About SSC

Public Affairs Office

Press Releases

The Warrior

SSC-Natick Press Release

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

Contact:  Public Affairs Office

Date: December 10, 2007
No: 07-45

Interacting to improve equipment

NATICK, Mass. -- On Nov. 8, two Soldiers from the Fort Drum, N.Y., Light Fighter School, who had recently returned from Afghanistan, visited the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), to learn about the work done here and to provide their input to the Natick researchers.

"The intent of the visit is to create a better working relationship in order to get better feedback," said the host for the event, Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Lewis, Operational Forces Interface Group (OFIG), NSRDEC.

After a short welcome and a briefing about the work done in OFIG, the visitors got a chance to see a demonstration of the Future Force Warrior program and then discuss load carriage issues and the current MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system.

Richard Landry, equipment designer, said it was helpful to talk to the Soldiers. "We try to figure out what works [for the Soldier]," he said. "However, what we come up with and what they need are not always the same."

1st Sgt. Lloyd Smith, one of the visiting Soldiers, mentioned that previously he had made his own modifications to the load carriage system. Landry said it would be helpful for the researchers to see the type of alterations Smith made. He continued by saying he hoped he could meet with the Soldiers again, whether at Fort Drum or at Natick, to discuss this type of information.

The tour continued at the NSRDEC footwear performance lab, where the visitors got a chance to see improvements being made to boots and gloves. They mentioned how many members of their battalions ended up buying commercial boots for the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

The lead project engineer for footwear programs at NSRDEC, Michael Holthe, mentioned that NSRDEC personnel are not ignoring requests from theater; however, the researchers are limited due to price and the fact that they cannot purchase items outside the U.S.

Regarding gloves, Valerie Banville, handwear project engineer, said, "Nobody can agree on gloves." She also mentioned requirements may not be the same for everyone.

This was a point that continually came up for Smith. The Army is trying to have one item be the same for all, he said, but as we keep finding out, different groups have different needs. Separate elements should be treated differently.

Banville mentioned the Modular Glove System, where three sets of gloves will be replacing 13, and the fact that flame-resistance is now mandatory for all gloves.

Combat Feeding was the next stop, where the researchers got a chance to ask the Soldiers about their time in Afghanistan, especially regarding MREs and field-stripping.

Smith and the other visiting Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Eben Duerr, both returned from Afghanistan in May and said that when going on missions, they often stripped the MREs and took just the candy, cakes, and other sugary items out to take with them, often throwing out the main meal.

Duerr said they usually didn't have time to have meals, so they tried to grab items with high sugar to keep them going.

In Combat Feeding, Duerr and Smith got to learn about the First Strike Ration (FSR), which includes all eat-on-the-go type items. Duerr agreed that for their type of missions, that would have been a better fit. "There is no time ever to sit, stop and have meals," Smith said.

They also got a chance to learn about the Unitized Group Ration - Express (UGR-E), which is sometimes described as a 'kitchen in a carton.'  This gives a small group of Soldiers the chance to have a hot meal without a field kitchen.

The next presentation was a briefing on the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) and Low-Cost Low-Altitude (LCLA) Airdrop.

To wrap up their day, the visitors got a chance to discuss improvements being made in ballistic protection and helmets. Janet Ward, ballistics team leader, said the researchers are constantly looking to see if they can keep the same weight but improve the protection, or lower the weight and offer the current protection.

Smith said they have no problems with the current helmet. "Nine Soldiers from my battalion took rounds to the head and they all survived," he said.

Duerr and Smith both agreed their preferred choice would be for the material to be lighter but offer the same protection.

Smith said that he and Duerr have been assigned as a sort of R&D element to "see what's going on or is new out there for Soldiers," and hope to do more of these types of visits in the future.

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.