Mobile Field Camps

Jul 15, 2008

Today, mobile field camps are versatile, deployable facilities for both civil and military operations. After a short assembly time, they provide comfortable living and working conditions designed to ease some of the strain of an extended period of deployment. Field camps with sufficient infrastructure can provide the basis for continuous ­operational readiness, sustainability and motivation.

Access Control Point Shelters.

Responding to natural disasters brings another use for mobile field camps that is creating increasing requirements in recent years. In many countries, the armed forces are the first responders for disaster relief operations. In addition, the international community, such as the UN, Red Cross and other ­governmental and non-governmental organizations, routinely deploy staff and equipment, including medical support ­service, to disaster areas for long periods of time. Air-transportable field camps, based on modular systems, are often the best answer to fulfil shelter requirements with the capability to operate in both hot and icy ­climatic regions, in extreme weather all over the world.      

Field camps must maintain a capability for a rapid deployment. Civilian and ­military installations alike must ensure that participants can live and operate under clean, dry and comfortable conditions.

Expeditionary deployments are most often of a limited duration; therefore, facilities and infrastructure are intended to be temporary. In some cases, it is possible to occupy existing facilities, however, this infrastructure is often destroyed or not in useable condition, such as after military conflict or natural disasters. Thus, expeditionary forces need their own transportable infrastructure, however, only some armed forces have the capability for air transporting of field camps to deploy troops where and when necessary without delay.   

Varying response needs of today require highly mobile facilities – accommodations, utilities, and support equipment – that can be rapidly moved and reinstalled in other areas when deemed necessary. Therefore, these mobile field camps are designed to be light and lean and modular to fulfill changing requirements.

Modern field camps are a great challenge for planners and field engineers. The overall concern is to have capabilities on demand which might be required according to the mission task. Facilities commonly consist of fabric covered, aluminum frame construction, providing lightweight pre-manufactured offices and ­billeting, ISO and CONEX containers, general purpose shelters, expandable shelter containers, and aircraft and vehicle maintenance ­shelters.  

Planning the Camp Layout
A typical camp layout refers to an overall configuration of buildings, equipment, and other assets at an installation. The size of field camps requires extensive planning of the infrastructure to be established. For this, a planning and reconnaissance tool, lead by a national or NATO-Joint Force Command (JFC), will be tasked to develop a plan of the camp to show all buildings, tents and containers, which will be used for accommodation, field kitchens and messing, supply and disposal, storage and shelter. The plan will include critical route maps for water, wastewater and power.

The operation of a field camp also requires some type of power management. Power generation and distribution plants must be functionally reliable. Today, deployable field kitchens, often installed in container modules, offer the technical standards of modern canteen kitchens. Drinking water treatment plants are used for water supply and water filling plants fill drinking water into bottles and cans.

Field laundries not only clean the clothing, they also enable disinfection of, for example, medical clothing. Especially for so called “Quick Reaction Forces,” air transportable modular field camps can provide rapidly available accommodation during initial operations until the establishment of a stationary field camp. Support to special and response forces requires fast availability and rapid deployment within 15 days as well as sustainability in the area of operations of up to 30 days.    

Minimizing Threats
For security reasons, planners should provide adequate perimeter and parking standoff, facility separation, and isolation of vulnerable areas to reduce all sorts of threats. A well-planned dispersal, separating or spreading people, material, establishments, or activities have the right potential to reduce aggressor attacks. For example, functional areas like kitchens or industrial areas which require frequent vehicle access should be separated from billeting areas to minimize the risk from undetected vehicle bombs.

A threat is a known or postulated aggressor activity focused on targeting a particular asset. These threats may range from moving and stationary vehicle bombs to standoff weapons, from small arms to chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, a detailed analysis of the area and camp-specific threat is required to develop an effective protection strategy.

Barriers, fences, trenches, and slopes are simple obstacles for entry and advance, deterring or delaying attacks. Common motion-activated flood lights and electronic or mechanical noisemakers connected to perimeter fences are inexpensive and easy to install. Finally, some level of force ­protection is necessary for responders, even when deployed in response to natural disasters.  

It is an unfortunate reality that Protection Forces must be able to conduct out-of-area operations both under NBC threat and in an NBC environment. In other words, they must be able to detect nuclear, biological, and chemical combat agents and hazardous substances.

Therefore, field deployed troops are equipped with varying efficiency and mobility, ranging from portable detection equipment to advanced container-based laboratories. Nowadays, such temporary facilities can be used for the decontamination of personnel, equipment, land vehicles and aircraft in a contaminated environment, as is currently being done by several armed forces worldwide.

To fulfill this task, the German Armed Forces, for example, are on the way to procure a highly mobile “TEP 90 Decontamina­tion System.” On 10 June 2008, the first TEP 90 system had its roll-out for use by the NBC defence troops. By 2010, they will receive a total of 73 systems, considerably enhancing its ability to defend against nuclear, biological and chemical dangers.

