In early September 2009 I arrived in Kandahar Afghanistan as part of the Marine Energy Assessment Team (MEAT). The team was led by a USMC fighter pilot/senior military advisor to the director of DARPA and composed of a combat wounded Warrant Officer fuels expert; a hard as woodpecker lips, Master Gunnery Sergeant utilities specialist, a Captain who gave the Commandant some advice in public; and a nerdy looking, renewable energy scientist with more steel in his spine than a Transformer.
The six of us arrived by C-17 after talking our way out of Kuwait (our papers were NOT in order) to determine ground truth regarding the USMC forward operating bases' (FOB's) use of energy. The Commandant had heard that the fully burdened cost of fuel (FBCF) in theater was $400 per gallon and he wanted to know ground truth (e.g., if an F-16 refuels an F-16, it might be $400, otherwise closer to $15).
We visited large, mature, contractor-supported bases and tiny patrol bases where a Lieutenant and his platoon stood alone and unafraid against the darkness. From the nearly palatial “Board Walk” in Kandahar to the southernmost patrol base outside the aptly named FOB Payne, the magnificent men and women of the Corps execute their arduous mission with quiet professionalism that causes this old soldier’s heart to swell with pride.
The basic findings were that, at the large bases, energy was used effectively, but not efficiency and at the most forward location, bottled water was the largest component of the logistics burden. The important point is that the Corps is finding ways to measure consumption and what can be measured can be managed. They are serious about unleashing themselves from the tether of fuel and operational commanders are making this part of their mission. The Commandant has established his energy team, issued the marching orders and begun moving aggressively. I hope the other Services are watching and learning. The rest of the Department of the Navy is also stepping up. The SecNavy and CNO both spoke at the recent energy conference, laying out an aggressive, command-driven vision for the Navy in conservation, efficiency and renewable energy. Go Navy!To which I add Go Army! and Go Air Force! This is great stuff the Marines are doing.