Faces of the Force: Passion and past deployments drive Soldier's development of protective gear
March 6, 2013
FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?
LOZANO: I am currently the program manager for Soldier Protective Equipment. My portfolio includes hard and soft body armor plates and vests as well as combat helmets, ballistic eyewear, concealable body armor, pelvic protection, and traumatic brain injury helmet sensors. Our products are literally the Soldier's first line of defense, protecting them from a myriad of blast and ballistic threats. What we do saves lives; it doesn't get any more important than that.
FOTF: How have your Army career and deployments helped you in your current role?
LOZANO: I spent nine years as an armor officer and during my previous deployment to Iraq, I remember being on my tank with my gear on and being disappointed that equipment wasn't upgraded fast enough. That's what motivates me: I don't want to be that guy the Soldiers in the field are disappointed in because I'm not providing them with what they need. Since I've been in my current position, I've been adamant about traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan to interact with our Soldiers in the fight to get a really good feel for what aspects of our gear are working and what aspects need improvement. Constant user interface is critical to this job.
FOTF: How do you go about developing the right piece of protective equipment for Soldiers?
LOZANO: There isn't one cookie-cutter type shape or size that works for the whole realm of Soldiers we serve, and every Solider has strong opinions about what he wears. So we spend a lot of time with them--immediately after upgrades are engineered--to take into account their feedback. We call this the "human factor perspective."
We feel like we are in a constant state of improvement, working on a 9 to 12-month cycle that often includes two or three iterative design and upgrade phases. We're really good at the "bread and butter drill"--design, test, validate. We do this as quickly as possible to continually integrate equipment upgrades.
FOTF: What impacts you the most about your job on a personal level?
Lt. Col. Frank Lozano shares a moment with some of his team members during a recent meeting. (Photo by Michael Clayton, PEO Soldier)
LOZANO: Occasionally, I go to the military medical centers at Fort Sam Houston or Bethesda to meet with what we call "the saves"--Soldiers who have seen treacherous combat and are recovering from injuries. That's the hardest part for me. When I meet with Soldiers and families who have been through these traumatic events, they tell me they're honestly grateful for the equipment our team has fielded because they were wearing it and it works. That's rewarding to hear, but it's also sorrowful. It grounds me and motivates me to work harder and do everything humanly possible to provide the best equipment possible.
FOTF: What is your biggest challenge, and how have you overcome it?
LOZANO: The most challenging aspect of my job holistically is stakeholder management. There are a lot of people involved in body armor processes, from buying and testing to fielding. Managing product timelines with vendors and interacting with Army senior leaders, congressional representatives, and members of the media are also very demanding tasks--this is a real "hot button topic."
The best way I know how to handle this is to gather the most reliable data regarding their concerns and communicate in an honest, humble manner. Sometimes, I can't sugarcoat things. For example, everyone wants body armor to be lighter, so do I, but it takes time to safely mature new technologies that will enable lighter weight body armor. We have numerous developmental programs underway to make this happen. Our body armor today, right now, is absolutely as light as it can be to protect against the family of threats and harsh conditions it is expected to survive, and that's what I tell them, because protecting the Soldier is of paramount importance.
FOTF: How has your program been recognized?
LOZANO: Based on the tremendous work my team has done to protect Soldiers, our Pelvic Protection System won the 2012 Army Acquisition Excellence Award. It was also a 2011 Top Ten Army's Greatest Inventions award winner, along with our Helmet Sensor Program and Soldier Plate Carrier System. We do everything we can to provide Soldiers with the best equipment the world has ever seen. I don't mean to boast, but I believe this is 100 percent true. I've seen and shot at body armor produced by other countries, and ours is superior, so much so that we are doing some foreign military sales of approved versions of our body armor. Other countries are leveraging the technology we have developed in the United States because they understand that we produce and accept only the best for our Soldiers.