Army models end up on Pentagon table
Natick expertise saves government money
Who'd have thought that making models as a kid would lead to a full-time job with the government? Well, it wasn't as easy as that, but there is man at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) who makes models for a living and has been doing so for the Army since 1980. His name is Lionel LaFleur and his official title is: wood/mold/model maker.
The 62-year-old LaFleur is a cabinet maker by trade and worked in private industry prior to working at Natick. As a boy, he attended trade school in his hometown of Haverhill, Mass., to learn woodworking. After graduating, he spent the next 23 years making colonial reproduction furniture in Georgetown, Mass. He also worked at the renowned Noack Organ company in the same town, where he made pipe organs by hand and from scratch.
Then, in 1980, Lionel began working for the Army in Natick in the woodworking department making whatever was needed out of wood. As time progressed, his job evolved from general wood projects into one of making molds from plastic resin in the shape of anything from helmets to canteens.
One day, his supervisor came to him to ask if the talented cabinetmaker could possibly make a model of whatever was needed at the time and LaFleur said "yes." Over the years LaFleur has made exact models of many different things, saving the Army a lot of money.
For example, he just finished building a scale model of the Chemically and Biologically Protected Shelter (CBPS) which consists of two specially configured High Mobility Multi Wheeled Vehicle's (HMMWV) and two Lightweight Multipurpose Shelter's (LMS), which are supported by airbeam technology. This combination is used in the field as a Battalion Aid Station or a Division Clearing Station and is a self-contained medical station that is protected from contamination of various kinds.
LaFleur left no detail out and included the inflated airbeams inside the LMS so potential users could get an accurate idea of the interior. He also built customized travel boxes for the models. Now, the subject matter experts can travel to a possible customer, open the box containing the CBPS, give a briefing, and be on a plane home all in the same day.
The real savings is that the Army no longer has to send a real HMMWV via flatbed truck or by rail and then send four technicians to set it up-plus a subject matter expert to do the briefing. All of which takes infinitely more time and money. It costs an average of $4,000 each time a unit is shipped out, not to mention the technicians' time.
He has also made detailed models for Force Provider, a stand-alone tent city (used in Bosnia), with removable roofs to show the interior view. These types of models are especially useful for showing Pentagon officials what is being developed at Natick for use by soldiers in the field. Due to the lightweight and extremely detailed models, the decision- makers at Department of Defense don't have to take valuable time away from Washington to see the latest and greatest the Army has to offer.