By Dennis K. Bohannon, ASA (IE&E)November 29, 2012
PENTAGON, Washington D.C. (Nov. 30, 2012) -- A Huntington National Guardsman heads the U.S. Army's Operational Energy - Contingency Basing Task Force for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, with a focus on lightening the Soldier's energy load; make them more flexible, agile with longer energy endurance in the field; thus more lethal.
Col. Timothy E. Hill, a resident of Huntington, W. Va. and Guardsman from the Joint Headquarters, West Virginia National Guard, will oversee the establishment and operations of a new task force charged with establishing training doctrine, policy, guidance, oversight and integration of the Army's Operational Energy - Contingency Basing efforts.
Operational Energy - Contingency Basing is the energy and associated systems, information and processes required to train, move, base and sustain Soldiers in battlefield environments.
Hill explains, "In today's battlefield environments, our Soldiers carry with them technologically advanced equipment which requires power. In environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan, there isn't a power infrastructure they can simply plug into. So Soldiers must conserve and utilize the power they carry with them to the greatest extent possible. The task force's job will be to ensure our Soldiers can sustain themselves in primitive environments and have the fuel, lights and energy they need to perform their missions effectively."
Hill joined the National Guard in 1984 after completing six years with the U.S. Marine Corps. As part of the Joint Headquarters of the West Virginia National Guard in Charleston, commanded by Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer, he was assigned to the Pentagon in May 2009.
While working with the Secretary of the Army and the Army Staff, Hill said it became obvious that as the Army adopts more and more technology for use on the battlefield, the need to use energy more wisely becomes critical. He found that numerous organizations were testing, evaluating and trying to procure energy efficient systems but these efforts lacked coordination and synchronization at the Army-level. Hence, the need to establish a task force specific to Operational Energy - Contingency Basing was realized.
Hill began conceiving the idea of what an Operational Energy - Contingency Basing Task force would look like in 2010, and how it could help integrate and synchronize the independent Operational Energy - Contingency Basing efforts taking place across the Army.
"I presented a concept plan and was authorized to begin establishing the task force in Feb. 2011. The task force was fully staffed as of July 15 and was officially stood up as part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment in August," Hill said.
The six person Operational Energy - Contingency Basing Task Force is responsible for helping develop training doctrine and policy and monitoring the Army's six billion dollar Operational Energy budget which must be certified by the Secretary of Defense.
"We'll also be looking at new and emerging technologies, testing, evaluating and helping with the acquisition of these technologies. Most importantly, we'll be the Soldier's advocates here in the Pentagon by ensuring the right emphasis is being placed on Operational Energy and Contingency Basing effort," Hill said.
Hill explains, "Energy has always been a concern on the battle field. However, today's Soldier and war fighter has a greater dependence on powering the equipment he carries into battle with him."
Hill notes, a Soldier on an average 72 hour patrol requires four types of batteries and may carry 70 batteries, weighing 16 pounds. A dismounted platoon requires more than 400 pounds of batteries for a 72 hour patrol. We are lightening the dismounted Soldier's energy load by giving them the capability to manage their energy. The Army is aggressively deploying a variety of Soldier power solutions to include advanced power management devices, fuel cells, rechargeable and Soldier worn conformal batteries, solar and generator rechargers and alternative energy sources.
"On our overseas contingency bases, televisions, computers, air conditioning, heat and other energy consuming devices are now a part of a Soldier's quality of life. We don't live in caves. We take care of our deployed Soldiers to make life and their time away from the battlefield as comfortable as possible," Hill said, "…but, it is not without its consequences."
The Army's demand for energy has resulted in supply lines in which 70 to 80 percent of logistical convoys, by weight, are for fuel and water. This dependence has increased vulnerability to the Army. A significant proportion of U.S. combat casualties in current theaters of operations have resulted from resupply operations. To illustrate, resupply operations experienced one casualty for every 46 resupply convoys in Operation Enduring Freedom. Fuels and fuel sources providing the energy needed to power a Soldier's equipment in the field has limited our reach, mobility, agility, interoperability and sustainability, Hill notes.
"As such," Hill said, "we are developing and installing more fuel efficient generators, micro-grids, renewable energy sources such as solar power and are reducing our energy foot print within our contingency base camps to reduce fuel demands and lessen the vulnerability to Soldiers protective the resupply convoys.
As an example, Hill said, "Last year we fought for year end funds and obtained $108 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replace spot generators -- one at every tent. We replaced them with generators on micro-grids servicing several tents at the same time, to better manage the amount of fuel used. We saved 50 million gallons of fuel over 34 sites. An average fuel truck carries 5,000 gallons of fuel. That means we took 10,000 tankers off the road. That reduced the number of convoy targets for our adversaries, reduced the risk to our Soldiers who guard those convoys and thus potentially saved lives."
Hill and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, the Hon. Katherine Hammack, have traveled to U.S. forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan numerous times over the past two years. Hill says, they have seen firsthand the impact power and energy has on our Soldiers and their ability to carry out their missions.
Hill notes, the Army recognizes energy as a force multiplier by providing our Soldiers more flexibility and endurance in the field and a vulnerability that can be exploited and targeted by our enemies. But, he adds, we are working to change Army culture and behavior, making power and energy an 'accountable consideration' in everything we do; 'Every Soldier a Power Manager.'
The U.S. Army, as an institution, is committed to change across all aspects of the Army enterprise in order to meet energy related challenges.
"Since I've been in this position, with Ms. Hammack driving reforms to the Army's power and energy efforts, Operational Energy - Contingency Basing has remained one of the top ten priorities of the Secretary of Army. We're making progress. In 2009, we began the Green Warrior Initiative. In 2010, we developed the Base Camp Proponent Policy. In 2011, the Army split institutional (day to day) and operational (war fighting) energy apart," Hill said.
"Today, we've established the Operational Energy - Contingency Basing Task Force, filled it with personnel and established an office to make change happen," Hill said. We are enhancing mission effectiveness through Army power and energy advancements.
"Soldiers are starting to note changes in the way we do things. We still have a lot of work to make a culture change. Although we will never limit the number of gallons of fuel a commander can use each day, the equipment we field will be more energy efficient. We will look at individual Army policies and enhance - not hinder - the commander's ability on the ground to improve our overall capability and lethality, and the Soldier's agility, flexibility and longevity on the battlefield."
"Working across the Army Staff, while keeping Senior Army Leaders appraised of the situations we encounter, the Operational Energy - Contingency Basing Task Force will focus on 'up front engineering,' to find new and efficient ways to reduce the energy requirements on our contingency bases, making it possible for commanders to concentrate on their mission. At the same time, our number one priority will be to lighten the Soldier's energy load, making them more flexible, with longer energy endurance in the field and thus more lethal to our adversaries."