnerabilities our enemies have in the past and will exploit in the future," Richard Kidd said.

Kidd, who serves as the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, said he's excited to talk about "operational energy" - "I could go on all day," he said. In particular, Kidd is interested in finding ways to make it so that combat outposts and forward operating bases, or FOBs, of the future are far less dependent on logistical support than what they were during Afghanistan and Iraq.

"If we are going to win in a complex world," he said, referring to the Army's operating concept, "we have to pay attention to the resource demands that we generate and we have to look at a way to increase our capability without increasing our resourcing footprint."

For the Army, this means that operating bases will need to use less fuel and less water, and they will need to generate less waste. That goal doesn't mean Soldiers will need to have a lower quality of life. Laptops can still be charged, hot showers can still be enjoyed, and hot food can still be eaten, he said. But what it does mean is that the Army will find ways to do all these things that don't require nearly as many resupply missions as they have over the last 14 years.

From his perspective as a warfighter, Maj. Gen. Steven A Shapiro, director of plans, operations and distribution and assistant deputy chief of staff, Army G-4, said for the force of 2025 to be successful, things must change in the way the commanders use resources on combat facilities.

In World War II, Shapiro said, the Army used about one gallon of fuel each day for each Soldier. Today, that number is up to 20 gallons.

"Clearly our fuel requirements, our energy requirements, have gone up significantly since WWII," he said. "But we are much more technologically based. We've got airpower now at our air bases. It's a different environment. But we must become more efficient at our FOBs, because we can't afford to sustain that pace of refueling."

Concerns regarding inefficient use of fuel on a FOB go well beyond the cost in dollars, Shapiro said. What it really boils down to is that fuel used in theater, and water used in theater, both have to be delivered by re-supply convoys, through dangerous areas. Those convoys are manned by other Soldiers. Inefficient use of fuel or water on a FOB means that more Soldiers will go into harm's way as part of the logistics resupply effort.

"In Iraq, as we were convoying, the predominate commodity that was being convoyed was fuel," Shapiro said. "It was the same in Afghanistan. We are consuming fuel on our FOBs and we are inefficient in our FOBs, and that generates a large requirement for fuel, which puts Soldiers in harm's way bringing fuel over dangerous roads to the FOB."

Shapiro said the Army is committed to making itself more energy and water efficient at the tactical level. We are able to do this through advanced research and development that is creating more fuel-efficient power generation. These generators are able to establish plug and play power generation grids that operate at an optimum capacity, while turning generators off and on as needed.

The Army will find ways to reduce both fuel and water use, to reduce re-supply missions and make installations more resilient and independent, while at the same time maintaining an acceptable quality of life for Soldiers.

"We still have lights, we are still eating - we don't want to change the quality of life," he said. "But we have to change the way we do business."

Guiding the Army's efforts to make more fuel and water-efficient installations, both stateside and in-theater, is the recently-signed "Energy Security and Sustainability Strategy." The Army calls it "ES2" for short.

"It's worthy to note that this document doesn't make a distinction between operational energy or installation energy," Kidd said. "And it doesn't list mandates or goals. Instead, it talks about why the Army must build resilient forces, whether at the installation level, a maneuver unit, or a Soldier. We must have resilient forces that are able to anticipate, respond to, adapt and prevail when bad things happen. That's applicable in the operational energy realm just like it is on the installations."

Five goals in ES2 will guide the Army toward more sustainable infrastructure across the force. The first goal is ensuring that that when commanders make decisions that affect the logistics chain, they are aware of the impact of that decision. "You don't have to cut down on the quality of life to save fuel," Kidd said. "But if you want that quality of life, you should know the operational implications in terms of convoys and others. We want to make sure the humans in this organization have the information they need to make energy-informed, or resource-informed decisions."

Other goals in ES2 are to optimize use of resources; assure access to energy, water and land; build resiliency by advancing the ability of systems, installations, personnel and units to respond to unforeseen disruptions in delivery of resources; and drive innovation.

"These goals should inform the development across the Army of programs and regulations and doctrine," Kidd said.

