NATICK, Mass. (April 23, 2014) -- In his first town hall meeting since taking command of Natick Soldier Systems Center, Brig. Gen. William E. Cole brought the workforce up to date on recent and future activities, and recognized a number of employees for their outstanding recent efforts.

Cole, who had taken over at NSSC in December 2013, told those in attendance of a number of recent high-profile visitors, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno; Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Ty Carter; Congresswoman Katherine Clark; Gen. Dennis Via, commanding general, Army Materiel Command; Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general, U.S. Army Pacific.

"It's been a busy place," Cole said. "One thing they all have in common is the high regard for the work that is done here."

Cole also noted the recent retirement of Dr. Jack Obusek as director of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

"What a fixture of Natick he has been," Cole said. "A great American. We're very sorry to see him go. At the same time, we're very happy to have Dr. (Laurel) Allender come up from Aberdeen to sit as the acting NSRDEC director."

According to Cole, construction on Natick's main gate should be completed in about three weeks.

"We're very excited about that," Cole said. "That will make the commute in a little smoother."

Cole pointed out that Massachusetts' unique Military Bond Bill was signed into law last month. The bill allows the state to invest $91 million into federal projects, which will also benefit Massachusetts.

"Right now, we've set our goal as building a Soldier Performance Center that NSRDEC and (U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine) can use to support Soldier systems engineering in collaboration with local academia and industry," Cole said. "We think that will be a great new capability for the labs here at Natick."

The reconstruction of Kansas Street, which will be funded by the state through a capital projects bill, should begin sometime this summer, Cole said.

"It will make coming through the gate a much more pleasant experience," Cole said.

Cole said that NSSC is working with MassDevelopment on different options that would move Natick's housing in outlying towns onto the installation. He added that it would be funded through an exchange in kind.

"We won't need any DoD money, any military construction money to do the brand new housing," said Cole, adding that Natick would give back the existing housing areas to the state in exchange for the construction of housing on the base.

The annual anti-terrorism/emergency management exercise will take place May 7-8 at Natick, Cole said.

"We've been coordinating with local police departments and fire departments and state agencies to make sure it's a good training event," Cole said. "This is serious training."

The Natick Civilian Personnel Advisory Center was recognized for achieving the highest overall satisfaction rating among the 16 CPACs in the Northeast Region, according to results of the 2013 Customer Feedback Initiative. Cole recognized CPAC team members Courtney Landry, Carol Hannah, Holly Borah, Megan Saari, Charlie Ross, Ginger Rettie, Justin Potter, Melissa Brossi and Steve Berry.

The garrison SHARP program's exercise recently was recognized as a "best practice" for the Installation Management Command. Cole thanked team members Julie Lindahl, Laura Capehart-Hall, Sgt. Crystal Meints, Spc. Matthew Figueroa and Staff Sgt. Vaquero.

Cole congratulated Joe Murphy, the garrison fire inspector, who received a 95 percent score on his recent Fire and Emergency Services Program Assessment.

Cole noted that the Public Affairs Office team of John Harlow, Bob Reinert, Tazanyia Mouton, Kelly Field, Phil Fujawa and Dave Kamm won first place Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Awards at the IMCOM and Army levels for the digital publication "NSSC This Week." Also, Tazanyia Mouton won the IMCOM award for best video news report for her story on Gen. Raymond Odierno's visit to Natick.

PAO's "2012 Year in Review" is among three award winners in the special publication category of the National Association of Government Communicators' "Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Awards," which will be presented June 12 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The NAGC competition draws entries from federal, state, county and local government agencies across the country.

Cole cited the fine work done by the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security/Directorate of Public Works snow and ice removal team during the recent harsh winter. In particular, he mentioned Bruce Coffin, Mike Fraciose and Scott Whitney. He added that PAO assisted by providing closure information through social media.

Cole also recognized members of the Air Force Aircrew Performance Branch program office for providing joint solutions to help improve individual clothing and protection equipment items for Airmen. They included Debra McKean, Margaret Auerbach, Deana Archambault, Scott Gaumont, Celia Powell, Bonnie Slocum Dunford, Rich Landry, Christine Reffel, Kathryn McCusker, Steve Arcidiacono, Anabela Dugas, Nancy Hibbert, Melanie King and Rob Dilalla.

Anne Wright received her Thirty Year Certificate of Government Service.

In his garrison update at the town hall, Lt. Col. Brian Greata spoke about the front gate construction, the Energy Savings Performance Contract, the anti-terrorism/emergency management exercise, and Armed Forces Day.