By Tazanyia Mouton, USAG-Natick Public Affairs November 27, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (Nov. 27, 2013) -- Any Soldier can attest to the fact that there is nothing worse than getting a new piece of equipment and then finding out that it doesn't work properly.
John Viggato, assistant product manager for Shelter Systems, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems, or FSS, wants to make sure no Soldier is ever disappointed.
Viggato and his team are responsible for soft and rigid-wall shelters, heaters, a small portion of ballistic protection and some energy-efficient tasks.
The PM shop began to focus on Guam as an area of responsibility due to troops being stood up in that area as a task force in April.
"Events in the Pacific area started getting a little more relevant this spring," said Viggato. "That task force is the 94th (Army Air and Missile Defense Command) (Task Force) Talon, it's a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense mission."
Viggato said the mission was initially only for 90 days, but has recently been extended.
"They need some solutions to fill that gap, so FSS started engaging with them," said Viggato.
Viggato said working in this area serves more than one purpose.
"It gives me a little bit of a purview into that AOR and relevant operations," he said.
He also said they were trying to fill gaps as best they could with shelters and other energy-efficient technologies.
"Guam is a really unique environment because of where it is in temperature and the humidity that it gets," said Viggato. "This is a true tropical environment."
The troops, currently living on Anderson Air Force Base, are working at a location that is a short bus ride away. At this location, the crew operates out of one Lightweight Maintenance Enclosure, which is another PM system that has been assigned to that unit.
Viggato said the maintenance operations are limited, because the unit has more vehicles than what they can handle with only a single structure.
"We were asked to provide the next step in capability," he said. "We are planning to provide them (with) a Forty Series Airbeam maintenance shelter."
The shelter is a 40-foot-by-56-foot structure, which is completely air supported. Viggato said traditional frame tents come in sections; Soldiers have to first set up the frame, and then place the canvas on top of the tent.
"They redesigned that paradigm a few years ago, and Force Provider now has air-supported tents as a standard in that system," he said. "So you would unroll this tent, stake down the corners, hook up an air compressor, and you come back in 15 minutes and it's completely inflated."
Viggato said the supports for the new shelter system are made of fire-hose-type material about eight inches in diameter, and has a tight weave and plastic coating. He added the new structure goes up quickly and is very durable.
"We already have Airbeams as standard in Force Provider kit, but we're looking at different sizes and different applications, to include this 40-Series tent," he said.
Viggato said the tent system being deployed to Guam is assisting his shop a great deal.
"We're doing research into other applications for the Airbeam, different sizes, more specifically," he said. "We're hoping to learn a lot from (Guam's) particular situation. We're trying to outfit them with an up-and-coming, potential new piece of equipment and see how it performs in a really up-and-coming, relevant AOR (area of responsibility)."
Viggato's shop is working with Transformative Reductions in Operational Energy Consumption, or TROPEC, which is responsible for gaining the data on the new systems. Viggato said TROPEC uses instrumentation such as thermocouples, an electric thermometer device used to measure temperatures accurately, to figure out if the systems are a good fit for the unit.
"They're trying to reduce the operational energy demand, and we're working with them on a lot of different initiatives," he said.
Viggato added that as part of a TROPEC research initiative, they're outfitting a standard Airbeam shelter with all the latest energy-efficient kitting they have.
"We have the liners, solar shades, photovoltaic shades, (Light-Emitting Diode) lighting, and we want to hook up a new dehumidifier unit to it and see how it does," he said.
Viggato said the reasoning behind this technology is simple.
"We're doing it because there are troops in this AOR with a defined mission that want to increase their capabilities and quality of life," he said. "It aligns really well with where we, as a PM, are going in terms of getting smarter on that area of the world, and how our systems perform in that area."
Viggato said he and his team have gained more insight by visiting Guam.
"You learn more, develop that repertoire and relationship with Soldiers," Viggato said, "and it means a lot more to you, and you end up working harder in the long run to get the right product out there to really help the Soldiers in the field."
Viggato said if the new tent systems are beneficial in Guam, they are guaranteed to work in other areas throughout the Pacific Command.
"When we field systems down the road, Soldiers want to know that it works where they are," Viggato said. "And we want to be able to provide them that assurance, and this is one step in that process."