Army, Marine Corps: Who’s the Greenest Fighting Machine?

By Sandra I. Erwin
The Marine Corps has beenin the limelight of late because of its savvy use of renewable energy in the battlefield. In Afghanistan’s Sangin District last year, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines went three weeks without the usual daily resupply of batteries. They recharged their batteries with solar roll-up blankets, and found ways to replace diesel generators with renewable power sources. Solar energy saved the unit an average of eight gallons of fuel per day that normally would have been used to run generators and vehicles.
The Army’s counterpart to the 3/5 Marines is the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, of the 1st Infantry Division, which deployed to Afghanistan in January with a panoply of green products and technology, although it has not made as many headlines as the 3/5 Marines. “The Army’s publicity on this hasn’t yet rivaled that of the Marine Corps’,” Army Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, toldNational Defense in April.
But Army leaders scoff at the idea that there is some sort of rivalry between the services.
“The notion of competition between the Army and the Marine Corps is really a Washington Beltway fabrication,” Richard G. Kidd IV, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, said July 20 during abloggers' roundtable at the Army-Air Force energy forum in Arlington, Va.
Any perception that the services are in some sort of contest over who is greener only comes from questions “generated by the press or sometimes by elected officials,” Kidd said.
“We admire what the Marine Corps is doing,” he said. “We are working part and parcel with them. They have taken some technologies that were developed by the Army and are advancing them dramatically. We, the Army, are watching, and trying to incorporate what they do back into the Army.”
Kidd is more concerned about making sure that both services avoid duplicating investments in green-energy technology. It would “frustrate me,” he said, “if they are spending money doing the same things we have already done, and vice versa.” Projects should be complementary, he said.
The Army 1/16 Iron Rangers infantry battalion is “taking a whole suite of new technologies to Afghanistan and testing it,” Kidd said. “Marines are watching that, just like we are watching them.”
Kidd insisted that both services’ goals are the same. “We want to reduce the burden on our infantry, and our war fighters and our convoys. There is no competition between the Army and the Marine Corps. I wish them the best luck possible.”
So far, reports from 1/16 are encouraging, said Kidd. The battalion trained in Kansas before it went to Afghanistan. The unit took a wide range of solar panels and other technologies that were not in the Army’s standard inventory. “They’ve been extremely happy with it,” said Kidd. “It’s reduced the burden on our soldiers, reduce the amount of batteries they carry,” he said. “We’ll see what it’s like a year from now.” One of the unanswered questions is whether the equipment can withstand the rigors of combat.
One of the Army’s green technologies is a rucksack collapsible solar panel that recharges batteries and a “networked energy system” that connects batteries and power generators such as fuel cells and solar panels.
Wide-ranging green initiatives have been launched by all branches of the military, and most will take years to deliver the promised fuel savings, officials have said. In the immediate future, the priority is to reduce demand at Army and Marine Corps base camps in Afghanistan, so troops there can become less dependent on daily shipments that may, or may not arrive.

Topics: Energy, Alternative Energy, Energy Security, Power Sources

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