By Debra Dawson
Program Executive Office Soldier
Public Affairs Officer

FORT BELVOIR, Virginia -- Project Manager Soldier Warrior and Project Director Soldier Systems & Integration hosted the 3rd Annual Soldier Baseline Configuration Working Group Feb. 7 and 8 to study how to increase Soldier capability and reduce their load.

Integration of the Soldier's equipment is an on-going effort and top priority, and Program Executive Office Soldier is the official agent for Soldier integration Army-wide.

"We are continuing to refine our process for how we can use our baseline to address required capabilities, Soldier load reduction, and Soldier performance optimization," said Maj. Sheila Howell, PD SS&I assistant product manager.

"The strides that PEO Soldier has made in documenting everything the Soldier is wearing, or carrying, for a 72-hour conventional mission profile are vital to ensuring consistent communication of the Soldier System with our science and technology partners, and the requirements community as well as other stakeholders," she added.

The working group consisted of Soldiers from Maneuver Center of Excellence, 4th Ranger Training Battalion, and PEO Soldier. Participating support organizations included Army Capabilities Integration Center; Army Training and Doctrine Command; Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center; and Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate-Communications Electronic Research, Development, and Engineering Center.

"The working group brought in MCoE and an NCO that just returned from deployment to better assist the process," said Sgt. Maj. James Carroll, TRADOC Capability Manager--Soldier. The working group "allows us to sit down with the engineers and, from the user perspective, go over form, fit, and function to ensure we are making our Soldier's kit wearable, comfortable, and lighter," he added.

The working group met over two days and worked on the five different Soldier configurations in the Dismounted Infantry Squad baseline. This baseline tool helps manage the "Soldier as a System" at the individual Soldier level. The working group meets annually to document a standardized set of equipment Soldiers wear and carry, and addresses better ways to configure the Soldier's kit. This baseline includes variants for the squad leader, team leader, grenadier, automatic rifleman, and rifleman.

"The baselines establish the starting point to capture the Soldier System in a consistent and standardized manner to enable Soldier equipment modernization and integration as well as opportunities to reduce Soldier load," Howell said.

Staff Sgt. Harrison Scurry, 4th RTB, Fort Benning, Georgia, recently returned from deployment and came at the request of the working group.

"Actually being able to see where the ideas come from for the gear we receive in the field adds value to my job as a Soldier," Scurry said. The NCO appreciates "being able to give some expertise as far as what realistically works and doesn't work for each configuration."

Once the working group determines the baselines, the Army tests the configurations at Fort Benning through the Load Effects Assessment Program--Army. There are 33 Soldiers--27 males and six females--scheduled to participate in LEAP-A evaluations March 27 through April 14. LEAP-A consists of an instrumented course comprised of 14 repeatable and relevant warfighter tasks along with other events such as vehicle ingress/egress, a foot march, and a grenade throw. These tasks measure the effects of individual equipment configurations and combat loads on Soldiers' physical performance.

"My main priority, as the senior NCO in the working group, is to devise a configuration for each squad member that is functional for combat operations, to achieve balance on the kit, and to work with PEO Soldier for approval on the baseline configurations," Carroll said. After the configurations are approved, TRADOC can then "push this out Army-wide and inform his leaders that there is an approved, optimum configuration for the Soldier to fight in," he added.