ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 8, 2015) -- From watching a helmet withstand a dead-on shot from a 9 mm round, to listening to cross-country satellite calls made through a platoon-level digital radio, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno observed several of the Army's signature modernization efforts and encouraged Soldiers and civilians to "keep driving forward."
Odierno visited Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, the Army's hub for equipment testing and tactical network development, April 7, to view test capabilities and receive updates on emerging communications technologies that will enable agile and expeditionary operations.
"We have to get to an expeditionary mindset that will make a huge difference," Odierno said. "We can't get complacent."
Complacency was a far cry from what he saw on the visit. During a tour of the Army Test and Evaluation Command's Aberdeen Test Center, experts demonstrated state-of-the-art, data-driven testing techniques for weapons, vehicles and body armor.
As the test round hit the front of the helmet from close range, "the worst-case scenario" - a laser scan captured more than 300,000 data points, while two high-speed cameras recorded the impact. All of the information was quickly loaded into a database to determine whether the helmet met required safety standards and whether its performance could be improved.
"There are a lot of different ways to analyze what we have," said Kelly Hacker, who briefed the general on how the Army thoroughly tests its latest Soldier protective equipment. "We can quickly query information from the database as customers need it."
Outside the test center, Odierno visited several APG laboratories that host development, integration and field support functions for the Army's tactical communications network - a top modernization priority as the service shifts to a leaner, globally responsive force.
Officials from the Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications - Tactical, or C3T, and Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, outlined key communications breakthroughs that will keep Soldiers connected during expeditionary maneuver, including robust en-route mission command capabilities for the Global Response Force, powerful data radios and small satellite dishes for dismounted Soldiers, and wireless networking for command posts.
"It's where we absolutely need to go," said Odierno, adding that the Army needs lightweight, mobile solutions for network connectivity so leaders can safely deploy "the smallest footprint possible," and then grow capability over time as a theater matures.
The chief stressed an incremental approach to network modernization that will continuously introduce interim improvements to the force, while simultaneously promoting competition among industry partners to drive to the next phase of innovation.
"Just like your smartphone gets better every year, Army communications technology will continue to become more capable, more lightweight and more user-friendly," said Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for C3T.
Throughout the trip, Odierno thanked testers and program managers - both military and civilian - for their commitment to delivering the best possible technologies to Soldiers.
"This is really important," he said. "We have to keep driving it."