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CHIPS Articles: Q&A with Lt. Col. Rick "Silky" Schilke

Q&A with Lt. Col. Rick "Silky" Schilke
Requirements Analyst, U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2011

On Aug. 13, 2009, the Commandant of the Marine Corps declared energy a top priority and within six weeks created the U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O), with the mission to analyze, develop and direct the Marine Corps' energy strategy to optimize expeditionary capabilities across all warfighting functions.

E2O is the Marine Corps' functional advocate and service representative for expeditionary (aka operational) energy and works in partnership with the Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics, the functional advocate for energy aboard Marine Corps installations.

The Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Strategy, signed by the Commandant of the Marine Corps in February 2011, communicates the Commandant's vision, mission, goals and objectives for expeditionary and installations energy. Specifically, it directs the Corps to increase the energy efficiency of its battlefield weapon systems, platforms, vehicles and equipment and cut in half the fuel used per Marine, per day by the year 2025. The strategy also directs that by 2020, 50 percent of Marine bases and stations will be net zero energy consumers. Setting the course to move from paper to action, the strategy also includes an implementation plan which identifies specific tasks and responsibilities.

CHIPS asked Lt. Col. Rick Schilke to talk about the work of the E2O.

CHIPS: What are some of the major accomplishments of the E2O?

Schilke: First and foremost I'd say the success has been actually getting gear that's available into the hands of Marines to reduce our energy burden on the battlefield. A multifunctional team, led by the E2O and consisting of Marine Corps requirements, acquisition and technology stakeholders was able to define requirements, identify commercially available solutions, and provide equipment to deploying units while making in-stream improvements. The catalyst for this effort was the Experimental Forward Operating Base (ExFOB), chartered by the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration.

Equipment was initially provided to one company of Marines — India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine (Regiment) — who successfully trained and then deployed to Afghanistan with some of the energy efficient equipment as part of a user evaluation. That gear included several solutions: shelter liners to reduce soft-shelter cooling and heating demand; less powerhungry LED lighting for shelters; man-packable solar systems known as the SPACES (Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy System) to recharge batteries and run tactical radios and laptops, and other low power systems; and, a portable hybrid solar power and battery system called GREENS (Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy System) that can power slightly larger and more static applications, such as company-level command operations centers.

The SPACES, which is part of a program of record, has been in high demand and been provided to other units in theater and units preparing to deploy. This gear has proven successful in reducing the number of batteries being carried by foot — mobile Marine patrols and the need for battery resupply — it's truly making a difference on the battlefield. So that is probably the biggest success — moving from a cold start to having solutions that reduce fuel and battery logistics deployed to combat in less than a year.

Additional accomplishments include the development and release of a comprehensive bases-to-battlefield Expeditionary Energy Strategy and Implementation Plan and the completion of a capabilities-based assessment for expeditionary energy, water and waste. The results of that assessment are documented in an initial capabilities document that is in its final review.

CHIPS: Can you talk about the energy strategy?

Schilke: The mission is to be able to deploy a Marine Expeditionary Force by the year 2025 that can maneuver from the sea and sustain its C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) and life support systems in place, using liquid fuel only for mobility systems, which will be more fuel efficient than mobility systems are today. That is a very challenging mission statement from the Commandant.

The strategy is focused on executing this mission by increasing efficiency in our weapons systems, increasing the use of renewable energy on the battlefield, and finally, the element that underpins the entire strategy: changing our ethos, changing the way we value and employ energy on the battlefield. We recognize that behavior change is key to every aspect of this endeavor. In fact, estimates based on assessments from 2009 tell us that through better energy planning, training, general awareness, and smart employment of our existing systems on the battlefield, we can make about a 25 percent dent in our current battlefield fuel consumption. Today we are burning eight gallons [of fuel] per Marine per day in theater, and we want to get down to four gallons per Marine per day by 2025, for the equivalent force engaged in similar activities and under similar conditions.

Additionally, we want to reduce battery consumption and increase water self-sufficiency in order to lighten the individual load and free up our dismounted Marines from battery and water resupply to the maximum extent we can. So there is a dual operational benefit, increased individual endurance and maneuverability, and increased unit freedom of maneuver and endurance.

CHIPS: Can you talk about the Expeditionary Energy, Water and Waste (E2W2) Initial Capabilities Document?

Schilke: The E2W2 Initial Capabilities Document provides the intellectual, combat development foundation for moving us forward on energy, water and waste capabilities that support the Expeditionary Energy Strategy and Marine Corps future operating concepts. It also is the first step in the JCIDS (Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System) process — defining your needed capabilities and ultimately your solutions. It [ICD] frames the problem, identifies your gaps, identifies non-materiel and materiel approaches you might take to solving those gaps, and then it leads to follow-on effort.

On the materiel side, it leads to other capabilities documents that are more detailed and that initiate future, or modify current, programs of record by defining the desired solution attributes and performance parameters; in other words, the system specifications. Acquisition program developers will ultimately refine the requirements into field-able solutions.

