Marines in Afghanistan get leaner, meaner, greener with solar-powered gear

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Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

US Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Regiment leave FOB Delhi for a patrol in Garmser, Helmand Province, Afghanistan on March 14, 2011.

The Marines from Camp Pendleton and across the country got word from their commanders Monday that they’ll soon work leaner, meaner and greener. Marines in Afghan combat zones will get solar-powered gear next year.

The move comes after Camp Pendleton’s Company I ran radios and laptops off solar power for 192 straight hours during desert training last July. For the last few months, Camp Pendleton Marines deployed in a Taliban stronghold had similar success with solar panels and a solar generator.

Maybe the Marines are dedicated environmentalists – but that’s not why they want solar gear in combat zones. It’s because Marine Corps number crunchers say that for every 50 trips to get fuel or water, one Marine is wounded.

In other words, solar power in the field saves lives – like the solar tarp that covers a tent and provides silent power, unlike a noisy gas generator.

That’s not all. Moving supplies in Afghanistan often means hiring private contractors to protect convoys; those contractors sometimes hire local help – like warlords or Taliban sympathizers who later end up as adversaries. That’s a headache the Marines don’t need.

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