NATICK, Mass. (Nov. 18, 2013) -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno visited Natick Soldier Systems Center Friday to tour its facilities and learn more about the research and development done to keep Soldiers safe and provide them with a better quality of life during deployments.

Odierno was briefed on female body armor and body armor design enhancements, human systems performance, Soldier power, multi-functional fibers, vision protection, and the operational energy savings that the Army will realize from work done at Natick.

"What they do here is an incredibly important mission to the Army, as they continue to work what I consider to be our center of gravity, which is helping our Soldiers do their job," Odierno said. "That's something that will never change. The Army is about Soldiers. It's about their ability to perform and conduct their mission.

"This lab is focused on how they can do that better, how they can do it with less load, how they can do it in an expeditionary manner," he continued. "And everything that they do here adds to that. So it's a very, very important place in the Army, and the work they do here is critical for our future."

Odierno pointed out that Natick civilians and contractors persevered despite the recent furloughs and government shutdown.

"I wanted to personally thank them for their tremendous dedication to their mission, their dedication to our Army, and the dedication that they bring to their job every, single day," Odierno said. "They are a critical part of the Army. They are a critical part of the joint force, because much of the work they do here not only impacts the Army, but the other services, as well."

Odierno learned how Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center used anthropometric surveys of Army and Marine Corps personnel, including three-dimensional scans of thousands of Soldiers and Marines, to help develop body armor designed for females. He also heard about the next generation of body armor.

At the Center for Military Biomechanics Research, he was briefed about the collaboration between NSRDEC and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, known as USARIEM, to conduct basic and applied research in biomechanics, including current work on physical fatigue and cognition.

USARIEM researchers told Odierno of their work to develop gender- and age-neutral physical performance standards and predictive performance tests for several combat-related military occupational specialties.

Later, he heard about NSRDEC's research into wireless power transmission technologies for Soldiers, fiber technologies that will respond to changes in temperature, fibers that actually can generate power, and the latest in vision protection to counteract battlefield threats.

Finally, Odierno was briefed on strides being made by Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems to reduce fuel and energy use at expeditionary base camps, which in turn will help keep convoys off the roads and Soldiers safer.

"All of these things are incredibly efficient as we look ahead, and that's what we need," Odierno said. "Those are the kind of technologies that we need, making our individual Soldier more effective, more efficient, better able to do (the) job."

Odierno expressed great interest in anything that would lighten a Soldier's load in the field, such as improved body armor.

"Having body armor that fits better and has better performance might not save direct money, but what it does do is allows our Soldiers to operate for longer periods of time without injury," Odierno said. "That's saving lots of money over time."

Odierno spoke of Natick's "bright future" and praised its "synergy" with academia and small businesses in the area.

"We couldn't replicate that anywhere else, or it would be very difficult to replicate that anywhere else," Odierno said. "In my mind, this is one of the key installations that we have, and it's our only footprint in this area, and that's important, as well, because this is such an important area for the Army. I can't foresee any circumstances that would cause us to walk away from it."