visiting Natick get opportunity to provide direct feedback
NATICK, Mass. -- On
July 21, Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, Fort
Drum, N.Y., visited the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) in
Natick, Mass., to receive briefings on the latest developments in
the areas of food, clothing, aerial delivery, shelters and
After a brief overview of the SSC, topics that were presented and
opened a lot of discussion included Handwear, Eyewear, Footwear,
Loadcarriage, the Army Combat Uniform and the Extended Cold Weather
Clothing System (ECWCS).
Staff Sgt. Edward Mackel, one of the visiting Soldiers, questioned
whether anyone was looking at the fact that Soldiers often spend
their own money to make purchases for individual items they cannot
get any other way.
Darren Bean, the subject matter expert on gloves, said the
researchers are aware that Soldiers are buying their own items.
However, he continued, gloves that work for one may not work for
another. It’s a trade-off and we get feedback to see what works the
best across the board.
“I’m a retired Soldier,” Bean said, “and I’ve been here about a year
and a half and I’ve been thoroughly impressed.” The researchers here
really care about taking care of Soldiers.
During a discussion on eyewear, briefer Michelle Markey said eyewear
is usually a very personal choice to which Sgt. 1st Class. Sebastian
Ellis responded that “It’s nice to have options.”
While looking at the improved ECWCS, 1st Sgt. Gino
Giardini said, “We’ve come a long way since the days of the ‘bear’
Shelter technology was presented next, with special emphasis placed
on showing the visitors the Modular Ballistic Protection System,
which is a lightweight armor system that can be used as protection
The visitors then received a briefing about ration improvements,
including the First Strike Ration and Unitized Group Ration –
Express, and had a chance to try some of the improvements during a
ration sampling in Combat Feeding. Re-emphasizing the point about
one item not working for all, the Soldiers in attendance even
disagreed about their likes and dislikes of the food items they
Steve Moody, the team leader of the Individual Combat Rations Team,
said he could ask 10 people their choices and he would get 10
Some of the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers had been
deployed to Iraq and many had eaten Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) for
months at a time. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Rose said, “The
setting you’re in depends on how it tastes.”
When asked what could be done to improve the MRE, Ellis replied
there is too much in each pack. Mackel said he has yet to see a
Soldier eat an entire MRE. “I’ve never looked at it as a meal,” he
said, “I look at it as a snack, especially the old [darker] brown
ones.” All agreed that the peanut butter and the cheese spread,
especially jalapeno cheese spread, were the hot items in the MREs.
After a stop to receive a briefing on aerial delivery systems, the
group’s last stop was the Doriot Climatic Chambers where they
learned about the Human Research Volunteer program and various
studies that were in progress in the chambers.
The visit gave the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers the
direct opportunity to provide their feedback to the SSC researchers.
Bean said, “We want to make what you guys want. That’s why we do
evaluations. We want your honest feedback.”