The system consists of the newly designed decontamination equipment developed and produced by KÄRCHER Futuretech, based in Winnenden, Germany, and a carrier vehicle from IVECO Magirus, based in Ulm, Germany. A specially constructed driving cab (by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann), provides the crew with the best possible protection against imminent dangers in the mission area. In addition, the chassis has a built-in crane for loading and unloading the decontamination equipment installed in three containers. The loading crane can also be equipped with a working basket for decontamination of large vehicles, trucks, and battle tanks from the top. The TEP 90 is highly mobile, rapidly deployable and employable off-road; it includes all components needed for ­mission-optimized completion of thorough decontamination.

The container-based system has a ­modular structure, consisting of decontamination modules which can be used independently, and ensures functions such as decontamination of persons, NBC protective clothing and personal equipment, sensitive equipment, large vehicles and aircraft including interior rooms, supply items and packaging receptacles, road sections, plants, and installations to a limited extent. It also measures against infection and vermin destruction. TEP 90 can be operated under all weather conditions in different climatic areas with extreme temperatures ranging from –32°C to over +49°C. These capabilities might be very interesting for Canadian responders and armed forces too, because the system is useable in the field of homeland security and in out-of-area missions.

In the face of serious national security threats, militaries and first responders turn must find decontamination solutions to ­protect people, communities and valuable infrastructure. Allen-Vanguard Corporation, a Canadian company, deploys counter-­terrorism solutions around the world. Its products are in demand by military and civilian emergency rescue personnel committed to safe and effective responses to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) events.

Research and product development of Allen-Vanguard’s military-grade decontamination (decon) system, CASCAD/SDF, was initiated by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) during the first Gulf War. These early scientific investments produced a counter-CBRN foam decontaminant that has proven effective against all known CBRN threats.

Customer endorsements are often the truest test of product efficacy, and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs has recently recommended CASCAD/SDF for use by fire departments in urban centres across Canada. In international markets, the Swiss government, among others, has acquired this decon system for military applications by its armed forces.

Medical Service
Medical support is a key factor in the ­survival of personnel in a dangerous operational environment. Today modern container and tent systems provide environmental conditions required to operate state-of-the-art medical equipment. In other words, accurate temperature and humidity settings permit the use of the same advanced medical equipment that is currently employed for the treatment of patients at home. For this, the Medical Treatment Facilities (MTF) in the field for military operations or disaster relief ­missions is the backbone of a so called ­medical lifesaving chain.

NATO defines self and buddy-aid as the first and most important step in the field, followed by “Preclinical Care” (Role 1) and “Emergency Surgical Care” (Role 2). This medical support is provided in mobile aid stations and mobile surgical hospitals. Medical personnel perform triage, life-saving measures, initial general and emergency medical care which includes emergency surgery to prepare patients for medical evacuation to a follow-up treatment facility. The “Immediate Hospital Care” (Role 3) takes place in field hospitals. These deployable military hospitals provide multidisciplinary specialty inpatient and outpatient treatment. Whenever possible, patients should receive definitive treatment at field hospitals in the country of deployment. However, the full range of treatment and rehabilitation will be carried out at hospitals at home (Role 4).

Operating Room in a Modular Medical Treatment Facility.

Disaster Relief Operations
The international defence industry offers a wide range of field camp programs for military and civil organizations to handle disaster relief operations. Companies like Anteon International Corporation, or  KBR, Inc. (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root), both of the U.S., developed field camp solutions and components for expeditionary troops to operate worldwide in any ­operating condition. The U.S. Marine Corps operating in Iraq uses a number of mobile facilities delivered by US defence industries. Kärcher Futuretech, a supplier to the German forces and also NATO allies, produces field camp components and specialized systems which can be operated in all weather conditions. The company delivered water purification systems from the UN and a series of African states serving on peacekeeping missions in Darfur, Sudan.

For the sake of protecting deployed troops in disaster relief operations, the current and future conditions of international and worldwide missions of the UN, NATO armed forces, governmental and NGOs require highly effective and coordinated pieces of special equipment which can be adapted to each other.

Health protection and survivability of deployed personnel under all mission ­conditions are incontrovertible criteria for the development and introduction of new systems. Responders, be they military or civilian, must maintain the capability to establish field camps whenever and wherever rapid assistance is required.   

Wrap Up
There is not such a big difference between military expeditionary operations and ­disaster relief missions when it comes to protecting personnel and providing acceptable life conditions to operate. On the other hand, armed forces in general are often the important backbone of disaster relief operations at home and worldwide. Armed forces have personnel, skill, equipment, transport capabilities, a well functioning command and control structure and they have the experience to act in a crisis. Governmental and NGOs will find a strong and reliable partner to fulfil their task.

Jürgen K.G. Rosenthal is a FrontLine correspondent based in Germany.
© FrontLine Security 2008