REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Dr. Henry Everitt’s Warfighter-focus is not on what the Soldier needs to fight tonight, but rather, what will be required of them in the future.
“I’m a futurist,” said Everitt, the Army’s Senior Technologist for Optical Sciences, based out of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center. “Things that I’m doing are really about looking beyond the current needs to potential needs or potential threats, and developing technologies and capabilities ahead of the customer’s request.”
Everitt is one of approximately 40 senior technologists within the Army, an esteemed group of men and women who hold senior executive positions, but rather than serving in a managerial position, they devote their livelihoods to the advancement of science and technology. These internationally recognized scientists are the Army’s subject matter experts in areas deemed critical for supporting the Warfighter and defending the nation.
“As the Optical Sciences ST, I’m the Army’s chief subject matter expert when it comes to questions about optical sciences,” Everitt said. “No two STs are alike; every one of us has a different job description, a different purview, a different area of expertise and we’re used differently by our organizations.”
While some STs serve as chief scientists, others lead research enterprises, and still others hold futurist positions similar to Everitt.
“I am part of a group of people who are hard core researchers, whose mission in life is to push the frontiers of knowledge to the limit and find out what is possible, what the laws of science will allow, and how the Army can exploit those fundamental laws of nature for its own benefit or to protect itself from threats that might be developed by potential adversaries,” Everitt said.
Born and raised in Huntsville, where he found inspiration in the Apollo program and the men and women he knew who helped put man on the moon, there was no question what Everitt wanted to be when he grew up – a physicist. Upon graduating from Huntsville High School, he went on to attend Duke University, where he received his PhD in physics in 1990. Shortly thereafter, he began his civil service career with the Army Research Office.
In 2003, Everitt became an ST and the Chief Scientist ST for ARO, a position he held until 2005, when he was given the opportunity to come to Redstone Arsenal to devote all his time to research and exploration as the ST for optical sciences. In this role, his work primarily focuses on four areas: semiconductor physics, plasmonics, terahertz imaging and radar, and molecular spectroscopy.
“I do fundamental research in the area of optics, specifically related to ways we can create and harness light and use it in novel ways to support the Warfighter. I try to understand what are the fundamental limits and opportunities for the Army,” Everitt said. “There’s a difference between what we can engineer with our limited capabilities, and what is potentially possible if we can solve all those engineering challenges. My job is to explore what is possible and what the challenges are to get from where we are, to where we could be, if only we could overcome those practical limitations.”
Thankful for the freedom AvMC and the Army have given him to explore areas that are new and on the cutting edge, everything Everitt does is to ensure he’s ready to respond to whatever the Soldier needs in his subject matter area.
“The thing that gives me the greatest pleasure is to know that I’m doing this in service of the Warfighter,” Everitt said. “I take seriously the servant part of being a civil servant. It is gratifying to know there’s a higher purpose to my work than simply publishing papers and getting name recognition. For me, I’m doing it for a purpose. I don’t do research unless it matters to the Warfighter. If I can help by saying, ‘Here’s a new concept that can help us protect you better,’ or, ‘Here’s something that we don’t need to waste our time on because it’s really impractical and won’t give us a payout for the benefit that is touted,’ that gives me a higher satisfaction than how often my papers are being read by people in the community.”
For those scientists who may want to follow a similar career path, Everitt offers this advice.
“If you want to be an ST you need to be a hands-on researcher,” Everitt said. “An ST has to have a track record of scientific or engineering accomplishments that are not only endorsed in some kind of peer reviewed forum like scientific papers or conferences, but they also need to be recognized internationally as the go-to person for this technology. You get that by being the one who rolls up your sleeves and gets your hands on the technology, doing the measurements or calculations or analyses yourself.
“You also need to broaden yourself beyond what you’re doing locally. You want to have an Army perspective, rather than just a center, division or directorate perspective, because an ST is the subject matter expert for the whole Army. You can’t just limit yourself to the organization you find yourself in.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation & Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which conducts responsive research, development and life cycle engineering to deliver the aviation and missile capabilities the Army depends on to ensure victory on the battlefield today and tomorrow. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.