U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: August 19, 2002
Senator's advisor visits to learn about local impact
Natick, Mass. -- Sen. Edward Kennedy's defense policy advisor's visit to the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) Aug. 9 gave him a glimpse of the positive impact the SSC has on the local community, state and nation.
After a windshield tour of the installation, Brady King listened to briefings on the SSC and how the National Protection Center (NPC) leverages research and development for the warfighter to civilian first responders. His visit continued with a closer look at some of the products and capabilities of the SSC in the Climatic Chambers.
Brig. Gen. Craig Peterson, deputy commanding general for Homeland Operations, said during his Conference Center briefing that he heard about a statement by the Massachusetts acting governor that the SSC should move to Hanscom Air Force Base. As he told the work force here during a recent town hall meeting, the Army "didn't send me here to close this place."
"I don't think it would be advantageous economically or intellectually to be somewhere else," he said. "It would be much easier if the decision was made with information and knowledge instead of a knee-jerk reaction. We think your visit is fortuitous and hope the senator can visit."
The only active Army installation in the Northeast, Peterson pointed out several of the installation's strengths that have been forged during its nearly 50 years of existence. He said the interchange across the Natick Soldier Center, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) and U.S. Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (USNCTRF) is "phenomenal," and he's impressed with the attitude of the SSC work force.
The installation has unique facilities that can't be moved, shares knowledge from numerous local colleges and universities, and currently brings $300 million annually to the Metrowest with stability unlikely if the land were turned over for private development, according to Peterson. Furthermore, various partnerships have been formed across industry, academia and government by the SSC.
"Some of the benefits of its longevity you can't quantify," Peterson said. "The synergy is greater than the sum of its parts for all the services. It's important to keep all those things together."
The Army's current Legacy Force is changing with the Intermediate Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), which is serving as a bridge to the Objective Force. Peterson said the IBCT is a "test in progress" to see what will work for the Objective Force.
The Objective Force is also a shift in the way of thinking. The military used to let existing technology drive the design, but now leaders are driving the technology to produce the capability, said Peterson. Furthermore, researchers are pushing the science that pushes the technology. "The science of the steam engine was 100 years ahead of the technology," Peterson said. "Now the time difference is significantly shorter and sometimes simultaneous."
Besides the gap in science and technology is the lag in funding. "Opportunities for soldier protection far exceed the money we have to support it," said Philip Brandler, Natick Soldier Center director.
The money that will go into a functioning Objective Force Warrior (OFW) won't be single-purpose either, according to the vision of the NPC.
During her briefing, NPC Director Rita Gonzalez said she'd like to see an "Objective Homeland Defender" paralleling the OFW program. The NPC is about protecting those who protect us, such as firefighters and police officers. A prototype protective ensemble capturing the elements of the OFW was worn and displayed by Massachusetts State Trooper Craig McGary.
"If we can do it for the warrior, we can do it for anyone else," she said.
King saw a prototype uniform of OFW and got a feel for USARIEM's Warfighter Physiological Status Monitoring System at the Climatic Chambers. He tasted a pepperoni pocket sandwich while learning about the scope of responsibility of the Combat Feeding Program, and held a ballistic plate credited with saving soldiers' lives while viewing a display of soldier protective and load carriage gear. King then entered the arctic chamber for a quick explanation of how the facility is used in testing.
In two and a half hours, King witnessed a portion of what Peterson stated at the beginning of his presentation.
"The overarching thought is that this place is the technology centerpiece of excellence for everything the soldier wears, carries and consumes," Peterson said. The Soldier Systems Center (SSC) is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or SSC, please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.
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