One year after opening its doors, a research effort at the U.S. Army’s Fort Devens, Mass., training facility is turning out practical solutions to help military base camps run more efficiently, with an eye toward eventual self-sufficiency.
The Base Camp Systems Integration Laboratory is managed by the Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems (PMFSS), under the leadership of the Army’s Project Manager Force Protection.
Since June 2011, project coordinators have been examining base camp operations: fuel usage, clean water and wastewater. Research initiatives explore insulation, water treatment, construction materials and other elements that support daily living in the camps.
The Army operates 55 600-person camps in Afghanistan.
“It’s basically a city in a box,” said Mike Hope, team leader for the Force Provider program in PMFSS. Those “cities” rely on a steady stream of overland shipments to provide for their major logistical needs. This is a pricey venture that puts soldiers at risk.
To study how to cut down on those deliveries, planners have constructed two mini-camps at Fort Devens, each with 150 soldiers in residence. One functions exactly like a camp in the field; the other serves as a test bed for ideas.
One such piece of research already in use in Afghanistan is a filtering system that captures and recycles up to 75 percent of used shower water. The system can recycle 3.3 million gallons of the 4.4 million gallons a camp uses in a year.
Researches also have tested a micro-grid energy technology slated to be used in Afghanistan in the coming months. This technology ties generators together, analyzes load demand and shuts down generators as usage falls, potentially cutting fuel usage by 37 percent, Hope said.
Researchers also seek to dispose of toilet water on site.
“If you look across Afghanistan, we have been contracting out for big tanker trailers to remove blackwater. That creates an opportunity for the enemy to get into your camp,” Hope said. “It’s also a considerable cost for people to haul the blackwater to a treatment location.”
Rather than develop new technologies, the Fort Devens test bed has been largely engaged in adapting commercial solutions for the base camp setting.
“Some of it has to be ruggedized, some of it has to be modified for form, fit and function purposes,” Hope said. “In a lot of cases, you can adapt that basic technology. We are looking for the ones that we can put in right away, that will have an immediate impact in the field.”