Natick provides large shelters for Soldiers
March 7, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (March 7, 2013) -- The Expeditionary Basing and Collective Protection Directorate at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center works with Soldiers to help erect and provide shelters, and sometimes works alongside them when both civilian and military personnel are deployed to countries such as Afghanistan.
"Living a Soldier's life, even for a little while, is invaluable," said Melvin Jee, with Expeditionary Basing and Collective Protection Directorate's, or XB/CP's, Tactical Shelters Team leader. "I don't know of a group at Natick, as small as we are, that has spent more time in the war zone. That really helps with customer service, because nobody's more willing to help a Soldier than another Soldier. People overseas recognize that type of commitment."
Besides the Large Area Maintenance Shelters, or LAMS, that XB/CP has helped assemble, there are many other types of smaller shelters. Yet, the Army has bought hundreds of LAMS to be used in a variety of ways.
"Soldiers need places to work, they need places for their aircraft, and they need places to sleep sometimes; our shelters get used for everything," said Frank Murphy, an equipment specialist who has made a number of trips to Afghanistan.
Often, these LAMS are used as aircraft shelters for helicopters and small aircraft as large as C-17s. LAMS have also become billeting tents, laundry rooms, dining facilities, office spaces, among other types of shelters.
"Our team offers pretty much the only technical expertise that the Army has on these things," Murphy said. "So we track with their locations, we help get them fixed, we help put them up, and that's in addition to other tactical types including hard shelters and med centers that RDEC puts out there. It's quite a broad-based challenge."
While set-up time is dependent on the workforce, the XB/CP team is able to assemble a LAMS system in seven to eight days depending on the size, modification and vendor. Their major focus, whether stateside or abroad, is serving their customer, the Soldier.
"We really try to tailor the service to the customer," Murphy said. "Two of us will go to a site as technical helpers and help the Soldiers put them up so that we can teach the teachers. I've worked with local Afghans to put them up in small, out-of-the-way camps."
The XB/CP team at Natick has worked with Special Operations Command, logistics, and even Physical Readiness Training groups. Anyone who needs a place to work ends up going through or to XB/CP in some way.
"The Natick name is actually on the shelter canvases, and people have learned that that 'NAT' initial represents Natick," said Murphy, "and it has been to our benefit to be there and back these up."
XB/CP also works on ways to improve shelters to find the right technology to suit Soldiers' needs.
"Right now we're trying to find a way to put a shelter over bomb dogs in Bagram," said Murphy, "(to) keep them out of the weather. They're sitting out in 125 degrees in fur coats, and then they'll freeze in the winter, and there's been nothing up until this time to shelter those dogs."
The team at Natick helps Soldiers get tools to install shelters, as well, and XB/CP even helped build Afghanistan's largest gymnasium using LAMS.
All the things XB/CP does are to help put a roof over Soldiers' heads. Without these shelters, "it's an ungodly and unforgiving environment," according to Murphy.
One of the shelters provides cover for large vehicles in Kandahar, which has a harsh environment.
"Besides the dust in the air, there is the oppressive heat which resides at a normal temperature of 125 degrees with wind," Murphy said. "It is a tough take to keep a machine and systems clean."
"Our mission is to keep sustaining the Soldier," Murphy said. "This is what Soldiers face every day you know, that's really the point. We're not doing anything differently than a kid who's enlisted is doing. They're taking all the risks, they're going outside the wire, they're over there for a year and it's a small thing to do to be able to share part of their world and make their lives a little bit more comfortable. So that keeps the mission fresh in my mind, trying to make somebody's life easier somewhere down the line."
XB/CP has not only civilian personnel, but also National Guard members on its team. Through its rotational system, many team members have had the opportunity to travel, assist and meet Soldiers while doing their job at Natick and abroad.
"Whatever we go through is nothing compared to what the Soldier does," Murphy said. "The kids inside (the shelters) don't know that Natick put together pretty much everything there. They just know that it works."