A pair of identical twin brothers from Maine, accustomed to challenging themselves and their exotic equipment and then airing the results on television, found much to their liking in a Sept. 13 visit to the Natick Soldier Systems Center. Geoff and Mike Howe, stars of "Howe and Howe Tech" on the Discovery Channel, came to Natick with a crew to film an episode featuring the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) expected to air in November.

The brothers - best known for developing the "Ripsaw," the world's fastest unmanned ground vehicle - toured the Thermal Test Facility (TTF), the Soldier Systems Integration Lab (SSIL) and the Doriot Climatic Chambers. "We've been to a ton of (research and development) labs," Geoff said. "I must say that my visit here in Natick is by far one of my favorite visits. Personally, everybody is wonderful and extremely professional here. I'm completely blown away and impressed."

At the TTF, the Howes observed a CO2 laser demonstration meant to simulate the thermal blast of an improvised explosive device. Later, they watched a full-scale flame test on a uniformed-mannequin, simulating a Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) fire.

Then it was on to the SSIL, where the Howes saw how small combat units learn in a virtual environment to shoot, move and communicate.

A stop by the climatic chambers provided the most hands-on experiences of the day for Geoff, who donned a helmet and body armor and joined Soldiers running on treadmills in both the arctic and tropic test chambers. On camera, Geoff joked about the 30-degree temperature in the arctic chamber.

"It's like July, in Maine," Geoff said. "It's not a big deal." After a brief rest from the cold, Geoff put the gear back on and entered the tropic chamber, 70 degrees warmer than the other and with more than 50 percent humidity. He emerged from the chamber a short time later showing the effects of the effort.

"As a civilian, it's humbling," Geoff said. "When you watch ... our Soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever it may be, and they are laden down by this combat gear, you don't know how labor intensive it is. I didn't know. "It blew me away. I lasted 2 A,A1/2 minutes (in the heat) on a 15-degree treadmill. Typically, I can do a treadmill for an hour. It's profound and eye opening, and I think that every citizen out there should know what it's like. It's incredible. I'm glad I did it."

Turning to Sgt. Maj. John Poff of NSSC and NSRDEC, Geoff said: "It's good, sergeant major, that the U.S. Army has Natick and this facility to be able to test these uniforms and different devices and apparatus."

"The whole mission of Natick Soldier Systems Center," replied Poff, "is to help empower, unburden and protect the American war fighter on the battlefield."

Like Geoff, Mike clearly came away impressed by what he had seen at Natick. "It was a fantastic experience for me and Geoff to come down here and see that the Army's developing, in multiple lanes, technology that's good for the Soldier," Mike said. "We are humbled and honored to be down here on such a prestigious and professional base. It's been great."