Jan - Feb 2012: Article

Every Soldier Is an Energy Manager

Every day, we all make energy-conscious decisions. As gasoline prices increase, we change our driving habits or we buy fuel-efficient vehicles. When we are shocked by our monthly electric bill, we rush out to buy energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs. To further decrease energy expenses, we combine trips to the store, turn off unneeded lights, and better insulate our homes. In short, we make prudent energy conservation decisions every day so that our paychecks are not depleted at the gas station or by electric bills. The cumulative effect of these minor changes is that we can better provide for our families while at the same time reducing our reliance on ever decreasing and more expensive resources.

The energy utilization decisions faced by the Army are not much different from those we face in our homes, and the solutions are similar. The risks, however, if we fail to react to our ever increasing reliance on limited energy resources are significantly greater in the Army.

Energy, in the forms with which we are most familiar, became a critical factor during many of the major battles and campaigns of World War II. In the decades since, we have become ever more dependent on traditional carbon-based energy resources like oil and coal. Despite the obvious strategic impact of this reliance on a single commodity, we frequently take those resources for granted and often squander them.

Army vehicles consume unprecedented amounts of fuel to enable mobility and onboard power, while generators provide electricity for everything from tactical information systems and environmental control units to coffeemakers and iPods. The average fuel demand per Soldier has increased from about 1 gallon per day in World War II to over 20 gallons today, roughly half of which is consumed generating electrical power. In addition, a significant number of our Soldiers carry large quantities of batteries to complete their mission.

Our dependence on energy to operate successfully creates a vulnerability, and our enemies know it. Consequently, a significant proportion of the casualties we suffer occur during sustainment operations. Our growing demand for energy is becoming increasingly dangerous to meet and too expensive to fund. We all must work together to reduce the demand for energy on the battlefield.

To tackle these operational energy challenges, the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) designated the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) as its proponent for aligning concepts, requirements, capabilities, policies, training, research, and acquisition in order to ensure the Army's long-term sustainability for energy use and conservation. In turn, I established the CASCOM Operational Energy Office within the Materiel Systems Directorate to serve in this role. Although this is an enormous task, we work as part of a larger enterprise to develop the tools needed to manage power and energy, identify relevant metrics, and integrate those metrics into equipment design and training.

CASCOM is aggressively pursuing new and innovative ways to maximize our utilization of precious energy resources to reduce energy distribution requirements on the battlefield, thus keeping our sustainment Soldiers off the road. By leveraging technology, we will further reduce cost, weight, and fuel requirements, making our Soldiers more agile, effective, and lethal while significantly improving our overall operational energy posture. This is extraordinarily beneficial for the sustainment community at large.

What does this mean to the average Soldier? In the simplest terms, we must ensure current energy resources are used efficiently to progress toward reducing overall demand for energy. In reducing demand, we will realize a reduction in the number of Soldiers placed in harm's way while delivering, securing, and distributing energy across the battlefield. Looking at it another way, for every gallon of fuel or pound of batteries not used, we achieve an actual savings equivalent to at least 1½ times that amount as a result of the savings gained by the reduced distribution requirements.

I have also directed the pursuit of other advanced technologies, such as higher energy density and rechargeable batteries, that will help us further reduce individual Soldier loads. ("Energy density" refers to the amount of energy stored in a system or space by unit volume.) These innovations will decrease the number of batteries Soldiers need to carry to accomplish their missions.

Reduced energy consumption, coupled with efficient use of energy, will also free resources for use in other missions, capabilities, and programs. In essence, reducing energy demand and increasing energy efficiency is a win-win situation for all levels of the Army; we can reduce risks and costs and increase capability, mobility, lethality, and quality of life.

Achieving our objective requires a team effort. Enhancing energy security is a basic responsibility of every Army Soldier and civilian. Success lies in individual accountability for improved energy efficiency through effective use of available energy and the development and implementation of innovative materiel and nonmateriel solutions to mitigate our energy challenges. We must change the culture of the Army to one that puts a high priority on efficient energy use, and this requires leader involvement.

As leaders within your respective fields, each of you must consider how you can reduce the demand for energy on the battlefield. Ask yourself, "What can I do within my organization to help change the energy culture in the Army from one of consumption to one of conservation?" Every leader should ask these questions: What is my organization's "energy factor?" (That is the percentage of energy that is delivered and used effectively compared to what is wasted.) How can we reduce energy demand? And what do I need to increase energy efficiency, accountability, and awareness?

We all have an opportunity, here and now, to be agents of change with a strategic implication. We have guidance from the Department of the Army to reduce energy consumption; in response, the CASCOM Operational Energy Office has identified areas that need improvement and drafted a campaign plan to make those improvements. The hard part is executing the guidance at all organizational levels. To do this, I need leaders to focus on helping me begin to shift the energy culture within the Army.

We will meet this challenge head on, capitalizing on leading-edge research, technologies, and business practices. Achieving success will take dedication, sustained leadership, and accountability at all levels. Remember, every Soldier in the U.S. Army is an energy manager and has the capability to help reduce demand. We all can make a difference!


Major General James L. Hodge is the commanding general of the Army Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia.

 

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Army mariners from the 1099th Transportation Detachment, assigned to the SP4 James A. Loux, Logistics Support Vessel-6, load an Army vehicle onto the ship during a mission to Port Salalah, Oman, on March 6, 2016. (Photo by Sgt. Walter Lowell)


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