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Marines experiment with renewable energy resources during Cobra Gold 2011

By Pfc. Mark W. Stroud | | February 11, 2011

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BAN CHAN KREM, Kingdom of Thailand – New environmental procedures designed for energy use and water purification are being tested by Marines here during Exercise Cobra Gold 2011.

Experimentation Center, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, set up three experimental solar-power sources and an experimental water purification pump for Marines with Ground Combat Element, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Forward, III Marine Expeditionary Force, to use as an experiment in expeditionary self-sustainment.

“There is nothing like operating in real conditions to tell you where the issues are going to be, to tell you what needs to be tweaked,” said Robert Turner, project support with Experimentation Center, Marine Corps Forces Pacific. “We are trying to do this as smartly as possible, learn as much as we can about the systems and incorporate the feedback as we develop them.”

The equipment is being put through field testing in a real-world operating environment to allow the developers to study results and acquire feedback from the Marines operating the equipment.

 “There is nothing like operating in real-world conditions to tell you where the issues are going to be, to tell you what needs to be tweaked,” said Turner.

The rugged environment and the high-tempo joint training conducted by the service members during Cobra Gold 2011 provide an ideal field testing environment, according to Col. Stephen M. Neary, GCE commanding officer.

“We got civilian industry coming out here to where we are located on the Thai-Cambodian border. It’s an austere environment; it’s extreme weather conditions of 110, 115 degrees with the heat index and the dust,” said Neary. “If they want to test any equipment, this is the perfect place to do it.”

The goal of developing renewable energy and renewable water is to make Marines as self-sustaining as possible, according to Lt. Col. Rick Schlike, operational energy analyst, Expeditionary Energy Office, Headquarters Marine Corps.

“What the renewable and the hybrid systems gives you is a lot more quiet time and less fuel and what that means is less vehicles on the road,” said Schlike. “The commander’s intent for the expeditionary energy strategy is by 2025 to only be using fossil fuels for mobility systems.  The over goal is to reduce our fossil fuel use on the battlefield by 50 percent.”

Giving Marines the tools to be self-sustaining allows them to stay true to their expeditionary nature and operate in hostile or remote environments where frequent resupply would mean more convoys and longer, harder-to-defend supply lines, according to Schlike.

If a forward command post cannot supply its own water or energy, Marines have to be on the road bringing that camp fuel and water in an improvised-explosive-device environment, putting Marines at risk, Schlike said. 

“We want a lot of this equipment today so we can get to the point where we don’t have to have conveys,” said Neary.

In today’s counter-insurgency operation environment being able to self-sustain and maintain an expeditionary fighting posture is especially important, Neary said. 

“A counter insurgency is a fight for the population and helping set conditions for security so basic conditions can be established, and the only way to do that is to be out there amongst the population, and the only way to do that and do that well is to sustain ourselves,” said Neary. “If we could sustain ourselves, we would be a more viable, more credible and more lethal force.”

The end goal is improve the expeditionary fighting ability of the Marine Corps by developing this technology and deploying it to all bases; meaning sustainable forward bases, fewer convoys and fewer Marines on the road being put in harms-way, according to Schlike.

Cobra Gold 2011 is a regularly scheduled multinational exercise, the latest in the continuing series of U.S.-Thai military exercises designed to ensure regional peace and stability.

For more information about Cobra Gold 2011, visit www.marines.mil/cobragold2011 or www.facebook.com/exercisecobragold. 


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