Across all of our systems we want to inject energy as a consideration and get it into the trade space with cost, schedule and performance in acquisition alternatives and source selection. How do we make our systems more efficient to enable things like renewables on the battlefield? How do we make systems more efficient and increase performance at the same time? For example, systems that don't need as much cooling, or don't need any cooling or heating. Cooling is a huge [energy] consumer for us right now on the battlefield for systems as well as for individuals. These are some of the questions we're asking as we look to apply the strategy and ICD approaches to materiel development.

The ICD is already proving useful as a means to identify our needs to the S&T (science and technology) community so we can get them working on the most challenging problems that will require advances in technology. This document will drive S&T efforts that have application across the warfighting functions and will serve as a reference point for all of our future warfighting capabilities.

CHIPS: As the leading edge of the larger Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy effort, ExFOB is identifying and evaluating energy efficient capabilities that can reduce risks to Marines and increase combat effectiveness. Can you talk about the technology that is being developed to achieve this?

Schilke: The first iterations of the ExFOB were essentially an opportunity to find solutions that could have an immediate impact on our energy and water logistics in Afghanistan. Over the next six months, we are expanding and accelerating delivery of those solutions that proved to be successful with the India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, to cover 10 battalions in Afghanistan. In May and June 2011, we are coordinating an effort at the Twentynine Palms-based MCTOG (Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group), to demonstrate the capability to scale up some of the successful company-level solutions to support a battalion-level command operations center. We are going to run a side-by-side comparison between a conventional battalion COC and one employing energy efficient technologies, such as the thermal liners, LED lights and DC air conditioners, that are capable of being powered by solar systems.

The COC equipment suite will be powered by two hybrid solar-generator-battery systems that were discovered through the previous ExFOB events and developed further to be able to integrate with Marine Corps systems. We will determine if this hybrid system can adequately meet the demands of the battalion COC at a greatly reduced consumption level. We anticipate fuel savings to be in the 30 to 70 percent range. We also hope to collect a lot of data and learn more about hybrid systems.

If that particular solution set is successful, it will deploy with a battalion, currently being identified, to conduct a user evaluation in Afghanistan. A liaison officer from our office is leading the demonstration and will be in theater to support the system deployment and our ongoing energy efforts in Afghanistan. This is similar to the model we used with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.

ExFOB is really a process that includes an annual event. It serves as a catalyst to accelerate commercial or research and development systems into programs and procedures. Through ExFOB we inform our requirements, mitigate investment risks, and build confidence in new technologies. We will use an annual ExFOB event as a means to bring focus to a set of materiel gaps identified in our ICD, beginning with the highest priorities that also have near-term opportunities. This event also informs industry as to the nature of expeditionary operations and the necessary attributes of military expeditionary energy capabilities. In fact, a request for information just closed out, and the responses are being reviewed to determine invitees to the ExFOB 2011 in August.

This year's ExFOB is focused on four key technology areas that support priority gaps and materiel solution approaches identified in our ICD. One is concentrated solar harvesting. We are looking at more innovative and efficient ways to collect, store, and employ solar energy in an expeditionary environment and in the minimum footprint. The other three areas of interest are passive solar water heating, vehicle efficiency technologies and efficient exportable vehicle power. We've asked for industry to come show us what they can do. We will do a side-by-side comparison and evaluation and see what opportunities might be worth pursuing further.

There are a lot of innovative technologies that we are watching that are being developed in the labs, or being improved by industry. Certainly, efforts to more efficiently harvest solar [energy] are big for us because right now that is where we have the best opportunity to harvest renewable energy. There are some ongoing efforts that we now have an oversight role in, including an MTVR (Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement) fuel efficiency project that will identify opportunities to increase vehicle energy performance and will look at return on investment.

This effort is just kicking off this year and will likely inform all of our vehicle programs, both future and any legacy vehicles that are recapitalized. The project intends to use the MTVR to look at many vehicle technologies ranging from aerodynamic improvements, to driver behavior modification, to hybrid systems.

We've introduced this idea of harvesting energy from vehicles, for example, kinetic energy, or thermal energy, or solar energy, into our S&T objectives for power and energy. We are also looking at this approach on the individual Marine and aboard FOBs. Our vehicles are going to be a key component of our energy [harvesting] on the battlefield as we move toward the vision for the 2025 Marine Corps and getting generators off the battlefield. More efficient vehicles that will harvest, store and share energy for both on-board and off-board systems is a vision we have right now. Vehicles may share energy as part of an expeditionary base grid or form ad hoc power networks. Feasibility of this vision is something we need to assess as we look for ways to achieve the strategy goals.

35th Commandant of the Marine Corps' Guidance
"The future security environment requires a mindset geared toward increased energy efficiency and reduced consumption, thus allowing us to operate lighter and faster. We will aggressively continue our pioneering efforts in energy through our Expeditionary Energy Office, with goals of reduced energy demand in our platforms and systems, self-sufficiency in our battlefield sustainment, and a reduced expeditionary footprint on the battlefield…"

CHIPS: During your brief at Sea Air Space in April, you discussed how maneuvers are constrained by battery and water needs; how weapon system power limits mobility and wastes fuel; and how the lack of generator maintenance reduces reliability. Can you explain what these challenges mean to an expeditionary force and what the E2O is doing to help?

