Fort Walton Beach electrical engineer Chris Garick was recently part of a consortium led by MIT Lincoln Laboratory that received international acclaim for work on a project for the U.S. Army focused on saving lives by reducing resupply convoys on the battlefront.
FORT WALTON BEACH — As Chris Garick enters his fourth decade as an electrical engineer, one thing has remained the same throughout that time. That's his approach.
Whatever the size of the project, Garick, who has owned HG Engineers (142 Eglin Parkway SE) since 1999, keeps the focus on the most important thing.
"By nature, being an engineer, you're liable for people's safety on whatever project you work on," Garick said. "That means fire alarms and emergency lights and everything that might factor into someone's safety is our responsibility."
That approach, combined with Garick's years of expertise, brought him into the international spotlight recently as one of the co-developers of the Tactical Microgrid Standard (TMS) Open Architecture, a group led by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
For their work on the project, HG Engineers and Garick were honored by R&D World — formerly R&D Magazine — with a prestigious Top 100 R&D World Award in the Software/Services division.
HG Engineers was initially approached by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Division (USACE CERL) about the project. The approach came after studies by international consulting firm Deloitte and the Army Environmental Policy Institute released over the last decade revealed that the casualty rate for Army soldiers and civilians on fuel re-supply convoys to forward operating bases (FOB) had reached 1 in 26 overall and 1 in 24 in Afghanistan.
Garick agreed to join a group that was tasked with developing a way to shrink that number of casualties by reducing the reliance on fuel at FOB locations, then was further tasked with performing the Independent Contractor Test to validate the work.
"(ERDC-CERL) reached out to us because they needed a non-government participant in the consortium," Garick said. "They want to know what people are doing in the world outside of the government ... so before there was a draft of TMS, the government wanted an independent contractor to build it to see if it will work."
The directive from Army command was to reduce fuel use by 30% at FOB, which rely on high-powered generators that, to that point, operated without regulation. If Garick's group could find a way to reduce fuel usage for the generators, it would reduce the number of re-supply convoys.
And if they could figure out a way to reduce the number of re-supply convoys, they could save lives.
"It was a great change for me," Garick said. "I really enjoyed the challenge of it ... and I like the idea that we're helping in a lot of ways that mean a lot to me, personally."
The first step for Garick was creating a 3-D model version of the Intelligent Power Distribution boxes that would be key to the process. In the past, massive generators provided power to FOB and could be controlled one of two ways — they were on or off.
The boxes, brought to life by HG Engineers, let commanders at the bases match the use of the generators to the task at hand via a microgrid controller.
"Let's say you have 10 generators running and you only need five, now you have the option to distribute the load fuel to just where it's needed instead of having all 10 run," Garick said. "But a lot of that is what the commander determines is right for the base ... he's the one who understands best what the interests of the (FOB) are and what the base needs."
Wednesday, Garick apologized for the re-model being done in his office — and took some good-natured ribbing about having a signed football from former University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning mixed among memorabilia from his alma mater, Mississippi State.
"Nobody ever points that out," Garick said, laughing. "But it was a gift, so it stays."