NATICK, Mass – After hosting a change of command ceremony for Natick Soldier Systems Center’s Senior Mission Commander, the Deputy Commanding General of Acquisition and Systems Management at Army Futures Command, Lt. Gen. Thomas H. Todd III, received a tour of select labs and programs being spearheaded by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, Soldier Center, the largest tenant research organization at the NSSC installation.
Todd, who served as NSSC’s Senior Mission Commander from November 2015 to January 2017, returned to Natick June 8th to officiate the transition of outgoing commander Brig. Gen. James P. Bienlien and his successor, Brig. Gen. David Trybula. The NSSC Senior Mission Commander also serves as the Deputy Commanding General for DEVCOM, a key subordinate organization within AFC responsible for researching and developing Soldier-focused technologies.
The dual-hatted role at Natick gave Todd, an Alabama native, a lasting appreciation of the New England region and people, while witnessing the steadfast commitment of NSSC employees working hard every day to optimize, protect, sustain, and enhance the combat performance of American warfighters.
“When we install a new Senior Commander here, we reaffirm the importance of this community, the importance of the research done here, and the importance of the outcomes delivered to our Soldiers,” said Todd during his ceremony remarks. “The character of Natick is really about selfless service to our Soldiers; that’s why I warmed so quickly to Natick when I came here and that’s why you continue to do great things.”
“You’ve strengthened our Army. And if you really think about it, what’s the centerpiece of Army Futures Command? It is really Soldier Touchpoints. Well, Natick has been doing Soldier Touchpoints for years.”
“The heart of the Army is the Soldier. And ultimately, we are in the business of taking care of Soldiers,” said Todd.
The occasion offered a chance for DEVCOM Soldier Center to update Todd on several key Army Science and Technology programs directly supporting the Soldier Lethality initiative, a critical component of the Army’s Modernization priorities led by AFC.
After reconnecting with his former NSSC staff members and eating lunch at the installation dining facility, DEVCOM Soldier Center’s technical director, Doug Tamilio, led Todd on a tour that included seeing renovated lab facilities and new Soldier technologies developed since his time at Natick.
At Soldier Center’s newly expanded Engineering Innovation Center, Todd saw how researchers are advancing the Army’s additive manufacturing capabilities through various 3D printers which rapidly produce replacement parts for mechanical systems, personal protective equipment, and prototypes for concept development items.
At the Low Velocity Ballistic Lab, Soldier Center scientists and engineers showcased an array of helmet prototypes and ballistic protection items custom designed and produced onsite using new processing techniques and advanced composite materials which absorb and deflect more energy, resulting in lighter weight helmets with more ballistic protection capabilities.
The recent successful transition to field Gentex’s new Core® FAST Helmet System, the result of a multi-year, government-industry collaboration with Soldier Center to manufacture helmets with next-generation ballistic materials, generated enthusiastic discussion and insight from Todd about the potential advanced materials offer to increase protection across a wide range of Soldier applications.
“For the average Soldier, I think material sciences will provide the biggest gains in basic protection,” said Todd. “If I could spend a dollar and achieve twice the benefit from advanced composites on any of these protection items, I’d do it today.”
During a stop at the Design and Pattern Prototype Studio, Army clothing designers showcased a dozen uniform and clothing items designed specifically for female Soldiers and service members. The items included the Nursing T-Shirt, the Women’s Army Green Service Uniform (AGSU), the Female Ballistic Combat Shirt (BCS), the Female Urinary Diversion Device (FUDD), the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV)- Female, Block Patterns for Female Uniforms, as well as prototypes of the Army Physical Fitness Uniform (APFU)-Maternity, the Individual Hot Weather Clothing Uniform (IHWCU)-Female, the Advanced Aircrew Combat Uniform-Female, and the Army Physical Fitness/Army Tactical Bra.
The most visible change since Todd commanded the mission is the construction of the Soldier and Squad Performance Research Institute, or S2PRINT, building, an 80,600-square-foot facility dedicated to human performance research to measure, predict, and optimize individual Soldier and small unit readiness, performance, and resiliency. S2PRINT will allow the Army and other Department of Defense and government agencies to collaborate with the nation’s leading industrial partners, universities, and first responders to enhance the performance and resiliency of American warfighters.
The tour finished up with stops at the Combat Feeding Division for the latest ration developments, the Aerial Delivery Division for Design and Fabrication efforts, and the Doriot Climatic Chambers, where Todd saw the latest Chemical Biological Ensembles and Cold Weather equipment designed by Soldier Center.
“The character of Natick is beyond reproach,” said Todd. “Soldier Center is a national treasure and we must continue investing in it.”