Schilke: We are hearing from battalions returning from Afghanistan that batteries are adding significantly to an already burdensome load as they conduct extended dismounted operations over large areas and in difficult conditions. On these dismounted patrols, which range from days to weeks, they are carrying two to three days worth of batteries and water, and are dependent on resupply of these mission critical items. That obviously takes a toll on the Marine in terms of the weight, pushing upward of 120 pounds, when they are moving in a tough environment.

Additionally, they can only get so far off the lines of communication if they're receiving ground resupply. If they are getting air drops, they often have to adjust their maneuver to recover the supplies, or air [supply] sometimes doesn't show up when or where they expect it. It was really becoming a driver of their maneuver and operational timeline. What we see is an opportunity to improve operational effectiveness by reducing that battery burden on the Marines, both at the individual and unit level.

There are some larger scale issues with batteries also. We have weapon systems that are dependent on battery power; some are vehicle mounted and operated on the vehicle, either on the move or at the halt, or can be dismounted from the vehicle, such as jammers, persistent surveillance sensors, and anti-armor systems, and some which are off-board systems, such as artillery fire control systems. These systems require power from the vehicle engine even when stationary. So, idling vehicles that are actively operating systems or charging batteries is proving to be tremendously inefficient for quite a few applications.

You start to see examples of these systems where we are overmatched in terms of our power production to our consumption needs, and really, it comes down to a lack of scalability in our power supplies and energy storage, and the fact that we don't yet have enough access to renewables. There is a phenomenon known as wet stacking — when you're not drawing enough power off what the generator is producing, it actually increases the wear on the generator, and that is a big cause of maintenance problems right now in theater.

Water is another challenge. Marines are carrying several days of water, their water, water for their IED (improvised explosive device) detector dogs. We want to be able to help them do that better and more safely so it enables them to get off the water resupply tether and perhaps lighten the load. In the future, we hope to have a robust individual or squad-level water purification system that is also renewable, powered by solar or some other renewable source. We are still drinking bottled water because that is what the large sustainment contracts are providing.

One of the lessons heard very recently from our combat logistics battalions stated that they could probably reduce their convoys by about 40 percent just by getting off bottled water transportation. This is consistent with previous estimates that about 70 percent of our on-the-road convoy logistics is liquid logistics, and about 70 percent of that liquid logistics is water.

That is pretty significant because now you are taking trucks off the road, you are reducing the IED threat to Marines, and that has the second order effect of burning less fuel as you reduce the tonnage being transported on, and miles being covered by, very fuel-hungry vehicles. So water self-sufficiency really has a multiplicative benefit across the battlefield.


For more information about the U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O), go to www.marines.mil/community/Pages/ExpeditionaryEnergy.aspx.
TAGS: GreenIT
Lt. Col. Rick Schilke, right, and Robert Turner, project support, Experimentation
Center, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, listen to feedback from Lance Cpl. Jean Sanchez, Water Support Technician, Communication Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, on an experimental water-purification pump during Exercise Cobra Gold Feb. 11, 2011. Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark Stroud.
Lt. Col. Rick Schilke, right, and Robert Turner, project support, Experimentation Center, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, listen to feedback from Lance Cpl. Jean Sanchez, Water Support Technician, Communication Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, on an experimental water-purification pump during Exercise Cobra Gold Feb. 11, 2011. Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark Stroud.

PATROL BASE GUMBATTY (Dec. 31, 2010) Lance Cpl. Dakota Hicks of 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, connects a radio battery to a Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy System in Sangin District, Afghanistan. SPACES is a flexible solar panel that can be carried by a Marine and is used for recharging radio batteries. With more room in their packs from fewer batteries, coalition forces can pack more essentials, like ammunition. Photo courtesy of 1st Marine Division.
PATROL BASE GUMBATTY (Dec. 31, 2010) Lance Cpl. Dakota Hicks of 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, connects a radio battery to a Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy System in Sangin District, Afghanistan. SPACES is a flexible solar panel that can be carried by a Marine and is used for recharging radio batteries. With more room in their packs from fewer batteries, coalition forces can pack more essentials, like ammunition. Photo courtesy of 1st Marine Division.

PATROL BASE SPARKS (Dec. 29, 2010) Marines and Sailors of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and their Afghan national army counterparts, pose in front of a modified ZeroBase Regenerator in Sangin District, Afghanistan. The ZeroBased Regenerator, nicknamed "the Raptor," after the type of power cells in its six solar panels, can keep more than 17 computers and 15 lighting units running throughout the night. Photo courtesy of 1st Marine Division.
PATROL BASE SPARKS (Dec. 29, 2010) Marines and Sailors of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and their Afghan national army counterparts, pose in front of a modified ZeroBase Regenerator in Sangin District, Afghanistan. The ZeroBased Regenerator, nicknamed "the Raptor," after the type of power cells in its six solar panels, can keep more than 17 computers and 15 lighting units running throughout the night. Photo courtesy of 1st Marine Division.

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