A new device idea would have supplies at Marines’ fingertips, not on their backs.
One Marine staff sergeant is trying to bring wearable technology down to the fire team level with the hopes of streamlining logistics and having Marines carry only what they need, with “real-time” resupply a near future reality.
“The common problem is the warfighter is too heavy,” Staff Sgt. Alexander Long V said. “We spend a lot of money just trying to make the equipment lighter. Units still go out with three days of supplies even if they’re just walking a kilometer on patrol.”
Long is one of the Innovation Challenge winners from the event’s first year in 2016. His idea, the personal combat assistant and reporting device, or PCARD, is a wearable electronic device smaller than a playing card and about as thick as a thumb, and is months away from being in the hands of Marines.
The device has basic options such as food, water and ammunition that an individual fire team member can submit when they need more of any of those items. Squad leaders hold tablets, wirelessly connected to the smaller wearables.
The information is funneled up to the platoon commander, who can make supply decisions quickly as Marines move in the field through operations. That data is then collected at battalion and regimental levels, bringing decision-making up from operational to tactical to strategic levels.
Once in place, the commanders can forecast Marine resupply needs, Long hopes, to then deliver items when they’re needed, where they’re needed and in the right amount.
Long, an ammunition technician by trade, is currently the Action Officer for the Ammunition Logistics Focus team at Program Manager Ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Virginia. But since winning the competition he’s been working with civilian developers such as Jennifer Walsh to shepherd his idea into a reality.
Walsh is the innovation challenge lead for the Headquarters of the Marine Corps’ NEXLOG Innovation Cell.
A prototype of the device was tested this summer by undisclosed Marine units and is scheduled for further field testing at Camp Pendleton in October, Walsh said.
The device could be in the hands of Marines for training or operations as early as next year, Walsh said.
But, Long said in a recent interview, he and his fellow Marines wondered if anyone would actually read their submissions when they first decided to offer their ideas.
“We laughed at the idea that I would submit something and it would be taken seriously,” Long said. “The worst thing that happens is they told me no.”
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.