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Outside Magazine

IN SEPTEMBER 2010, a company of U.S. Marines entered Sangin District, an area in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that had seen some of the most intense, protracted fighting of the war. Their mission was to relieve British forces and launch an aggressive effort to clear and calm the area, which was, as the military is wont to say, “highly kinetic.” India Company, from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, lost more than two dozen soldiers in the first four months of combat.

Early on in the fighting, First Lieutenant Josef Patterson, India 3/5’s second platoon commander, took a small force south to clear a route into the Sangin River Valley. They established a patrol base, but for two months the area remained so volatile that fuel convoys couldn’t reach it. Without fuel or battery resupply, the team could have been left with no way to run generators or power radios or computers—a potentially crippling situation. Even in smaller numbers, today’s Marines are considerably more lethal than their predecessors, mostly due to the flexibility enabled by constant connectivity. As Patterson later explained, “If I don’t have comm with my troops and my higher-ups, I am lost.”

But the soldiers of India 3/5 had another source of power: the sun.

That is the beginning of my new piece in Outside magazine on Marine Corps efforts to deploy renewables and energy efficiency on the front lines. I hope you’ll click over and read the whole thing. (Better yet, pick up a copy at your local newsstand!)