Under secretary sees science behind the Soldier

By John Harlow, USAG-Natick Public AffairsSeptember 11, 2014

Fire Ball
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Under Secretary Carson visits Natick
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Physical Demands Study
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson receives a briefing from researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, about the Physical Demands Study USARIEM is conducted in association with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 10, 2014) -- The afternoon started with a fireball, and finished with Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson chatting with senior non-commissioned officers about the science behind the Soldier.

Carson learned about the flame retardant testing done on uniforms at the Ouellette Thermal Test Facility here.

The 8,100-square-foot facility, which opened in 2008, features four labs and a propane test cell, where four-second flash-fire testing can be done, with eight burners on a full-scale manikin. There are 123 channels. Each channel has a sensor attached to it. Test results are run through computer models to predict second- and third-degree burns.

Carson spoke with researchers from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center about the challenges they face going forward.

"This is what I have been looking forward to seeing," said Carson during his meeting with researchers. "This is a place where you do the work that powers our Army. We are a people centric service. The Soldier is the end all, be all of our own service. The work that you guys do is extremely important."

At the Doriot Climatic Chambers, the Under Secretary toured the facility that is a unique Army asset. He toured a rigid wall shelter being tested in -50 degree temperatures. The chambers can simulate almost any weather condition in the world, ranging from -70 degrees to 170 degrees, with sustained winds at 40 miles per hour. The chamber also has the ability to rain at the rate of four inches per hour.

The rigid wall shelter is the next generation in base camp systems. During testing earlier, at Fort Benning, Ga., it showed better comfort for the Soldiers, and the shelter requires less energy to maintain comfortable living or working conditions inside.

He received a demonstration on Female Body Armor that was named one of the best inventions by Time Magazine, in 2012. The improved outer tactical vest, known as the IOTV, was designed specifically for women, and was first worn in combat by Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The new armor was designed to offer better protection and to prevent bruised hip bones that women experienced when wearing IOTVs meant to fit men.

With the Soldier as the centerpiece of every Army platform, protecting that Soldier in combat is what drives everyone at the Natick Soldier Systems Center.

The Helmet Electronics and Display System-Upgradeable Protection, or HEaDS-UP, has been a four-year effort at Natick, to provide mounted and dismounted troops with a more fully integrated headgear system. HEaDS-UP has focused on developing a Technical Data Package of design options and tradeoffs to build a modular, integrated headgear system. Some of these technologies include: improved ballistic materials; non-ballistic impact liner materials and designs; see-through and projected heads-up display technologies; better eye, face and hearing protection; and communications.

It was Carson's first visit to Natick since becoming the 31st under secretary of the Army, earlier this year.

Carson challenged Natick's senior NCOs in a round-table discussion to think about problems they see in the Army, challenges they see in the Army and things the Under Secretary can do to help.

The majority of the discussion was the loss of talented officers and NCOs.

"We have an exodus it seems of captains and majors and NCO's getting out of the Army today," said Carson. "These are people with tremendous amounts of combat experience. They have led men and women in many different circumstances, [and they] are getting out.

"This is a great concern to me as how we keep the best talent in the NCO corps and junior officers," Carson continued.

Carson also gained knowledge of how squads receive aerial re-supply through the Joint Precision Airdrop System. The JPADS system can very precisely deliver supplies, from 10 pounds to 42,000 pounds, through GPS-guided technology.

In his brief visit to Natick, Carson received a quick glimpse of the science behind the Soldier.

"It was fascinating to see the work that you do here," said Carson.

Related Links:

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Natick visit inspires future scientists and engineers

Natick study looks at how Soldiers' bodies cool down

Textile technologist 'fired up' about her job at Natick

Women Soldiers to test female-specific body armor

Female body armor named among best inventions by Time Magazine

'Sunshine' comes to Natick's Doriot Climatic Chambers

Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson

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