Shapiro and his team received guidance from the Army Management Advisory Group, and he's been tasked to look at contingency basing, which is one aspect of operational energy where the group thinks great improvement can be made. He cited a visit to a base camp in Turkey, the problems experienced there, and the subsequent solution, as being an example of how things could change for the Army in the future.

On a visit to Turkey, he had seen how a team had set up a new base camp on the top of a mountain, using "force provider sets," for about 150 Soldiers. "I have never been more physically cold in my life," Shapiro said. "It was the most remote site I'd ever been on."

"The cold and wind were destroying the tents," he said. "And we were pumping heat into these tents. And the generators and the environmental control units [ECUs] were going 24 hours a day. And you couldn't keep the tents warm because it was escaping out the sides."

Shapiro said he brought out representatives from the Rapid Equipping Force, and they put in rigid walled shelters.

"We want to put rigid-walled shelters in our deployment packages so if you go to a remote site, either extreme cold or extreme heat, the shelter can maintain the right temperature and you don't have to use as much fuel to keep your ECUs operating," he said.

Shapiro said that most recently, in Liberia, during the Army's Ebola response there, Soldiers were equipped with "fairly modern" force provider kits outfitted with equipment that has been experimented with at both Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Base Camp Integration Lab and Fort Bliss, Texas, during the Network Integration Evaluations that happen there.

In Afghanistan, as forces drew down, Kidd said one thing going into the country were material solutions to decrease energy usage by increasing energy efficiency.

"Operation Dynamo," in Nimroz, Afghanistan, was one such example. Kidd said the installation had started with 13 generators there when they came into the country. But that many were running at far less than their capability. The diesel engines for those generators were not reaching an appropriate temperature to burn all the fuel they were ingesting, and as a result, unburned fuel was collecting in the exhaust system, a condition called "wet stacking."

"They would break down," he said of the generators. Additionally, he said "it required a fuel truck every day to fill those generators with fuel."

At Nimroz, they went to one 250kw generator with a 12kw load, down from 13 generators. Also, the site got a backup generator and two "hybrid sites," which included a trailer with a generator, battery pack and solar panel, to provide power for very specific missions, such as a camera system. If the solar-charged battery didn't prove to be enough energy, the generator could kick on.

Total fuel savings for the project came to about 1,600 gallons a week. There was also a reduction in labor hours for refiling of about 30 hours a week, Kidd said. And finally, there was a reduction in maintenance on the generators of about 20 hours a week. About eight of 10 maintainers could be tasked to do work elsewhere.

"What's more important is the time and the Soldiers from 10 to two," Kidd said. "This platoon leader got eight Soldiers back to do what they need to do when they engage the enemy. With operational energy, fuel and money savings are great. But the real value is in Soldier time or combat assets or logistics assets freed up to do something else besides take care of fuel."

Nathan Cornell, Army's program manager for operational energy, said there are some goals already set for the "basecamp for force of 2025." Included among those goals are a 50 percent reduction in fuel use, a 90 percent reduction in water use, and an 80 percent decrease in waste production. He said by 2019, the Army should know what kind of equipment set will be needed to reach those goals.

"That's going to make that force more sustainable in the future and easier to deploy," he said. What the Army will get, he said, is something that is affordable, sustainable and that Soldiers can use.

At the recent NIE, he said, the Army evaluated, among other things, a gray water recycling system, and two micro-grid setups as well.

"What that micro-grid did is help them learn that they probably need only half as much power they used to need in order to run a camp, just because of the ability to centralize the centralization of distribution," Cornell said.

Also evaluated, he said, ridged-wall shelters that are already available in force provider packages. Those kits include containers with "everything you need inside it: shelters for billeting, kitchens, hygiene, showers and latrines."

"Soldiers love those," Cornell said.

Related Links:

Army News Service Science and Technology News

STAND-TO!: The U.S. Army Operating Concept

STAND-TO!: Force 2025 and Beyond

STAND-TO!: Network Integration Evaluation 16.1

BIO: Richard G. Kidd IV, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability