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Public Affairs Office title

U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: April 17, 2002
No: 02-17

Mainers pitch in for war effort

NATICK, Mass. -- Patriotism rang loud across the country following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and for a group of residents in Bridgton, Maine, they were able to put their feelings into action.

The Marine Corps called the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) Feb. 8 with an emergency order of 1,200 MOLLE backpack frames for a Marine Expeditionary Unit preparing to deploy to Afghanistan Feb. 19. The order was sent to Down East Inc. in Bridgton, a contractor for the frames that has six employees, and the only source for the item.

"We're a small town of 4,000. After 9-11, I got phone calls from people who know about the kind of work we do telling me to call them if I ever needed any help," said Frank Howell, president of Down East Inc. "Well, I called them."

A total of 24 local residents assisted by threading webbing and buckles onto the injection-molded plastic frames, a simple but necessary task normally carried out by the prime contractor given enough time, said John Kirk, project engineer for the MOLLE. They worked three shifts Feb. 15-17 to complete the job. The finished frames arrived at Marine Corps Base Quantico at 7 a.m. Feb. 19.

"I was extremely impressed. We gave them an order that was very difficult to meet," he said.

Heidi Inman along with her husband, Geff, and their daughter, Teresa, a high school senior, were among the residents who helped.

"We wanted to do our part. It was the least we could do," said Heidi. "It was a festive atmosphere. We all had a good time."

The frame is the backbone of the MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment), which was developed at Natick as a replacement for the ALICE pack for the Army and Marine Corps. The frame is among several military products the company has worked with during its 30-year history.

"Most of them didn't want to get paid, but we paid them anyway," Howell said. "It made me think of World War II and Rosie the Riveter. It made me feel good to live in the U.S.A. We couldn't have done it without them."

Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.


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