PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- There was standing room only as hundreds of employees from the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) gathered in the Lindner Conference Center Dec. 15 for the first town hall meeting hosted by their new leader.

Starting his new role at Picatinny this summer, ARDEC Director Dr. Gerardo Melendez greeted the workforce, explained his organizational observations and goals, answered questions from employees and presented a slew of awards to some high-achieving scientists.

Among Melendez's goals for ARDEC was to continue Picatinny's rich involvement with the community.

"We have the strongest sense of community here that I've seen in any other organizations," he said, referencing the community Haunted House and the Frog Falls Aquatic Park partnership with Rockaway Township and neighboring boroughs.

"It has been an eye-opener, that even though we are a defense installation doing work that is considered dangerous and classified in some instances, that we can open up to the community and have them take part with us in some of our extracurricular activities," he said.

Melendez also emphasized ARDEC's enterprise processes and best practices as building blocks toward a "materiel enterprise."

"Weapons, energetics, fire control and logistics - all those missions need to work together to create a set of capabilities for the warfighter," he said. "For that reason, we have to work as an enterprise. We have processes and best practices in place to help us achieve that. This idea of the enterprise within ARDEC is one that I'm going to continue to push and foster, and I will use whatever tools I have available to push it even further."

He referenced the "three-legged stool" partnership between ARDEC, the Program Executive Office for Ammunition (PEO Ammo) and the Joint Munitions and Lethality Lifecycle Management Command - all headquartered at Picatinny and all valuable organizations to the lifecycle of the Army's ammunition.

Because of ARDEC's close relationships with PEO Ammo and the JM&L, Melendez strives to transform ARDEC's ammunition capability into the "poster child" for the Army's materiel enterprise concept.

Systems engineering was also a hot topic. The Army science and technology community is continuing to develop more integrated, holistic capabilities, in which system engineering is an important component.

ARDEC has been designated by its parent command, the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) as the executive agent for establishing and instilling systems engineering best practices and principles throughout the command.

----------Scientists honored for outstanding contributions----------

Among the awards presented, Melendez recognized ARDEC team member Mark Oetken for receiving the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award, the highest ranking joint civilian service award under the approval authority of the Combatant Commanders and head of joint organizations. Any higher award would require approval of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Secretary of Defense.

Oetken was presented the award Nov. 13 in Kabul, Afghanistan, by Marine Col. Peter Ferraro, Operations Director for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. The award was presented to Oetken on behalf of Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Forces Afghanistan and International Security Assistance Force commander, and Maj. Gen. Tim McHale, Director of Personnel, Logistics and Resources, Multi-National Force-Iraq.

The award recognizes Oetken for his civilian service as chief scientist in the Science and Technology Office, Headquarters, US Forces-Afghanistan during protracted combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from June 2010 to December 2010.

During his deployment, Oetken provided technical support for hundreds of systems and was crucial to transitioning and fielding new technologies. He was also instrumental in ensuring the selection and delivery of a $480.77 million wide area surveillance technologies package for the ISAF commander.

Other awards presented at the town hall were the 2009 Army Research and Development Achievement Awards. Twenty-nine ARDEC scientists were awarded plaques for eight projects. In total, the Army awarded R&D Achievement Awards to 41 project teams this year from research organizations throughout the Army.

The winning projects and scientists are:

1. I-20 Expedient Materiel Solution Development for the Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Survivability Armor Technology Objective
Richard Fong, LaMar Thompson, Robert Koch

2. Lethal Unmanned Aerial System
Barry Schwartz, Lloyd Khuc, Velan Mudaliar, Mark E. Wessel, Atmin Purohit

3. Dual Color Optical Retroscope
Paul Willson, V. Swaminathan, Gabriel Chan, Maj. Brian E Souhan, Deepak Bupathi

4. The Advance Hardened Combined Effects Warhead for the Medium Range Munition
Jeffrey Kraft, David Pfau, Daniel Suarez

5. Implementation of Reduced Sensitivity Explosives to Replace TNT and Composition B
Sanjeev Singh, Philip Samuels, Anthony DiStasio, Chandrark Patel

6. NOL-130G: The First Lead-Free STAB Initiation Mixture
The Team: Neha Mehta, Karl D. Oyler, Gartung Cheng, Emily Cordaro

7. Explosive Bonding and Machining Technologies
Frank Campo, Mark Miller, William de Rosse

8. Energy Harvesting Electronic Round Counter
Mark A. Johnson, Mark A. Doxbeck