Experimental Operating Base Swamp Romp

They call it the experimental forward operating base, or ExFOB. (We call it a mud pit.) The results of these Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.-based experiments could reduce a combat unit’s need for power and water. (This is big.) It would reduce its logistic needs. It will get resupply trucks (and the Marines driving those trucks) off the IED-laced roads. Ah, sounds pretty good, now, yes?

In fact, it is good enough that they say our friend, Corps Commandant Gen. James T. “Not in My Corps” Conway, may spend some time with the boys, tents and toys (and mud).

Conway was the catalyst for the Corps’ current work in energy conservation.

ExFOB, created by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, is a four-phase experiment that tests methods to reduce the logistic needs of combat units. Aside from its ecological and cost benefits, reducing consumption can extend a Marine unit’s sustainability.

Though ExFOB can improve support to today’s warfighter, it targets Conway’s goals of reducing energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015, reducing water consumption by 16 percent the same year and increasing renewable electric power by 25 percent by 2025. Nearly 30 vendor equipment displays will address power, shelter and water capabilities.

Phase One of the experiment simulated the energy and water demands of a Marine unit at forward operating bases similar to those in Afghanistan. Phase Two evaluates existing commercial technologies to produce water on site to meet the Marines’ needs and increase power generation efficiency to sustain the base. Commercial, off-the-shelf technologies have the potential to increase the efficiency of Marine Corps forward-deployed forces, sustaining them over longer periods.

During Phase Three, a Marine unit training in real-world operations will use the renewable technology and energy-saving techniques learned during the earlier phases. (That should be interesting.) Phase Four will facilitate future science and technology efforts by gathering data on experimental systems.

The ExFOB is a collaborative effort. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is working closely with the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, the Office of Naval Research, Marine Corps Systems Command, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office and Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Because the event is in a Secret-Squirrel kind of area, access is limited. We observed some of the most unattractive terrain we’ve ever seen, though we did see a baby deer and a convention of squirrels. The landscape is stark, a vista of mud. What trees there are would not improve much with foliage. But ExFOB is supposed to simulate a forward operating base in desolate Afghanistan, so maybe we feel our need to visit the rugged nation waning.

It is only recently we learned of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. They do many technological experiments, warfare simulations and war gaming. Robotics? They do it. Resupply with unmanned aerial systems? They’re looking at it. Changing the way their precious Gun Club fights? That, too. How about their work with the newspaper industry? Ah, more on that in a later post.

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