'Talon' Soldiers test for good and bad in camouflage
September 27, 2012
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. -- Camouflage, an ever evolving combat support system, went through testing with the help of Soldiers of Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Bliss Training Center's Area 19 located outside Alamogordo, N.M., Sep. 17-29.
Six "Talon" Soldiers participated in the two-week evaluation, to test the effectiveness of new and old camouflage systems in multiple uniforms, head gear and face concealment.
"We are evaluating a variety of commercial and experimental camouflage patterns to see what materials are effective and not effective in varied regions," said Lisa Hepfinger, lead research chemist, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. "We want to test the full range and see how the different systems perform."
Soldiers tested multiple camouflage systems to include peel and stick face coverings, improved face paint, flame retardant Army Combat Uniforms, non-woven ACUs and multiple commercial camouflage uniforms.
"There are sensors testing the uniforms for their thermal signature and which ones can best keep us hidden," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Gurganus, bradley fighting vehicle system maintainer, FSC, 2nd Bn., 8th Inf. Reg.
The wide array of sensors collected data from the Soldiers standing at distances of 35, 45 and 135 meters by taking more than 1000 photos of the Soldiers in different positions.
"The sensors might conflict; it's like a puzzle," said Hepfinger. "There are a lot of interworking pieces. You could get the greatest material but it could be uncomfortable to wear or very expensive."
None of the equipment tested during the evaluations is recommended for actual use on the battlefield.
"At this point, we see what works and what are the cost beneficial analysis," said Hepfinger. "As the technology matures, we increase the performance and ability to produce while decreasing cost."
"Testing is a great tool to evaluate the performance of the camouflage," said Anabela Dugas, textile technologist, Natick Soldier RD&E Center. "It gets very expensive and time consuming and we are trying to find a way to assess camouflage that is non expensive."
The sensors tested of the efficiency of the camouflage systems at different times throughout the day.
"Some of the sensors work more efficiently at night then during the day," said Hepfinger. "The responses from the terrain are different during the day and the night."
Soldiers participating in the evaluations contribute to the overall success of the testing.
"Using Soldiers allows us to give our input and say what we feel is practical for use on the battlefield," said Gurganus.
Additionally, the personnel conducting the test favor Soldiers to participate in the training.
"We prefer to work with Soldiers because they really do have a stake in it," said Hepfinger. "We like to get their feedback on the systems as they evolve; they are the ones we are making these for and they are the ones we want to help in the future."
The personnel from the Natick Soldier RD&E Center appreciated the support the Soldiers provided.
"We would like to thank Fort Carson for supporting the test," said Hepfinger. "We couldn't do it without your guys helping us out. It's been great working with them."