By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2011 – Noting an energy-efficient force is a more agile and resilient force, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus called on his commanders and troops to reduce their energy consumption in Afghanistan.
“By reducing demand for fuel, we will improve operational capability, reduce risk to our forces and, ultimately, strengthen our security,” Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, wrote in a June 7 memorandum addressed to the service members and civilians of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
Coalition forces are able to “project power” across the globe, and for long periods of time, he said, but inherent to this capability is the need for fuel. “This ‘operational energy’ is the lifeblood of our warfighting capabilities,” he wrote, “and a key enabler of coalition operations in Afghanistan.”
However, high fuel use can create risks to troops and to the mission. Nearly 80 percent of ground-supply movements are fuel-based, the general noted, and many lives have been lost delivering fuel to bases across the country. Additionally, moving and protecting this energy diverts troops from combat.
“A force that makes better use of fuel will have increased agility, improved resilience against disruption, and more capacity for engaging Afghan partners, particularly at the tactical edge,” he wrote.
“We can and will do better,” he added.
To start, Petraeus said he’s standing up an office to change the way coalition forces use operational energy, and a team will assist commanders with measuring and managing unit fuel consumption.
The general also directed his commanders to make “energy-informed, risk-based decisions” in areas such as aviation and vehicle operations, base camp design, power and water generation, and distribution. “This includes decisions on deliveries, improvements to existing structures and new construction,” he wrote.
Petraeus also called for a swift transition of new fuel savings methods to the field as well as a pursuit of proven alternative energy options that reduce the use and transport of fuel.
Finally, commanders should keep energy consumption in mind when dealing with contract requirements and oversight, he wrote.
On an individual level, Petraeus said commanders should ensure their personnel are mindful of day-to-day fuel use -- turning off unused equipment, repairing faulty equipment, and avoiding lighting, heating and air conditioning use in unused facilities.
“Commanders and their personnel should understand that routine energy consumption can either enable or limit combat capabilities,” he wrote.
Cutting back on fuel makes sense on every level, Petraeus noted. “As we have demonstrated in Afghanistan, the initiative, commitment and capability of coalition forces give us unparalleled advantages,” he wrote. “Changing the way we use operational energy will lighten the logistics burden, minimize tactical distractions to the mission, and deny easy targets to the adversary.”