FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Army Secretary John McHugh toured research and development facilities here, March 15. The Army's senior civilian leader received briefings and hands-on time with high-tech gear, including night-vision devices, next generation batteries, extremely accurate mortar rounds, explosive device detection gear and the latest recipes for Soldier cuisine in the field.

During his brief visit to the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Night Vision and Electronic Sensor facility, the secretary put M-16 rifle rounds on target in near complete darkness using a night vision device. The 90-meter indoor range offers complete control over light conditions.

Staff Sgt. Milinda Williams helped prepare the range for the secretary's visit. "I think he will see what the Soldiers are using over in theater," she said. "He will see how Soldiers are able to function at night, and be able to surprise the enemy, and not be surprised by the enemy."

McHugh became the Secretary of the Army Sept. 21. He is responsible for the Department of the Army's annual budget and supplemental of more than $200 billion. Many of his questions to the technology subject matter experts were about of cost and capabilities.

Across the nation, RDECOM scientists, engineers and researchers are working on developing cutting edge technology.

"We deliver timely, innovative, integrated solutions to modernize and sustain a dominant Army," said Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, RDECOM commanding general. "We define the art of the possible."

Justice, and Army Materiel Command Commanding General Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, accompanied the Secretary on his visit. McHugh spent time at each technology demonstration, listening to briefings and asking questions.

"I work on lightening the load for Soldiers," said Joseph Patterson, a requirements analyst with Natick Soldier Systems Research and Development Center. Patterson briefed the Secretary on what Natick scientists and engineers are doing to help the Soldier in the field.

"I told the Secretary we're not only lightening the Soldier's load, but we're looking at alternative ways to smartly integrate battery technology so we can maximize his fighting load real estate, instead of sucking up valuable real estate with brick batteries," Patterson said. "I'd say that he looked at the form factors and he definitely thought that this form of battery needs continued exploration."

The Secretary saw integrated solutions that are already fielded, helping Soldiers and saving lives. Officials said the purpose of today's visit was to keep senior Army leaders informed and help in the decision-making process.