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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: February 23, 2007
No: 07-06

Natick research helps keep Soldier in the fight

Scullery of the U.S.S. Bataan Capt. John McFarlin, incoming Headquarters and Headquarters Troop commander, 2/9th Cavalry, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., shows the impact point on his helmet, which was struck by a bullet in Iraq, to members of the ballistics team during a visit to the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass. on Feb. 15, 2007. (Photo by Sarah Underhill)
Click for Larger Photo

NATICK, MASS. -- On Feb. 15, 2007, Capt. John McFarlin, the incoming Headquarters and Headquarters Troop commander for the 2/9th Cavalry, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., visited the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) here.

McFarlin spoke to attendees at the kick-off workshop for the High Performance Fiber Center of Excellence to tell them how work done at the SSC assisted in saving his life.

"It is an honor and privilege to be able to come up here," McFarlin said. It was suggested to McFarlin that he visit in order for the attendees to see the end result of their research.

While holding his helmet that still shows where a bullet struck it, McFarlin relayed his story.

It was April 2006 and McFarlin was deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Heavy Brigade combat team, 4th Infantry Division, whose main mission was to advise the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division.

On April 27, the team he was a part of was en route from their Forward Operating Base to a meeting when they heard about a police station that was under attack by mortars and small arms fire in the city of Baqubah, Diyala Province.

With agreement from the Iraqi Brigade they were co-located with, the team decided to go assist. However, McFarlin's group was stopped on a major highway by a pressure-switch detonated improvised explosive device (IED) laid across the road. While stopped, the group came under small arms fire. McFarlin was a gunner on a HMMWV; some rounds hit the HMMWV and when McFarlin looked over the gun shield, a round struck his helmet.

"It's a distinctive sound, the sound of Kevlar tearing. It sounds like 30 people tearing out their jeans all at once," he said.

McFarlin's helmet took a strike from a bullet from either an AK-47 or RPK.

"I have had concussions before…had my bell rung...and I knew that it didn't happen this time. I wasn't dazed."

He knew that his best choice was not to get right back up again so he stayed down, but reached up and grabbed the weapon to lay down some suppressive fire until his wingmen suppressed the enemy. The next day when unmounting the weapon there was a bullet hole in the butt stock. "I knew my choice was well-founded," he said.

With assistance from 1-68 Armor and attack aviation, the American and Iraqi forces were able to forestall the attack and preserve the police station.

"It was a pretty good day," McFarlin said. 28 insurgents were captured, and a cache of weapons and some video that the insurgents had taken to use in an information campaign against the Americans were recovered.

During his one-day visit to Natick, McFarlin had a chance to tour the SSC and meet some personnel, including those in the ballistics area.

"I'm quite impressed," he said. "I knew about Natick but it was always behind the scenes. It's important work that happens [here] but there are not that many Soldiers involved in it so it's not well understood. Every Soldier knows that their equipment is tested and analyzed, but most won't ever get the chance [to see it]."

McFarlin continued by saying that his wife, mother, and other family members all thank the personnel here and appreciate the work that goes into the technology and products that protects the sons and daughters who are out there "doing what they do everyday."

He concluded by saying he is looking forward to returning to Iraq later this year.

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.