By John Harlow, USAG Natick Public AffairsAugust 8, 2016
FORT DEVENS, Mass. (Aug. 8, 2016) -- They say seeing is believing, and Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, the principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, walked away Aug. 4 from his tour of the Base Camp Integration Laboratory at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, a believer in the facility.
"I am watching innovative ideas on how to support and sustain and help our Soldiers go from good ideas into equipment that we test and can very quickly get out into the field," said Williamson. "That connection is really important. There are lots of good ideas out there, but how often do they really manifest (themselves) into something that a Soldier uses and saves his or her life and makes their life easier? That is what I saw here. This integration lab really makes a big difference of taking all of those great technologies and putting them all together and seeing how they work and having the ability to tweak left or right to make them better."
Williamson saw firsthand a Force Provider kit that is deployable, a Force Provider kit with experimental energy-saving enhancements, and an example of Rigid Wall technology on display at the camp.
Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems operates the BCIL and works in partnership with the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center to find new technologies that improve the quality of life for the deployed Soldier and reduce the energy footprint from the camp.
NSRDEC has been in the lead Science and Technology Objective-Demonstration for Base Camps, and having the BCIL close by at Fort Devens has enhanced the research.
"I wanted Lt. Gen. Williamson's support for sustaining the Army science and technology system engineering and technology integration capabilities that have been developed by the STO-D over the past five years," said Douglas Tamilio, NSRDEC director. "The continuation of this capability will provide resources to facilitate technology transition to our (Program Executive Officer) partners and knowledge transition to our (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) partners in support of requirements development."
Force Provider kits have deployed to Liberia and Senegal in support of Operation United Assistance, Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, and Afghanistan in support of Operation Resolute Support.
"I saw facilities that are deployable, cost-effective and provide a level of comfort," said Williamson. "As a Soldier, nobody ever said anything is going to be easy. We aren't looking at putting people up at the Ritz, but we are looking at providing basic comfort to our Soldiers. That is what I am seeing delivered from the people at Natick, the PM shops and at this integration lab."
The Force Provider team provides a strategic capability for the nation and could be a critical asset for combatant commanders.
"The Force Provider team is second to none in terms of competence and passion for what they do," said Lt. Col. Frank Moore, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. "They always put the Soldier first and take pride in their proven track record of providing quality-of-life support to the Army at a moment's notice, any place in the world."
The BCIL collects evaluation data to quantify components of performance when compared to current configurations. The BCIL provides the ability to evaluate the overall impact on fuel requirements, water requirements and waste system of a deployable base camp. Studies also focus on the effects on the transformation footprint and sustainment tail and can estimate the return on investment and suitability for deployment.
"Seeing everything, all (the base camp) put together, is really important," said Williamson. "You hear about the various technologies, and you don't see them put together. I am not sure that people are capturing what I learned here -- engineers, scientists and smart folks at Natick providing capability to program managers that have the opportunity to do integration and testing.
"I also was really impressed that Soldiers from the Guard are using the equipment and providing immediate feedback," Williamson added. "We are one Army and have Guard Soldiers here for training, and the real-time feedback they provide helps us get the equipment to the field much sooner and not to block out separate times and organizations to train on it, use it and apply it."
One of the goals of the presentation to the general was to show the teamwork between PM-FSS and NSRDEC.
"I think it is critical having these organizations together," said Williamson. "What I saw today was a partnership that is really working. We always want to talk about having a synergy, but I see it here today manifested in the teams. I couldn't tell you who was from what organization. This was one team working toward solution sets, and that is beyond critical when you are seeing it work effectively."
Williamson said there needs to be a culture change going forward.
"If you are a commander and you have a unit and are worried about an operation puts a lot on your plate, and when someone says, 'We have something to give you,' the commanders usually react with 'Great … something else," said Williamson. "What I want is to change the dynamic. I want there to be situational awareness about the capabilities that Force Provider provides and have commanders asking for this capability when they know that they are going to be setting up a base camp or forward operating base. Not everyone knows of this capability, and that needs to change."
The BCIL has been operational for more than four years and has evaluated 30 technologies, and six new technologies have been inserted into the Force Provider kit that is deployed today.