NATICK, Mass. -- During a recent orientation visit to the U.S Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Soldier Center, General James E. Rainey, commanding general of U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC), emphasized that valuing the organization’s people is his top priority. As the leader of AFC, Rainey has more than 17,000 employees under his charge.
The visit —which included a full day of meetings, briefings, technology demonstrations, and tours of Soldier Center’s unique research and development laboratories and testing facilities housed across the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center’s 78-acre installation — was Rainey’s first to Natick since assuming command of AFC in October 2022.
Rainey was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Tracy Rainey, and a group of his senior staff members, including AFC Command Sergeant Major Brian Hester, who visited the center separately back in January. Brig. Gen. John M. Cushing, commanding general of DEVCOM, also attended.
The morning session included a Soldier Center overview brief, tours of the Combat Feeding Division’s pilot kitchen, where he saw the latest ration research and development efforts, the newly constructed Soldier Squad Performance Research Institute, or S2PRINT, facility, and an update by the Aerial Delivery Division on the Squad Operations Advanced Resupply (SOAR) effort.
Rainey took time to meet and eat lunch with the center’s Human Research Volunteer (HRV) Soldiers in their newly renovated dining facility. HRVs are new Soldiers who volunteer for a 90-day temporary duty assignment serving as the center’s in-house subjects for human performance-related research.
Rainey stopped at the center’s Roller Test Facility, which features a platform that replicates the roller and rail systems used in C-130 and C-17 aircraft to deliver cargo airdrops, enabling researchers to test and evaluate aerial delivery technologies while collecting data in a safe, controlled environment on the ground.
Rainey and his staff also watched a demonstration of the onsite, 33-foot-high, drop-test tower. During the demonstration, engineers conducted a simulated airdrop impact test of the Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, an unmanned vehicle capable of auto offloading and transporting gear and supplies in the field alongside infantry Soldiers.
Throughout the visit, Rainey witnessed the expertise, professionalism, and dedication of Soldier Center’s workforce, comprised of people steadfastly committed to their critical mission of providing innovative science and technology solutions that optimize Soldier-performance.
Rainey shared his belief in the importance of supporting and taking care of people during an afternoon town hall meeting with the center’s employees.
“If you don't have good people who feel valued and care about each other, then you can have all the priorities you want and none of them are going to happen,” said Rainey. “That’s why people must come first.”
“We do a lot of important work transforming the Army, but there's never any given day where one person is going to make or break our mission,” said Rainey.
“That's because we're deep and we have a lot of talent. So, I tell you, that if you need to be somewhere for yourself, your own medical concerns, or your family, your kids, your parents, your spouse, then I want everybody on this team to feel that that's OK.”
“All the anxiety comes from the things you're worried about and just knowing that your teammates and your boss and your friends are going to be there for you if you need them is key. Because what I've found is just knowing that's an option reduces about 50% of the stress.”
“So, if you don't remember anything else that we say here today, you should remember that we got your back.”
Rainey went on to underscore AFC’s purpose and explain his strategic vision for the command’s second and third top priorities.
“The reason we [AFC] exist is to transform the Army to ensure war-winning future readiness. That’s it. That’s our why, that’s our purpose,” said Rainey. “And we do that by prioritizing people, designing the Army of 2040, and delivering the Army of 2030.”
“We're the best army in the world right now and we want that statement to be as true in 2025, 2030, and 2040, and that requires us continuing to transform the Army to ensure war-winning future readiness,” said Rainey.
Rainey visited the Doriot Climatic Chambers, where Subject Matter Experts briefed a static display of cold weather uniform and equipment items, chemical-biological protection equipment, Soldier/Squad Power initiatives, and the Soldier-Borne Sensor technology.
The afternoon included stops at the Load Carriage Lab for a look at the latest rucksack designs and individual combat equipment prototypes, followed by the Low-Velocity Impact and Ballistics Labs to see the historical and recent advancements in helmet and ballistic plate technologies.
Ultimately, Rainey’s visit and remarks reinforced Soldier Center’s role in AFC’s mission and reaffirmed who they are serving.
“It's up to us to transform and the stuff that I saw here today, the things that you are working on are transformational,” said Rainey. “And it’s always about those men and women who joined the Army and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
About DEVCOM Soldier Center: The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’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. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers are also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. 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.