NATICK, Mass. -- Sometimes, in order to move forward, we need to take a moment to stand still and grieve.
That's the idea behind the Expeditionary Memorial Rifle Stand.
Chaplain Maj. Andrew Shriver of the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, approached the center's Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, or EMSD, to develop the item to meet the needs of modern Soldiers.
CCDC SC is dedicated to using science and technology to ensure America's warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. The CCDC SC supports the Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team, or SL-CFT, priorities. The center's science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance.
The resulting prototype/product is a simple, fast solution to an important need. The lightweight, easy-to-move Expeditionary Memorial Rifle Stand consists of a highly functional and efficiently designed lightweight metal rod and plate to which Soldiers can add a helmet, dog tags, a pair of boots and a rifle (items that they already have). Since the Soldiers can easily take the memorial stand with them when they move, it leaves no footprint.
Today's Soldiers often operate in an expeditionary environment. These Soldiers work together in small groups, or squads, in unimaginably stressful and dangerous situations, where their reliance, trust, dedication, and commitment to one another can help them to succeed. Such bonds can also make losing a squad member all the more devastating. It can also be painful to hear the news about the loss of a Soldier outside of the squad. Taking the time to grieve, complete with rituals and symbols, can be the key to healing, resiliency, and emotional survival.
"I started thinking about what would happen if I were deployed and found myself in a battlefield situation where I'm moving around every day, caring for small groups of Soldiers spread all over the place," said Shriver. "We have these big wooden stands but it is too taxing to carry one of those around and we didn't have anything that was expeditionary. So, EMSD's Fabrication Team developed the 10-pound Expeditionary Memorial Rifle Stand made of metal. Such an item was not available commercially off the shelf or through DLA (Defense Logistics Agency) and GSA (General Services Administration). The item just didn't exist."
EMSD's Fabrication Team designed the item and made the prototype and continues to evolve the design.
"I'm very grateful for the people at Natick," said Shriver. "They were able to quickly come up with something that is cost-effective, durable, and portable."
"It is an honor to support Chaplain Shriver's Expeditionary Memorial Rifle Stand for our fallen Soldiers," said Claudia Quigley, director of EMSD. "The Soldier Center's Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate feels privileged to make Chaplain Shriver's design concept a reality in support of this most solemn mission. This Rifle Stand will assist the Chaplain's mission at home and in the expeditionary environment, helping the Chaplain provide closure to Soldier's families and to units in theatre."
"It's important for them to have the opportunity to grieve," said Shriver. "I have found that just giving them that opportunity, that moment, to grieve and even the process of building the stand is something really moving for the Soldiers. Giving them time to grieve means so much and it really helps with the healing process. This item helps them to remain resilient and ready."
Shriver has done a lot of work with art forms and healing, and he has found that using art forms can really help the healing process. Shriver said that building this stand is kind of like building a statue that provides a temporary place to mourn and then there is the ritual of taking it down when you are done.
Shriver serves as the Chaplain Corps Integrator, a unique position in the Army's Chaplain Corps.
"In this position, I get to work with some incredible teams of people, all of whom are focused on caring for Soldiers to ensure that when they go out in these harsh environments that they have what they need," said Shriver.
The dedicated chaplain has also worked on other religious items with EMSD, other directorates at the CCDC SC, and with Col. Charles H. May, formerly the military deputy at Natick. One project involved the development of an easy-to-carry kit that includes items to prepare chaplains in field situations to carry out a wide variety of religious and memorial observances for several of the world's religions. The kit is also designed to give chaplains the ability to pick and choose items based on their particular needs. The religious items included in the kit have to meet tough standards. The items have to be rugged and sturdy, yet lightweight and highly mobile, and have a small logistical footprint.
Stephen MacIntosh, team leader for EMSD's Fabrication Team, is particularly proud that his team was involved in in the creation of the Expeditionary Memorial Rifle Stand.
"The people on my team know that what we are doing means something to the Soldier in some way, shape or form," said MacIntosh. "The satisfaction comes not only from the work we do but for whom we are doing the work for. We want to serve the Soldier."
"It is just amazing to me to see the knowledge and the creativity that's here at Natick," said Shriver. "I have a deep appreciation for the work done here."