Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC), visited the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) here for briefings and tours Sept. 5.
Beginning the day was breakfast with the SSC Soldiers. Following, Griffin received an overview on SSC's Medal of Honor Memorialization Ceremony that was held in April, where streets and buildings on the installation were renamed after Medal of Honor recipients with ties to the area.
During briefings on Science & Technology Summit and Public/Private Partnerships that followed, Griffin commented that the work done at SSC is for the future, but it also helps now with getting Soldiers back into the fight. Your work spans from simple to complicated, he continued. He asked if the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George Casey, had visited the SSC, and when told that he had, Griffin replied, "He'll be back."
After an overview on Military Construction Exchange and a briefing on the TACOM Integrated Logistics Support Center's Central Management Office, Griffin had lunch with SSC Soldiers, including Pfc. Christopher Loeffler, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), who was AMC's Soldier of the Year for 2008.
During tours in the afternoon, Griffin got to visit the High Performance Fiber Facility, the Prototype Integration Facility, the Warfighter Cognitive Performance Lab, the EST [Engagement Skills Trainer] 2000 and the Thermal Test Facility.
Dr. John Gassner, director of the Warfighter Science, Technology and Applied Research Directorate, told Griffin about a one-of-a-kind tri-component fiber extruder in the High Performance Fiber Facility.
"It's a research tool," he said, "The next generation of machine for advancements in textiles."
Gassner talked about the possibility of the fibers being created by the extruder having three different functionalities. "We are limited only by imagination," he continued.
Griffin said he saw "all kinds of potential," for the facility.
An area that Griffin was especially interested in was the Prototype Integration Facility.
As Ken Rice, team leader, Design, Engineering and Fabrication Team, was telling Griffin about the work done in the facility, such as small production runs, refurbishes, rapid response solutions and reverse engineering, Griffin joked with his staff that this is the "MacGyver" group and AMC needs to "pick their brains."
Gary Proulx, leader of the Engineering Cell, spoke about the challenges of being able to design a piece of equipment to fit with legacy equipment. "We have the tools," he said, while demonstrating some of the more unique prototypes that have been created at the facility. Most of the work is for materiel developers, Proulx said, who are looking for unbiased tests.
There is a high caliber of personnel at each Natick worksite, Griffin said. Speaking to Rice and Proulx, he continued by saying visiting facilities such as theirs gets him "pumped up," and he thanked the briefers for what they do.
Collaboration between organizations was an area that Griffin emphasized throughout the visit.
During a briefing on cognitive performance, Griffin got to see how the NSRDEC and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), both located at the SSC, work differently yet together on the topic.
USARIEM uses a piece of equipment called an "EST 2000." They have modified their EST for research purposes.
We want to know how Soldiers learn, how they make decisions, said Maj. Gina Adam, USARIEM. Also, various effects, she continued. For instance, if we give a Soldier enough caffeine to keep him awake, does it affect his shooting?
"The research in this area has gone from 0 to 100 miles per hour," said Jason Augustyn, NSRDEC. We look at the mental, physical and equipment aspect, he continued.
Augustyn mentioned some specific projects the NSRDEC has been working on in the area of cognitive research.
Projects include high-definition cognition in an operational environment, optimizing battlespace awareness in dismounted Warfighters and developing a model for the next generation of chemical/biological gear.
One area that Augustyn pointed out was work on how walking over difficult terrain affects a Soldier's ability to perform other demanding tasks. "They're less likely to detect threats," he said.
After a briefing on Total Life Cycle Management, Griffin's day closed out with a tour of one of SSC's newer facilities, the Thermal Test Facility.
This facility will provide the center's researchers with unprecedented capabilities to evaluate the effect of flame and thermal threats against protective clothing and individual equipment. Griffin got to view one of the labs, some of the manikins and a fire pit.
Carole Winterhalter, textile technologist, mentioned that the facility is already a shared facility between the NSRDEC and the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility, also located at SSC. In addition, she added that the researchers see potential for industry using the facility.
Griffin told those in attendance, "You know what I think about this place. You have a great team up here."