REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Nov. 28, 2022) – For the teams of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center engineers, their trip to the Mojave Desert was a transformative experience.
The National Training Center, in San Bernadino County, California, is the U.S. Army’s marquee training location for its armored brigade combat teams. In 2022, DEVCOM AvMC Chief of Staff Steve Fisher began an initiative to send personnel to NTC to get a firsthand look at what goes into being a Soldier and how those Soldiers interact with AvMC-created technology.
Needless to say, the workforce jumped at the chance.
“I was excited,” said Quintessa Thomas, MH-60 subject matter expert for the Special Operations Aircraft Division in AvMC’s Systems Readiness Directorate. “Excited, because I regularly interface with green suiters and this was another avenue to understand how my work impacts them. Witnessing what they have to do to prepare for warfare and how the air and ground forces interface is amazing to see in action. You sit behind the desk, you look at the design for a specific system or component and to actually see how it’s used during (pseudo) combat… yes, I was excited.”
For Chasely Goodman, advance prototyping engineering and experimentation computer scientist and lab lead in AvMC’s Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, the trip was an opportunity to gain a better understanding of how their work fits into the larger Army picture and learn more about the operational environment while identifying gaps.
“We saw a live fire test event that was part of a field training exercise,” Goodman said. “We observed and asked questions related to how NTC supports their training events. We also were able to meet with different groups in the field and gather a better understanding of how they utilize the technology that AvMC develops.”
The experience was not simply observing from an air-conditioned control room. The engineers were on the range with the intention of having the closest experience to the Soldier as possible.
“It was cool from start to finish – from putting that helmet and tactical vest on,” Thomas said. “Seeing the camaraderie and how they have to move like a well-oiled machine. Everybody has a job and they have to do that job right.”
For Amy Anton, SRD software airworthiness engineer, not only was it an opportunity to interact with Soldiers but also fellow AvMC team members from other directorates, people she would not normally come into contact with.
“Our first day we did the tours of the labs,” Anton said. “That was neat to see how they track them in the field where each one of them is, and then they do a briefing at the end – ‘here's what you did, here's what you can do better,’” she said. “The unit that is out there is Black Horse and then you've got your visiting units that is competing against Black Horse. Of course, Black Horse knows everything, but the visiting units get that feedback on how to operate better.”
The excitement that the engineers felt was mutual amongst the Soldiers, Thomas said, noting that “they took the time to explain which equipment functions were most useful to them and what capabilities they needed more of. They took pride in what they were doing and were very appreciative that the engineers wanted to hear their feedback.”
The AvMC teammates all agreed that it is imperative for Army scientists and engineers to have Soldier-centric, hands-on experiences like they had at NTC.
“There is no substitute for warfighter feedback,” Goodman said. “It is instant feedback on work that is being done to better prepare them for the future. Warfighters will often give a whole new perspective on a problem. Beyond that, working and interacting with Soldiers is inspiring, which will drive us to come up with the best solutions possible.”