Thousands of football fans swarmed the "Army Strong" zone outside the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, to view and participate in a wide-ranging display of equipment placed in front of the stadium during the Jan. 9 All American Bowl.

Reaction from fans, veterans and service-member families was enthusiastic; attendees viewed, among other things, soldier weapons such as the Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station, the XM 25 Airburst Weapon System and early renderings of a soldier protective Exoskeleton along with larger vehicle systems such as the M-ATV, Stryker MEV and Humvee.

Army veterans who had survived roadside bomb attacks in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles visited the M-ATV -- a new, lighter weight variant of the MRAP family engineered to drive through rough, off-road terrain in Afghanistan.

"To me it is impressive when you have survivors come by who where in MRAPs. It [MRAP] is not necessarily a good tactical vehicle but it saves lives. This M-All Terrain Vehicle variant is actually becoming more of a combat vehicle. We took in a lot of lessons learned from MRAPs over the years. About 400 are over there now [in Afghanistan]," said Steve Sokoly, a manager with the M-ATV joint program office. "The technology is rather simple. People understand it. The neat thing is they see there is a need for it and they are glad we are addressing the need for our troops."
Inside the stadium, the electronic eyes of the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) robot followed the football from the sideline; the 30-pound backpack able, cave-and-building-clearing robot struck a chord with football fans.

"Fans love the SUGV. Many soldiers had an Xbox station growing up so they can learn how to operate it fairly quickly," said Staff Sergeant Daniel Ruegger, a master trainer with the Army Evaluation Task Force, Fort Bliss, Texas. "In the future this stuff will make a difference. I was wounded in combat. If we had this equipment when I was over there I might not have been wounded."

In addition, fans were shown demonstrations of Military Working Dogs that are trained to accompany soldiers in combat.

"The dogs are trained to sniff for explosive materials and protect. They are trained on command to attack," said dog trainer U.S. Army Seargent Virdiana Lavalle.
The dogs - which demonstrated their ability to attack on command outside the stadium-- are also trained to stop their attack if the person they are pursuing stops running, Lavalle said.
"We will also do a standoff where a guy will take off running and we will send the dog. Then he [the runner] will give up and stop running. He will freeze - and the dog is trained on command to not attack in this scenario," Lavalle said.

Some of the dogs at the demonstration had been in combat for multiple deployments.

Page last updated Thu August 4th, 2011 at 15:48