By Debbie Gregory.
An ongoing 18-month experiment by the Marine Corps could transform the basic infantry unit into a deadlier revolutionized team.
Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was chosen earlier this year by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to help the Corps figure out what company landing teams need to be successful. They were sent out to the desert, equipped with new high-tech gear like drones, robotic vehicles — some with weaponry — and self-supporting energy systems.
The 18-month experiment, with the goal of making the expeditionary landing team more self-sufficient and combat ready, will rely on user feedback from the Marines and sailors involved.
The experiment began when Kilo Company was flown into a mock urban environment via helicopters and MV-22B Ospreys. Their mission was to assist after a UN helo went down in a foreign town that had the potential to turn hostile. Capt. Joe Patterson, Kilo’s company commander, had reason to believe his Marines faced a credible risk of being ambushed, so he opted against traditional patrols that could leave them vulnerable to threats like roadside bombs.
There were no options for quick resupplies or large-scale logistics support. The company was in their desert on their own.
What made this exercise unlike any others, though, was the gear the Marines were given to help sustain themselves. The Marines carried items such as the Small-Unit Water Purification System and the Joint Infantry Combat Prototype, which can harvest a Marine’s energy to charge up equipment. They also had self-driving vehicles that could help carry their equipment, special medical gear, and the drones they used to collect intel and drop bombs.
They also had the High-Efficiency Internally Transportable Trailer which has a “green” energy hub to power and recharge batteries. The power-generating exoskeleton called the Joint Infantry Combat Prototype slides up and down as a Marine walks or runs, which captures the energy. The item can be used with Marines’ existing packs and an additional waist pouch holds rechargeable batteries and other nodes that the grunts could use to charge their stuff.
MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) not only provided aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to Kilo Company but could also be equipped with Hellfire missiles and bombs.
Kilo Company, along with the rest of its battalion, will continue this experiment through the fall with an integrated training exercise.
While some of the lessons learned during this test could be applied to future exercises, Brig. Gen. Julian Alford , Warfighting Lab’s commander, said no final decisions on technologies, equipment or company structure have been made.