By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOM Public AffairsApril 22, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 22, 2014) -- U.S. Army science advisors partnered with military, federal and state agencies to discuss their technology needs during an emergency response exercise, from March 27 to April 2.
Alaska Shield simulated a 9.2-magnitude earthquake to test and improve preparedness. Exercise planners based the scenario on the earthquake that devastated south central Alaska in 1964.
The exercise was a prime occasion for first responders to tap into the expertise of Army scientists and engineers, said Paul Thakur, a science advisor assigned to U.S. Army Alaska.
"This was a unique opportunity to meet with and spread the word to state and government agencies for potential future collaborations in supporting technology challenges in their respective operations," said Thakur, who is part of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Field Assistance in Science and Technology, or FAST, team.
U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's, or RDECOM's, 30 science advisors, both uniformed officers and Army civilians, provide a link between Soldiers and the command's thousands of subject matter experts at is seven center and laboratories.
Lt. Col. Brian Wood of the Army Reserve Sustainment Command, Detachment 8 (RDECOM), joined Thakur in representing RDECOM at the exercise. In part, the Reserve 20-member detachment augments active-duty officers and Army civilians who serve as full-time FAST advisors.
RDECOM's exercise participation enhanced organizations' understanding of the command's capabilities and how to reach out when they identify capability gaps, Wood said.
"We're developing relationships and trying to discover technology gaps, help communicate the requirements and allow the RDECOM experts to solve problems," said Wood, who is also an Army civilian employee at RDECOM's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. "We were educating units on RDECOM and providing contact information so we can stay in touch.
"When units identify a capability gap, they will have the ability to reach out to RDECOM."
Communications, mobility, port evacuation, backup power generation, food, shelters, water purification, cold-weather clothing, and search and rescue piqued participants' interest as the RDECOM team discussed needs during meetings, tours and visits to a number of exercise sites in the Anchorage area.
The primary mechanism for addressing technology issues and concerns is through compiling and sending requests for information, known as RFIs, to RDECOM for review. The science advisors identified capability gaps and submitted 12 RFIs after discussions with active-duty Soldiers stationed in Alaska.
Soldiers' requests focused on arctic-capable clothing and gear and included improved skis, petroleum-handling gloves, goggles, socks, full-face mask, sleeping mattress, interface with communications gear, small-unit transportation, remote-resupply technology, and shelter technology.
Thakur and Wood worked with several of the participating civilian and military agencies, including the American Red Cross, Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Guard, state of Alaska, U.S. Northern Command, Joint Task Force Alaska, U.S. Transportation Command, and Army Corps of Engineers. Thakur and Wood visited demonstrations, including patient movement and joint logistics over-the-shore, to gain an appreciation of the technologies and equipment involved to support this type of exercise.
Although the Army technologies are designed for military use, many could also be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions with minor modifications, Thakur said.
One area of dual-use application is remote-area resupply, an important capability for civilian and military responders in Alaska because of the rugged terrain and the possibility of damaged roads, bridges or ports after a disaster, Wood said.
The Enhanced Speed Bag, an RDECOM prototype system from NSRDEC, is a potential solution for this need. It is designed to improve the current process of free-dropping supplies into remote areas where resupply is difficult.
RDECOM is helping to facilitate a demonstration of the ESB in late April for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The demonstration will occur at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.
Communication capability was showcased through the use of SkySat for mountainous areas between Coldfoot and Deadhorse and in extreme cold temperatures. The capability did not exist before in Alaska, Thakur said.
Wood echoed many of the general officers' comments about making connections before a disaster occurs to ensure life-saving solutions are in place.
"This is the time to trade your business cards, not after the earthquake happens. At that time, you need to know each other already," he said.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.