By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public AffairsDecember 19, 2016
What's all the SUSS about?
A new sustainment system that will meet the billeting needs of small units on the move is being designed by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's Expeditionary Basing & Collective Protection Directorate, or EB&CPD.
The Small Unit Sustainment System, or SUSS, will reduce the logistical burden while increasing the self-sufficiency and quality of life for squads and small units.
"It's two shelters that will support a small unit during missions of 72 hours, without the need for resupply of fuel," said Ariana Costa, program integrator, EB&CPD, and project officer for the SUSS.
"The system serves those who are operating on the move and who need to set up and take down a system quickly to move on to the next location. All of the equipment is transported on the two trailers, which are towable behind a Humvee."
The SUSS is designed to improve Soldier quality of life and performance by eliminating the need to find makeshift billeting solutions -- the nature of which can sometimes lead to sleep deprivation and lack of proper hygiene capabilities, affecting performance, health and morale.
NSRDEC researchers have determined that the SUSS is well-suited for humanitarian and disaster relief or expeditionary command post applications.
"Part of why this project came about is that we were faced with a capability gap for short mission durations," said Costa.
"Generally, when an Army unit goes out in the field and they don't have shelter provided for them, they provide their own and will sleep in vehicles in inclement weather," said Jay Kopp, an NSRDEC equipment specialist who also served in the infantry for 23 years.
"The SUSS concept was developed where you can have a platoon-size element go out to the field with these systems that provide command and control elements. Anyone who has slept in a vehicle for more than a couple of hours knows that the sleep that they get is not quality. This system gives them a place to bed down and get better sleep than what they would outside."
The SUSS is designed as a small tactical operations center, or TOC, and includes a generator, LED lighting, environmental control units for heating and cooling, solar panels, and a portable latrine and shower. The system is energy efficient and with proper training can be set up by a team of eight in under an hour. The system is intended for use in all temperatures.
"It's designed to be used in the whole operational temperature range, but we have heaters for extremely low temperatures instead of ECUs," said Costa. "Other than that, the system is designed to function throughout the entire temperature range of minus 40 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit."
NSRDEC actively sought all-important Soldier input throughout the development process, working extensively with the 25th Infantry Division in set up, operation and tear down, and make observations and gather feedback about Soldier needs and how to make the system better.
"The SUSS is a great product for the small TOC," said Sgt. Maj. Kalep Perez Gonzalez, G4/ACoS sergeant major for the 25th Infantry Division. "Once it is set up, it gives the unit all the capabilities of a large TOC kit but with a small package. It is almost completely self-sustaining, so it allows the unit more independence. The solar panels help with extending the fuel life cycle. The battery backup lessens fuel consumption. It makes very little noise and is light and ready for us to use. It provides shelter comforts, including latrines and showers. No other tent system has a way to control the lights, ECUs, from the same place. I think as a small TOC kit for an expeditionary unit, the SUSS has no equal."
Andrew Wood, experimentation director at U.S. Army Pacific, said it was gratifying and motivating to work this project at the request of Perez Gonzalez.
"If a senior NCO sees potential in a technology to fill a capability gap, it is well worth the effort to assess it," said Wood. He noted that using the SUSS in several exercises provided "multiple and various situations to get great feedback to the technical team so they can make the next version even better."
"The Special Troops Battalion, 25th Sustainment Brigade was excited for the opportunity to evaluate the SUSS," said Lt. Col. Steven W. Morris, commander, 25th STB BDG, whose Soldiers used it on several field training exercises in Hawaii.
"For our last evaluation, the (battalion) staff took comparisons of the SUSS versus our medium (Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter). The SUSS took less time to set up and tear down. The SUSS also required fewer personnel. The SUSS proved to be low maintenance, easy to establish and break down. The Soldiers enjoyed the control panel (TOC Box) that made it easy to manipulate the lights and temperature of both tents.
"While it is not large enough for a battalion TOC, the SUSS is the right size for a company command post. I would have loved to have this system when I was a company commander," Morris said.
"Going out in the field and working with Soldiers is my favorite part of my job," said Costa. "I think it is so important that, as the developers of the next generation of expeditionary basing shelters and equipment, we get to see what Soldiers need and what their problems are so we can help solve them. You can't do that without going out to the field and talking to them directly and seeing them work with the equipment."
"If you don't take care of yourself in the field with proper rest and the ability to maintain proper hygiene, you're hurting yourself and your ability to do your job -- which impacts the entire unit," said Kopp. "So any help you can get will definitely improve your quality of life and your performance out there and help you to do your job and do it properly.
"As a Soldier, you have to keep yourself in the fight, and this system helps."
The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission is to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.