SSC-Natick Press Release
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: April 13, 2005
Soldier innovations sought
NATICK, Mass. -- The Soldier Innovation Initiative is seeking resourceful equipment ideas from Soldiers who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Natick Soldier Center’s (NSRDEC) Operational Forces Interface Group (OFIG) at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here began the effort in January 2004 to capture Soldier-modified equipment in the field as well as identify new equipment made from materials available to Soldiers that they have creatively exploited.
The project’s goal is to discover successful field ideas, prototype the best ones for further evaluation, and potentially influence the development process to field new or improved equipment. Ideas are reviewed to determine which technical area within the Natick Soldier Center or Research, Development and Engineering Command can best assess the innovation.
OFIG members, consisting primarily of active-duty and former Soldiers, visit installations throughout the year for the purpose of gathering field feedback, and the Soldier Innovation Initiative piggybacks onto these installation visits to specifically target installations with units returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
OFIG has been in the business of collecting field feedback for 20 years and has three engineering psychologists who specialize in the development of surveys and in interpreting field feedback. The psychologists developed a survey designed to prompt Soldiers to provide their innovations, creative modifications, field solutions, and newly created or improvised items while deployed.
Soldiers are asked not only to provide information on their ideas but also to provide digital or hard copy photographs to enhance understanding of their ideas. Soldiers are also prompted for contact information so that they can be reached for further clarification.
Project officers conduct a review to determine whether the idea merits further pursuit. They are encouraged to contact the submitter and even invite him to the NSRDEC if this will aid in the prototyping and evaluation process.
After an initial survey round with 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and units of the 82nd Airborne Division deployed in Afghanistan, some ideas that have emerged are: map pocket sewn into the inside of a patrol cap, a modified sling that allows the M-4 carbine rifle to hang in a ready position, a commercial earpiece for Soldier Intercom for better integration with helmet and golf bag straps attached to M-240B assistant machine gunner’s bag to carry the weapon in a ruck configuration.
The NSRDEC believes that the Soldier Innovation Initiative features important differences in process and scope from the Army Ideas for Excellence Program because the initiative employs OFIG to actively solicit creative ideas and solutions from returning combat veterans.
Soldiers whose ideas are determined to be fitting within the Army Ideas for Excellence Program also will be encouraged to do so through this process.
OFIG will continue to solicit ideas from returning units, providing continual new ideas for assessment and possible further development and fielding.
For more information about the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, please visit our website at: http://www.natick.army.mil.