By Cassandra MainieroOctober 29, 2013
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (Oct. 29, 2013) -- In a desert full of fire artillery and a convoy of tanks, probably the last concept on anyone's mind is mathematics.
Yet, for Sergeant Kevin Singer, a chemical engineer at Picatinny Arsenal, mathematics is essential to his mission.
A member of the New York National Guard, Singer recently returned from a voluntary, nine-month deployment in Afghanistan where he was part of a Strategic Force Advise and Assist Team as a Fire Support Specialist.
His position as a joint fire observer was to conduct all indirect fire missions using a variety of Picatinny supported weapons and systems, including artillery and mortars, as well as to ensure that airborne assets such as missiles and support aircraft to not interfere with each other.
Singer also maintained the operations of communication equipment, fire planning, and battle space situational awareness.
However, familiarity with the equipment wasn't the only experience that Singer brought to his fellow Soldiers. Instead, as part of Picatinny's Statistical Methods and Analysis Group, Singer also brought a different, mathematical perspective too.
"If we're going to have guys going out there and they need an [joint fire] observer, I want to be that guy, so I can be out there to protect my people," Singer said. "And just the experience of going around the world and working here--it's beneficial to the organization and my own career to operate some of that equipment."
SHARING A STATISTICAL PERSPECTIVE
Always interested in challenging work, Singer has been intrigued by mathematics since college.
After he earned his master's degree in chemical engineering from Manhattan College in New York City, he was employed by Picatinny's Reliability Management group in 2009.
The Reliability Management group is under the Armament, Research, Development, and Engineering Center. Still, it wasn't until he met Douglas Ray, in early 2011, that Singer joined Picatinny's Statistical Methods and Analysis Group.
The Statistical Methods and Analysis Group is part of the Quality Engineering and System Assurance Directorate.
The group consults with a variety of Integrated Product Teams and specializes in test-design and data analysis, and merges their statistical expertise and engineering background in the development and improvement of armaments and Warfighter systems.
Currently, there are five members: Eli Golden, Thorsten Roberts, Kevin Singer, Paul Roediger, and Douglas Ray, the group's lead statistician.
"They're all hard workers and passionate about the work," said Singer. "The group truly wants to do their job and make better products for the Warfighter. And if that's not what we're here for, then what we are here for?"
While the group primarily uses teamwork to develop systems, Singer says that his statistics team has became a major influence his own knowledge.
For instance, the statistical group has worked closely with Picatinny sponsored weapons, providing a deeper understanding on different systems.
The group has also developed his analytical thinking, cultivating a mindset he found useful in Afghanistan when facing stressful situations, such as fire missions.
One particular system known as the Common Remotely Operated Weapon System, or CROWS, had an IR Camera, a device that allows Soldiers to shoot gunfire at night.
But with his prior "hands-on" experience with CROWS, Singer also explained how the IR Camera could be used during the day, showing turned earth.
In addition, by using its tracers and lasers, he demonstrated how it can show pilots what Soldiers are seeing during fire missions.
This knowledge was especially helpful to Singer when devices malfunctioned or a system could be improved.
TEACHING AND TEAMWORK
Singer's work with statistical group was equally helpful when working with others.
In the statistical group, members are encouraged to build upon one another's ideas versus trying to outdo one another.
When Singer was deployed, he then applied the same concept by working with his fellow Soldiers and teaching them about systems, devices, and his role as joint fire observer.
"I'd tried to get the guys I'm with knowledgeable in what I do in case something happens to me in emergency situations. That way they can at least carry it [the mission] out," explained Singer.
This team effort was even evident from home, where Singer found constant support from his chain of command and his statistics team, who he would sometimes call on his satellite phone with questions.
Perhaps Singer's most memorable experience, though, was when he and his fellow Soldiers found Sheba, a pregnant dog.
As a stray found near the Hesco Barrier, Sheba often followed the Soldiers during patrols. When she, and later her seven puppies, became sick and dehydrated, Singer and his Soldiers "adopted" Sheba and nursed her litter back to health.
The Soldiers gave Sheba and her puppies the rations from their Meals, Ready-To-Eat (MRE), like eggs, and beef jerky. They bathed the dogs, swaddling each puppy in a blanket.
And, eventually, rescued them, bringing Sheba and her puppies to the United States for adoption.
"They [Sheba and her puppies] showed me that it's not all bad," Singer said.
"And that's the overarching theme of my deployment. That yeah, there are bad people out there, but there are good people out there too. Our Afghan partners, our border patrol, our contractors--I honestly believes they wanted to help their community."
Now back from Afghanistan, Singer is eager to share his knowledge with the statistics group, improving the Picatinny's systems and working with his team again.
"The teamwork and camaraderie reaches a whole other level out there and I'd really like to bring that back here to Picatinny," Singer added.
"We are more than the sum of our parts."