In a ceremony held Feb. 16 at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, Dr. John P. "Jack" Obusek assumed responsibility as director of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center and was appointed to the Senior Executive Service.

"I'm happy to be here because I want to make a difference for Soldiers," Obusek told the audience at NSSC's Hunter Auditorium. "As a former Soldier and as a father of a Soldier, it's very personal to me.

"Know from whence I come. Know the framework that I bring to the table. Whatever we do, we're going to be focused on Soldiers and delivering the capability to them."

Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commander of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, presided over the ceremony.

"By honoring Jack as we install him as our tech director ... we also honor you, the people who make up the Natick Soldier Systems Center," Justice said. "Thank you very much for your contribution to the uniform I wear, the boots on my feet, to the wet-weather gear that keeps me warm - everything that makes me a Soldier."

Obusek succeeds Dr. Marilyn Freeman, NSRDEC director from October 2007 to July 2010. Freeman is now the Army's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

A retired Army colonel, Obusek will be in charge of NSRDEC's 800-person workforce. Previously, he had served as NSRDEC's associate director, responsible for strategic plans and programs. Prior to that, he was chief of NSRDEC's Human Systems Integration and Sciences Division.

"I look out into the audience and I see many of you I've worked with on a day-to-day basis," Obusek said. "I'm honored in the trust placed in me, and I pledge to give it my all, but I can't do it alone.

"Together, we're going to take Natick to new heights, and we're going to make Natick continue to be a strong contributor to the Army and our nation. So, together, let's go forward and do great things."

Both Justice and Obusek stressed the importance of mentoring the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

"That is a way to defend our nation, is to grow the next generation of kids who would take your place," Justice said. "And if you don't grow them, who will'"

"It makes me think back to those who have mentored me along the way, some of (whom) are here today," Obusek said. "I challenge everyone in this room to look around and see who you can mentor. I think it's a very critical aspect of what we do."

Obusek also urged his workforce to build on the organization's past.

"NSRDEC's got a storied history, over 50 years of developing technology in support of our nation's most precious asset - our sons and daughters," Obusek said. "But we can't rest on our laurels. We've got to continue to drive innovation, and let's keep it focused on empowering, unburdening and protecting that very precious asset."