NATICK, Mass. -- To commemorate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, hosted a special event in Hunter Auditorium, located at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, on May 21.

People of Asian American Pacific Islander heritage are a culturally and linguistically diverse group who have made invaluable contributions to CCDC SC and to the nation as a whole. The hour-long program provided just a small glimpse into the achievements, contributions and rich cultures of this diverse heritage.

Lt. Col. Christy L. Whitfield was the esteemed guest speaker. Whitfield is the commander, Joint Exploitation Squadron, Joint Special Operations Command, Intelligence Brigade, U.S. Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Douglas Tamilio, director of the CCDC SC, noted Whitfield's many impressive accomplishments during her career in Special Operations and said that it was an honor to have her speak to the workforce.

Whitfield praised all of Natick's teams and mentioned CCDC SC's work in rations, aerial delivery, and Soldier performance optimization and other areas, stating that the work being done here is incredible.

"Every single person who sits here has helped me to carry out my mission," said Whitfield. "Everything you do here helps us to be more successful."

CCDC SC is dedicated to using science and technology to ensure America's warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. Although CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams are the CCDC SC's chief areas of focus. The center's science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance.

Whitfield attributed her career success and strong work ethic to her parents. Her father, L. W. Whitfield, is a retired first sergeant who served in the Army for 22 years. Her mother, Chong Whitfield, is originally from South Korea and is a longtime Natick employee who currently works on CCDC SC's Design, Pattern and Prototype Team.

Whitfield said that her father taught her leadership. She said that her mother -- and her mother's Korean culture -- taught her perseverance. She noted that both parents taught her the importance of service to her country.

Whitfield's mother, Chong Whitfield, is known for her hard work and dedication at CCDC SC and for her positive attitude.

"My mom is super positive and she brings that positivity to every situation, to every problem, and by doing so gets the best result," said Whitfield. "I've learned that from her and that's what I try to do."
The event also featured a short film profiling Dr. Ramanathan Nagarajan, the U.S. Army Senior Research Scientist for Soldier Nanomaterials.

During the video, Nagarajan, who is known as "Nagu," recounted his experiences growing up in India and how his life journey eventually brought him to the United States, where he became one of the Army's top scientists.

Nagarajan said that CCDC SC is unique in that the organization looks at the Soldier, the human side of DoD. He said that he continues to learn new things every day at Natick.

In addition to his leading-edge research, Nagarajan is known for his modesty, open-mindedness and his commitment to mentoring new scientists.

"Dr. Nagu enjoys working in research more than anyone I have ever met," said Dr. Kathleen Swana, materials research engineer at CCDC SC. "He always manages to find the time to lend an ear and spend hours poring over data if consulted. He was instrumental in bringing a number of young researchers into CCDC SC, including myself, and I am grateful for his help and mentorship over the years."

"Nagu encourages, inspires, and challenges us to be the best researchers we can be," said Molly Richards, a research chemical engineer at CCDC SC.

"Nagu has been an inspiration to me for many years," said Dr. Paola D'Angelo, a research bio-engineer at CCDC SC. "His passion for research is unlike anything I have ever seen and he's the only person I know who doesn't like Fridays because he doesn't get to come to work the next day. He is always encouraging young scientists to become important members of society and he is always advocating for senior scientists to see us, young scientists, as equals."

"It was a privilege to have the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Nagarajan when I first started here," said Melissa Roth, a CCDC SC chemical engineer. "He's continued to be an invaluable mentor on both technical projects and career development."

Staff. Sgt. Charina Hocog also took part in Natick's Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage event. Hocog has dedicated herself to serving her country and works in the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, located at NSSC. Hocog read the presidential proclamation during the event and also provided a delicious sampling of Asian foods in the lobby after the event.

Hocog is proud of her heritage.

"Filipinos take pride in what we do," said Hocog. "As immigrant of an Asian heritage, I challenge myself so that I will be an asset and not a liability to the country that gave me the opportunity to explore my capabilities."