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SSC-Natick Press Release

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: March 7, 2006
No: 06-11

Natick Soldier Center named lab of the year for fourth time

NATICK, Mass. -- The Natick Soldier Center (NSRDEC), located at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here, has won the 2005 Department of the Army Research and Development Laboratory of the Year Award (Small Development Lab Category).

NSRDEC has prevailed in the Small Development Lab Category three years consecutively and has won the award for four out of the past five years. The award is the most prestigious bestowed by the Army upon a research and development organization.

The Army mission of the NSRDEC is to “maximize the Warrior’s survivability, sustainability, mobility, combat effectiveness and quality of life by treating the Warrior as a system.” NSRDEC’s vision is to be “the recognized center and partner of choice for Warrior and homeland defender related research, technologies and systems.”

A panel of science and technology experts chose the winners by evaluating extensively the organization’s vision, strategy and business plans; strategic management of human capital; competitive sourcing; improved financial performance; use of expanded electronic goverment; budget and performance integration; major management achievements; and major technical achievements.

According to Philip Brandler, director of the NSRDEC, “This success is unparalleled and reflects the sustained top-notch performance and the exceptionally high caliber of the NSRDEC workforce.”

The lab received additional recognition as well. NSRDEC, in partnership with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) and the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), also received the Army Laboratory Collaboration Award for providing microclimate cooling for the Up-Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) occupants, marking the first time that NSRDEC won this team award. The NSRDEC/USARIEM/TARDEC effort met an urgent battlefield requirement.

In a personal note, a helicopter pilot in Iraq emphasized the importance of microclimate cooling to aviators: “I wanted to thank you and everyone else that had a part in getting us the Microclimate Cooling System. I just got back from my first flight with it a couple of hours ago. We flew 5.5 hours in 120 degrees and it worked awesome. The crew agreed this system is the best thing we’ve done for the helicopter since we put a rotor on it!!! The system greatly enhances the crew’s comfort and significantly reduces fatigue. I flew a similar mission two days ago w/out the system and I can personally attest that the heat is becoming our most dangerous threat. Without the system, after only a couple hours of flying you find yourself fatigued and droning. Whereas today, the crew was as fresh after 5.5 hours as when we first strapped it on. Bottom line: This is an awesome system that greatly reduces the risks levels to our Soldiers over here. Again thank you all for your support; it is making a difference in the fight!

The NSRDEC, USARIEM and TARDEC microclimate cooling collaboration was one of the numerous NSRDEC contributions to the Global War on Terrorism and Homeland Security. In this area, NSRDEC also contributed several Soldier protection systems, including body armor and face shield prototypes as well as protective shelters. The NSRDEC made several other contributions to the Warfighter. NSRDEC submitted the Army Combat Uniform as its most significant management accomplishment. The uniform came about as a result of an innovative management acquisition concept that used industry teams in nonstandard ways and eased communication between all key stakeholders. The integrated product team was made up of members from government, industry, and academia and included textile and component suppliers, apparel researchers, and Soldiers.

The streamlined acquisition management process reduced the development cycle from more than three years to one year. The initial fielding took place within six months after the final design approval was received from the Army Chief of Staff.

NSRDEC’s trailblazing advances in biomechanics were submitted as its most significant technical accomplishment. The lab’s biomechanics work combines the disciplines of biology, physics and engineering, analyzes the effect of forces and torques on the human body, and quantifies human-equipment interactions in performing physical tasks.

NSRDEC, working with USARIEM, addressed the issue of heavy load carriage, an ongoing problem for Soldiers, with the average approach march load being 101 pounds and the maximum emergence approach march load equaling 149 pounds.

The research provides for improved equipment design that enhances Soldier effectiveness by reducing potential injuries and reducing energy expenditure.

NSRDEC biomechanics research has set the stage for work with the Military Amputee Research Program and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) exoskeleton programs.

In the future, NSRDEC plans to continue efforts to both save and improve the lives of the nation’s Warfighters and Homeland Security/Homeland Defense first responders.

For more information about the Soldier Systems Center, please visit our website

This page last updated on 7 March 2006.