Hundreds of infantry Soldiers swarmed over hills and down the small valleys in Fort Carson's Training Area Bravo. Small groups splintered from the main body moving over the various hills and into the sunrise, blotting out the light in small, but defined, outlines that closely resemble the infantrymen in the valley below.The swarm of Soldiers were competing for the Expert Infantryman Badge, an intensive examination of basic infantry skills and knowledge covering everything from reacting to enemy fire to calling for artillery strikes on an enemy location.But that wasn't the only test going on that day, nor were the infantry Soldiers the only ones under scrutiny. A scientific team of consumer psychologists, microbiologists and food technologists stood anxiously waiting for the swarm of shadows coming over the hills.The team from the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Massachusetts, is responsible for a host of innovations from body armor to MREs and everything in between.The team was at Fort Carson Sept. 16-25 due to the need to test new field rations outside of a lab environment. To help ensure success, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, supplied a combat kitchen and a field feeding team."The tests are crucial for us to provide feedback at the Joint Services Operational Rations Forum in October of next year and the results we're seeing here are positive," said Wendy Johnson, research psychologist, NSRDEC. "We're getting a lot of data."The field feeding team provided wasn't just any team, was the runner-up for the Phillip A. Connelly Field Feeding Competition, the Army's field cooking competition that tests setup, sanitation, food quality and security of the field feeding site.Almost every NSRDEC researcher cited the field feeding team as the keystone to the success of the test."They're the best and it shows. In the 21 years I have been doing this job, they are the best cooks I have ever worked with … they are professional, talented and there is no question they have made this incredibly easy for us," said Sue Harrington, senior food technologist, NSRDEC.Harrington described the challenges of field testing to include field conditions, the new rations being difficult to make and problems with the cooks' skill level."The only thing we worry about is getting the data … this is a dream," Harrington said.The data collected from the Soldiers and the cooks was critical, according to NSRDEC team, the reason being was the field environment itself. The labs at NSRDEC can only simulate so much of the real world, a given in any lab environment."Really, what made Fort Carson so ideal was the ability of it to meet our field requirements and provide the skilled cooks that they did -- it was unmatched across the Army," said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist.The 4th BSB cooks prepared the assigned meal for the EIB contestants who funneled through the combat kitchen and then out to the waiting NSRDEC team members who asked them what they thought about the food, why they chose what they did and to see if they would have it again?The process had already yielded results from previous tests such as the cooking equipment currently fielded in a combat kitchen can't make pizza. The constant heating for the dough is the issue."Overall, I really think we are the bedrock of this testing, and we will ensure its success in data collection. I mean we are one of two of the best field feeding teams, the only thing we need or want the Natick team to worry about is the data" said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chontrelle Sturdivant, 4th BSB field feeding team officer in charge.According to the NSRDEC team and the EIB competitors, the food was better than normal field meals. The Soldiers particularly liked the Mexican and Cajun meals served during the testing.