MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Recently, the Marine Corps surveyed service members of all ranks who had been deployed to find out what could be improved while in-country. The top two responses from these service members were the need for potable water and energy efficiency. The Marine Corps invited approximately 15 commercial and government companies to create products to solve these problems and put them on display at the third annual Experimental Forward Operating Base hosted at Goettge Memorial Field House aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, May 2 through 4.
Venders from different companies set up booths, eager to demonstrate the products they had been working on in recent months. The ExFOB’s focus was improvement of water and energy for Marines and sailors who are deployed overseas.
During the first day of the event, commanding generals and other distinguished guests got a first glimpse of the new products that may be used by the military in years to come. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was in attendance along with Marines selected to be a part of the testing process. They went to each vendor, used the products and provided feedback.
“ExFOB is an opportunity for Marines and sailors to get a chance to get experience with, and to evaluate different technologies for water and power,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Mercer, the force environmental health officer with II Marine Expeditionary Force. “Their feedback is integral to the Marine Corps deciding what water and power systems to implement in the future, both at the individual and company-sized level.”
New water technologies showcased at the ExFOB included water bottles that have filtration systems so Marines can get water from any stream or river and not be worried about how clean the water is. Another big item were the new hydration pack upgrades. Standard issue CamelBaks have hoses that can get hot in high outdoor temperatures, causing the water inside the hose to be hot as well. Improvements were made so that the hoses are wrapped in a different material, which causes the water in the hose to stay cold, even in hot temperatures. The new CamelBak prototypes were also smaller and made to fit on one’s back more comfortably.
Some energy-producing products included portable solar panels. They were also smaller, lightweight solar panels that were made to fit on one’s flak jacket that could power everything that a Marine or sailor carries while on patrol, instead of using individual batteries for everything.
“The Marines are giving really good feedback on determining if they like the size, shape, and taste of these products,” Mercer said. “They are also giving feedback on whether it is formfitting and meets their needs. We want them to tell us what works for them and what doesn’t.”
The Marines chosen to be a part of the judging enjoyed being able to give their opinion to help make the best product possible for Marines and sailors in the future.
“I think it’s good that they’re coming to the Marines that use the equipment to get their feedback,” said Cpl. Charles Ott, the police sergeant for the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit command element.
This is the first time that Marines have given their comments at an ExFOB and their opinions on the products will go a long way in determining what the Marine Corps chooses to implement down the road.
“We’re taking all that feedback from the systems they see, what they like and don’t like,” said Maj. Brandon Newell, technology lead for the Expeditionary Energy Office. “From that, writers will compose a list and send it out to the industries to let them what requirements they have to meet with their product.”
Every system at the ExFOB is in its prototype stage. These items are not battle ready yet, but with the input provided by the Marines, hopefully they will be something that the Marine Corps can use in the future, concluded Newell.