FORT BELVOIR, Va. (June 24, 2015) -- Program Executive Office Soldier showed Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn how it is providing Soldiers with more lethal weapons, better protective gear and more capable equipment while also looking for ways to lighten Soldier load during his visit there, June 23.

The general clearly expressed his desire to lighten the Soldier's load.

Program Executive Officer Soldier Brig. Gen. Brian P. Cummings, and his project and product managers briefed new programs and developments taking place. PEO Soldier is responsible for developing small arms, night-vision and thermal devices, uniforms, body armor, helmets, and other equipment Soldiers carry.

Soldier load is not a new problem but one that goes back for centuries. Soldiers today carry night-vision equipment, personal protective equipment and weapons that provide new capabilities but also add weight. General Cummings assured Allyn that PEO Soldier is focused on lightening Soldier load and also in getting their feedback on equipment in development.

PEO Soldier goes to where Soldiers are - at school houses or in the field around the world - to get their feedback on how to make weapons, equipment and gear even better and more effective.

Seeking Soldier feedback isn't the only way PEO Soldier strives to provide the best to Soldiers. Project Manager Soldier Warrior manages the Soldier Enhancement Program, or SEP. This program helps the Army move quickly to evaluate, test and type classify existing prototypes or commercially available items, which will enhance Soldiers' ability to execute their combat mission. More than 42 percent of the PEO Soldier portfolio originated within SEP.

Product managers briefed Allyn on several items PEO Soldier is working on to reduce Soldier load while increasing their effectiveness.

Lt. Col. Kathy M. Brown, product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment, or PM SPE, provided an example of how PEO Soldier is doing that. She let Allyn compare the advanced combat helmet with the new Generation II Lightweight Advanced Combat Helmet, or LW ACH. The LW ACH weighs a pound lighter while offering the same ballistic protection, a weight reduction the general appreciated.

In addition to the LW ACH, the PM SPE explained the weight savings and ballistic protection the Soldier Protection System, or SPS offers. SPS provides the Soldier with a modular, scalable integrated system of mission-tailorable ballistic protection at a reduced weight compared to the current PPE systems. In addition, SPS achieves the weight reduction without sacrificing the level of ballistic protection.

Lt. Col. Paul E. Alessio, product manager for crew served weapons at Project Manager Soldier Weapons, briefed the new precision sniper rifle. This highly-accurate rifle will enable Soldiers to use three different rounds depending upon mission requirements. The PSR could replace .50 caliber (M107) and .300 WinMag (M2010) sniper rifles. This one weapon will simplify and reduce the loads snipers carry.

Lt. Col. Terry S. Russell, product manager for individual weapons at PM SW, explained the XM17 Modular Handgun System and XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM17 will provide Soldiers with greater accuracy, target acquisition and ergonomic design. It will also be more reliable, durable and easier to maintain.

The XM25 enables the small unit and individual Soldier to engage personnel targets in defilade - protected position - by providing a 25mm air-bursting capability in all operational environments. The XM25 is an individually-fired, semi-automatic, Soldier-portable weapon system. A Soldier, using basic rifle marksmanship skills, can effectively engage exposed or defilade personnel targets in just seconds out to 500 meters.

In terms of uniforms, Lt. Col. John T. Bryan, product manager for soldier clothing and individual equipment, briefed the Army's adoption of the Operational Camouflage Pattern, which will become available July 1. He said recruits will begin receiving the new pattern in January 2016.

Lt. Col. Timothy Fuller, product manager of Soldier maneuver sensors, briefed advanced night vision and sensors, such as Family of Weapon Sights-Individual, or FWS-I. FWS-I gives Soldiers the capability to see deep into the battlefield, increase surveillance and target acquisition range, and penetrate day or night obscurants.

An example of providing a product, which increases a Soldier's effectiveness, is the Tactical Communication and Protective System, or TCAPS.

Bill Brower, acting project manager SWAR briefed Allyn on this item. TCAPS provides concurrent hearing protection and auditory situational awareness. It maintains hearing protection while enabling Soldier to use existing tactical radio resulting in increased mission effectiveness, safety and survivability.

Meeting Soldiers' immediate needs was the theme of another briefing.

Col. Steven A. Sliwa, director of the Training and Doctrine Command Rapid Equipping Force, or REF, briefed how expeditionary labs, or Ex Labs, provide technical assistance to Soldiers. Ex Labs give Soldiers immediate access to scientists and engineers to discuss their operational problems. The Ex Lab staff is then able to quickly fabricate custom-made solutions on site.

Seeing how PEO Soldier and REF share the same concerns as Allyn on lightening Soldier load, and providing equipment and gear based on Soldier feedback impressed the general.

"I appreciate what you are focused on here, better kit and lighter weight," Allyn said.