Ribbon cutting ceremony held for world-class Natick facility
Pictured left to right: Dr. Marilyn Freeman, director, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center; Daniel O\'Connell, secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the State of Massachusetts; Rocco DiRico, deputy district director, Office of Congressman Edward Markey; and Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, commanding general, U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center and Program Executive Officer Soldier; prepare to cut the ribbon during a ceremony for the center's Thermal Test Facility March 7.

NATICK, Mass. -- On March 7, the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here held a ribbon cutting ceremony for 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. It also will assist in the development of new and improved materials for flame and thermal protection for the individual Soldier.

Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, commanding general, SSC and Program Executive Officer Soldier, said the facility was brought about as a byproduct of war.

Flame weapons and injuries have been around since ancient times, he commented. Since Archimedes threw oil fireballs onto Roman ships, through the use of flamethrowers in World War II, then as we moved into the 20th century with the increase of mechanics and fuels, flame threats have always been an issue. Currently, we see the need for this type of work as jihadists use incendiary improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

"This new facility will be an important asset for our researchers," Brown said. "It will allow us to consolidate this work in one location." Previously, the work was not only done at Natick, but at other facilities throughout the state and country.

Brown expressed gratitude for the work done at the center, saying that he was speaking for Soldiers around the world.

Rocco DiRico, deputy district director for Congressman Edward Markey, spoke on behalf of the Congressman. Markey had supported the plans for the TTF since conception.

DiRico said that the SSC is a national asset that is consistently protecting those who serve. "Congressman Markey is honored to represent [N]SSC in Congress," he said, as all of you at the center work to protect the American Soldier at home and abroad. "Thank you for all your hard work supporting the Soldier."

The Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the State of Massachusetts, Daniel O'Connell, also spoke.

Cooperation between government, both state and federal, business and academia was the main focus of O'Connell's comments. He said that having this type of collaboration leads to good things not only for Soldiers, but also for Massachusetts.

"Good things happen when government, all government, business and academia work together for a common goal."

The SSC has always worked that way, he said, with all organizations contributing.

Speaking on behalf of the Governor, O'Connell said that the state is committed to the "growth and success of the center." They want to ensure they are helping our Soldiers be the best in the world.

The last speaker before the ribbon cutting was Dr. Marilyn Freeman, director of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Freeman said that in addition to the Soldiers themselves, the NSRDEC also benefits from having this new facility. "We are giving the scientists and engineers a world-class facility," she said.

Surviving flame, fire and heat is not something we think about everyday, she commented. But it is something our service members have to live with every day. It takes special equipment and innovation to figure out how to protect them.

"We can't keep Soldiers out of harm's way, but we can help to keep them as safe as possible."

She mentioned some of the capabilities of the facility, including manikins that travel through heat and flame, flames that will come from underneath items, labs that analyze threats and laser work.

We know we can perform state-of-the-art flame work in the facility, she continued, and we can see whether the flame will burn, extinguish itself, or explode. We can also see if a confined item can stand up to heat without catching fire.

Although the military will be the primary users, Freeman commented that she saw both first responders and industry being interested in utilizing the facility.

"This is a very, very important piece of work," she said.

Freeman thanked everyone who helped with making the facility possible, especially those who concentrated on ensuring safety.

After the ribbon cutting, subject matter experts were on hand to explain the various areas and their capabilities throughout the building.

The facility is anticipated to be fully operational in September 2008 and is the only known facility in the nation that has the capability to test and evaluate the thermal performance of milligram quantities of materials through full scale systems such as clothing and tents.

Brown commented that there is to be a rededication ceremony for the center April 19, where the buildings and streets will be named after Congressional Medal of Honor recipients with ties to Massachusetts.

The TTF is to be named after Pfc. Joseph Ouellette, 9th Infantry Regiment, who entered service in Lowell, Mass., and was awarded his medal for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy" during the Korean War.

Page last updated Fri March 14th, 2008 at 15:34