NATICK, Mass. - They had already worn the equipment in combat, but I Corps Soldiers got their chance to provide developers with some feedback Nov. 17 during a post-deployment visit to the Natick Soldier Research, Engineering and Development Center at the Natick Soldier Systems Center.

The visit was part of a two-week tour the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldiers took of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command facilities. At Natick, they learned about shelter technology, clothing design, camouflage, Soldier load, footwear and gloves, war fighter health and performance, combat feeding and load carriage, and provided their opinions in those areas.

"You get to realize that Soldier input is great, but there's still other channels that you have to go through," said Sgt. 1st Class James Brandt of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "But the fact that they're willing to come and talk to the Soldiers is a great thing. Who knows better than that Soldier on the ground who's actually using the equipment'"

Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Laidlaw of the U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center said getting Soldiers and scientists together is vital.

"We don't talk enough with each other," Laidlaw said. "So one of my big mantras is communication and collaboration.

"Now you've seen it. There are civilians and military people working to provide you the best pieces of equipment out there."

Sergeant 1st Class Israel Santiago of RDECOM pointed out the value of hearing from this group of Soldiers.

"The just got back," Santiago said. "Some of these Soldiers actually used RDECOM technology out there already. They're giving us feedback on anything that they used."

Colonel Gaston Bathalon, commander of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, told the Soldiers that USARIEM was doing all it could to support them.

"Wherever ... you are, we want to try to help you perform better," Bathalon said. "We do that by looking at nutrition. We do that by looking at performance. And when we talk about performance, it's not just physical performance, but also cognitive performance.

"A lot of the stuff that we do, ... you guys see on a daily basis."

As she told the Soldiers about advances in shelter technologies that ease setup, save energy and protect them from indirect fire, Claudia Quigley invited their critiques.

"If you see shelter problems, we would love to hear them," said Quigley, "because that's what we're here for. I'm going to take all of your suggestions back."

Clothing designer Annette LaFleur told the Soldiers that her work at Natick is rewarding.

"We're always doing small tweaks and changes to the (Army Combat Uniform)," LaFleur said. "We're always just trying to do small things.

"A lot of times we're asked to go out in the field and do fit tests or user evaluations, and I'm a big fan of that, because you'll be able to come back and make changes to the pattern yourself without hearing it secondhand."

Speaking to the Soldiers about load carriage, Rich Landry emphasized the importance of moving weight off of their shoulder and onto their hips so that their fingers don't go numb on road marches.

"That's one of the biggest things that we try to focus on solving," Landry said. "I can't tell you how frustrating it is just even to watch CNN sometimes and see guys carrying our equipment, and know that if they made a few adjustments, that ... would carry a lot more comfortably.

"We would be willing to come out and teach large groups of Soldiers on ... the science of load-carrying on any new piece of equipment. We've done it before, and we'd love to do it again."

Sergeant 1st Class Calvin McDuffey of 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., suggested that scientists should occasionally "go to the units and get the actual feedback from the individual Soldiers. They'll have a better perspective of what we actually need."

Brandt said he just wished he had more time at each of the stops in the two-week tour of facilities.

"We go to all these different sites, and it's a one-day shot," Brandt said. "You don't get a lot of time to give them a lot of feedback.

"Don't get me wrong - it's beneficial, because now I see more of the big picture."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16