By Lisa Ferdinando, ARNEWSApril 26, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 25, 2013) -- The Army showcased its latest technology and medical advances to members of Congress and staffers on Capitol Hill to highlight the importance of funding for modernization, research and development in order to better equip, protect and care for Soldiers.
Lawmakers and staff handled weapons, looked through night vision goggles, saw a thermal imaging display, tried on body armor, spoke to medical researchers, and discussed technology with Soldiers during Army Day on Capitol Hill, April 25.
As part of the event, Soldiers escorted more than 400 people throughout the day to the Capitol Hill Police shooting range to demonstrate the importance of investments in technology and weapons modernization.
At the range, Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), supervised as participants fired 9 mm weapons both with and without pointing lasers, to highlight technology that can greatly enhance accuracy and protect Soldiers.
Brig. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, with Program Executive Officer, Soldier, said it is important to give Congress a "hands-on" feel for the equipment to show where tax dollars are being spent and where funds should go in the future.
Ostrowski said the ultimate goal of the event is to equip and protect the Soldier.
"It's an opportunity to educate the staffs as to what it is that their Army is doing -- not only doing today, but what we're going to do in the future -- that runs the research and development lines, the science and technology lines, and in our procurement lines," said Ostrowski.
"The better we educate them, and the better that they are able to identify and understand the technology and the equipment that we are providing, the better off they are making their decisions into whether to fund our Army," he said.
Col. LaTonya Lynn, with the Army House Liaison Division, said the event gives members of Congress and staffers a chance to have one-on-one conversations and get feedback on a Soldier level, while also allowing Soldiers to demonstrate technology.
"We're very excited for this opportunity to showcase some of the Army's premier weapons systems and survivability equipment that we have for our Soldiers who are operating in harm's way," said Lynn.
She said it is critical that members and staff have the first-hand knowledge of the equipment so they can better make decisions when allocating funds to the Army.
"This is a great engagement and we continue building advocacy and trust between our members of Congress and the Army," Lynn said.
"I think it is important outreach and something that the members and staff can recall later and say, 'I remember that weapon. I saw the capabilities. I understand now how it can help our Soldiers while they are in combat,'" she said.
Lt. Col. Ed Ash, a budget liaison officer, said Army Day on Capitol Hill is an important way to bring the technology and equipment to Congress and demonstrate the importance of research, development and modernization.
"It makes it much easier to explain why something is important," he said, using the example of heavy body armor. "They saw just for a little while how uncomfortable it was to wear something that was too heavy, and this is why we think it's worthwhile to spend the money to make more effective Soldiers by not having to carry heavy stuff."
Col. Dallas Hack, director of the Army's Combat Casualty Care Research Program with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, highlighted the life-saving importance of investments in military medical research and technology.
"Thanks to the support of Congress, we have the lowest death rate from injuries at any time in history," he said. "We're able to do things to make people more resilient, we're able to know when they're having things like a brain injury, and we're even able to do things that were unheard of 10 years ago to take care of our troops out there."
Hack noted improvements across a wide spectrum, including battlefield trauma; care for injuries when a Soldier returns home; care for brain injuries and psychological health; advances in prosthetic limbs that allow Soldiers to remain on active duty and even return to theater; research on malaria and other infectious diseases that are a concern to deployed personnel; and equipment that is safer and lighter for Soldiers.
He said the advances in military medical treatment can also be used in the civilian world, as Hack said was the case with trauma care during the bombing during the Boston Marathon.
"Thanks again to the support of Congress in helping us do these things," Hack said. "Not only are we saving lives in the battlefield, we're now saving lives in the whole emergency system as well."
Congressional staffer John Witherspoon was among the hundreds of staffers who visited the exhibits, spoke with Soldiers, and handled weapons during the day-long event.
He said Army Day provides an important insight into where and why tax dollars are being spent.
"A lot of the issues going on right now are with sequestration and funding, and it's easy to just see that as numbers on paper," he said. "But once you get out here [you] see what that money is going toward, and why it's so important. It's always a great opportunity when you are able to do that."