NATICK, Mass. (June 1, 2012) -- Cooperation between government, private industry and academia to benefit the warfighter took center stage May 29, at the ninth meeting of the Natick Soldier Systems Center Science and Technology Board.
Representatives from those realms met at NSSC to strengthen ties and continue the flow to American service members of the world's finest equipment.
"It's really all about collaboration," said Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, NSSC senior commander, "to be able to work together, really to the advancement of everybody. It's a pleasure and really an honor for everybody to be here."
As Jack Obusek, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center director, noted, the Army will always be about "boots on the ground, Soldiers face to face."
The innovation that produces their equipment must come from a variety of sources, as represented by the board.
"Attendance here is a testimony to the importance of the work we're trying to do with the board," said Obusek, "which is really facilitating the transfer of technology in and out of the Army."
McGuiness pointed out that three of the Army's nine top science and technology projects -- known as Technology Enabled Capability Demonstrations, or TECDs -- are being led by Natick.
"This is where the Army is going in terms of science and technology," McGuiness said.
The Natick-led TECDs include Force Protection -- Soldier and Small Unit, Sustainability & Logistics --Basing, and Overburdened -- Physical Burden. Program managers gave briefings on the three TECDs.
"Force Protection seeks to make significant improvements in everything that protects an individual dismounted Soldier on the battlefield," said Mike Codega. "The kit that our Soldiers have today is good. It's the best on the planet."
In Sustainability & Logistics -- Basing, operational energy has become the focus.
"In the calendar year 2011, contingency bases consumed about a quarter of a billion gallons of fuel, which is absolutely enormous," said Craig Rettie. "And the cost isn't just a dollar cost. In 2011, there were more than 1,000 convoy-related incidents in Afghanistan. Every one of those incidents presents an opportunity for war fighters to be injured or lose their (lives).
"We're not just looking at energy and fuel. We're looking at water and waste, as well."
Andra Kirsteins literally is trying to take weight off of Soldiers' shoulders in Overburdened -- Physical Burden at Natick.
"This TECD is focusing on the dismounted Soldiers (who) today are carrying weight sometimes in excess of 130 pounds," Kirsteins said. "We're aiming so that a Soldier carries no more than 50 percent of their body weight. Our longer term goal is that no Soldier carries more than 30 percent of their body weight. So that's a lot of weight that we need to reduce."
Down the road, Obusek envisions the establishment of a Soldier performance center at Natick.
"We really think we've got the power in this region to plant that flag and push this forward," Obusek said. "We're always going to need to have fully equipped and high-performing people to do the mission of the Army."