• Faces of the Force

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    Army engineer powers remote bases

     

    By Steve Stark

     

    Steve Smith volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan from May 2012 to February 2013 as the government lead logistics manager for Project Manager Mobile Electric Power (PM MEP) Forward Theater Team to field the Army’s new advanced medium mobile power source and to serve as the contracting officer representative. Remarkably, he was the first representative from headquarters, PM MEP in Afghanistan. “Our equipment’s been out there,” he said, “but we didn’t have a presence out there from the project office.” The task was to establish a presence in theater and set conditions to “right-size” mobile electric power in support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Teams’ (BCT) special operations village stability platforms and conventional forces outposts. “That’s why they asked me to go out there.”

    The right-sizing effort, called Operation Dynamo, initially for the 173rd Airborne’s BCTs, was an attempt to match the BCTs’ operational power equipment with the power they actually needed, which included new, highly fuel-efficient power generation, distribution and environmental-control equipment. In a sense, that operation was an experiment to see if it could be done as efficiently as PM MEP projected.

    The benefits would be manifold. More fuel-efficient military generators would require considerably less fuel, which meant a lower risk profile for the personnel who have to deliver fuel by greatly reducing the number of fuel resupply missions to remotely located bases. There were also large sustainment savings in the operation of these bases.

    The right-sizing program was a success, Smith said. How it was done—by factually assessing the power requirements of the units and analyzing many different variables and use cases, then creating a well-crafted plan to meet power, delivery and environmental controls, and then implementing the plan—ought to be Army doctrine, Smith said.

    Smith routinely coordinated for the reception, staging and integration of the advanced medium mobile power sources generator fielding in support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan.

    By giving Soldiers (and Marines) the power they needed, their quality of improved significantly, Smith said. “There are Soldiers out there that don’t have any power. They’re going day-to-day with nothing. The current [power] equipment they have out there is in poor condition. It’s been out there for the entire Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and [it’s in] ill repair, and we’re going out there and improving their quality of life 100 percent.”

    That, Smith said, “is job satisfaction. It’s what makes everything worth it. I want to provide whatever it takes to do the best job that I can do and make it better for somebody else out there. Those guys are living outside the wire. They’re running convoys, they’re doing combat operations. They’re in harm’s way constantly out there. And when they go back to their base at the end of their mission, they don’t want to go back and eat cold food and have cold showers. Their lives are on the line. They’re giving their all. When they get back from those missions, we want to make their quality of life as favorable as possible. If you give your all to help their quality of life, it makes you feel good.”

    PM MEP’s job of providing operational power to Soldiers and Marines isn’t just a matter of lining up a bunch of generators and dropping them off, either, he said. The right-sizing includes the modeling and simulation of a base’s power and infrastructure needs, and delivering a solution that fits that the base, including environmental equipment, which, Smith said, can be thought of as operational HVAC—or heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

    Smith is recognized by the Army’s Acquisition Executive, the Hon. Heidi Shyu in support of his contributions to Operation Dynamo earlier this year. (Photos courtesy of PM MEP)

    But the effort includes even more. “We’re not just going out there and giving it to them and then they’ve got it. We’re a phone call away. If they run into additional issues out there, they contact us, and we come over and we provide them assistance. No matter what it is, if it means bringing a piece of equipment in there or replacing an existing piece of equipment or a component, or they need additional training because they’ve got new personnel on board, we’re the total package, providing all of that. And they love us.”

    Neil Cooper, another acquisition professional deployed to Afghanistan to support PM MEP and featured in Faces of the Force last month, said that Smith “did a great job” of bringing him up to speed in country. For a while, Cooper said, they were the only two government people there for the MEP program. According to Smith, the deployment was the “experience of a lifetime” for Cooper who, unlike Smith, does not have a military background. His time in Afghanistan gave him an up-close-and-personal crash course in how the operational Army works, and a chance to work with the end user—the warfighter.

    FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?

    “I want to provide whatever it takes to do the best job that I can do and make it better for somebody else out there.”

    SMITH: I recently returned from serving as a logistics management specialist with the PM MEP Medium Power Sources Team, providing tactical operational energy to Soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan.

    Simply put, it’s important because, without energy, servicemen and women’s lives are placed at greater risk; tactical capability and advantage is diminished; training and combat effectiveness is degraded; quality of life is reduced and mission accomplishment is no longer achievable.

    FOTF: What has your experience been like so far? What has surprised you the most?

    SMITH: Of my 32-plus years of active duty and civilian service, it’s been a remarkable journey of learning the acquisition process, beginning with where the capability is actually needed in the field, maintaining and sustaining weapon systems, to coming full circle back to the project office where solutions are developed, produced and deployed. I’ve recently returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of fielding a new generation of medium tactical power sources, the Advanced Medium Mobile Power Sources (AMMPS).

    FOTF: Why did you join the Army? What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army?

    SMITH: To serve, to make a positive difference in the lives of those I support. My greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army are the professional relationships, lasting, meaningful friendships and the experiences I have had the privilege to be a part of.
     


    • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

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