Palm-sized device gives Marines ability to carry lighter load and resupply often
- By Katherine Owens
- Aug 02, 2017
Marines conducting missions in combat zones carry anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds of gear between ammunition, radio devices, weaponry, and water, according to a Marine Corps spokesperson. However, a new handheld device may soon allow Marines to lighten their load, while still having access to the supplies they need.
“I want every Marine to be a leader in innovation,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Dana, Deputy Commandant for Marine Corps Installations and Logistics, in a video encouraging Marines to participate in the 2016 Innovation Challenge. “This pack is heavy; we need to find a way to reduce the load on Marines,” he said.
That’s exactly what the personal combat assistant and reporting device (PCARD) would do. The electronic device fits easily in a Marine’s palm and is basically a small screen surrounded by a few, straightforward buttons.
According to PCARD inventor Staff Sgt. Alexander Long, when Marines conducting field operations are low on food, water, or ammunition, they can select any of these items on the PCARD. The team’s PCARD will then wirelessly transmit that information to a ruggedized tablet carried by the squad leader. After receiving this information, squad leaders can electronically transmit supply requests to the platoon commander.
The platoon commander can then authorize in field resupplying during the operation. In addition, the resupply needs of each team are digitally gathered from the individual Marine to the platoon level, and so this data can be compiled and analyzed. Battalion and regimental commanders can understand what type of supplies run out faster and where to better understand how supplies should be distributed, according to Staff Sgt. Long.
“The common problem is the warfighter is too heavy. We spend a lot of money just trying to make the equipment lighter,” explained Staff Sgt. Long. “Units still go out with three days of supplies even if they are just walking a kilometer on patrol.”
Since winning the 2016 Innovation Challenge, Staff Sgt. Long has been working with civilian developers to build and test a prototype of the PCARD.
The first prototype was tested with Marine Corps units in the last two months, according to Jennifer Walsh, Innovation Challenge Lead for the Marine Corps’ NEXLOG Innovation Cell. It is scheduled to undergo further testing at Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Base in California this October.
“The age of innovation is here, think ahead, think unconventionally, challenge the status quo,” Lt. Gen. Dana says in the video. As proof that innovative ideas can go far to improve fighting force effectiveness, Marines in the field may able to use the PCARD during operations as soon as next year, said Staff Sgt. Long.
Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems