WARREN, Mich. -- Being warfighter focused is more than just a catch phrase. At the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, the warfighter is central to every mission.

A group of 37 noncommissioned officers from across the command, laboratories and research center met for an intense professional development event at to the U.S. Army Tank, Automotive, Research, Development and Engineering Center March 7-11. The group engaged scientists and engineers discussing the ever-changing technological needs and requirements of today's Warfighter.

Officials said the main purpose of the program is to help NCOs become innovative, competent and professional enlisted leaders. The program champions career learning and embodies the Army values and the warrior ethos.

Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Marin, the senior NCO for the command, said the NCOPD is even more significancant for RDECOM Soldiers because at some point, most will be forward deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan as a member of a Science and Technology Advisory Team.

"These trips familiarize our NCOs with how the labs and research and engineering centers operate, and will help them facilitate the transfer of critical information from the front lines back to our scientists and engineers," he said. "This allows us to deliver the very best technology-enabled solutions to the Warfighter."

Marin entered the U.S. Army in 1981 as a way to give something back to the country.

"I was only planning to stay in the Army for four years, but it soon turned into 30," he said.

Marin serves as the senior enlisted advisor for RDECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, and a mentor to the Soldiers in his charge. RDECOM is responsible for the Army's basic and applied research and technology development, and has eight major laboratories and research, development and engineering centers across the country, which includes TARDEC.

"We are enhancing our capabilities to support the Warfighter, and becoming more of an operational command over time, " Marron said. "Having RDECOM NCOs embedded with the forward deployed sustainment and equipping forces will help synchronize RDECOM's efforts with the needs and requirements of the Warfighters."

During the tour, the Soldiers got their hands on the latest robotics technology at TARDEC's Joint Center for Robotics. Located at the Detroit Arsenal, TARDEC serves as the ground systems integrator for all Department of Defense manned and unmanned ground vehicle systems, and has roots dating back to the World War II era.

"I grew up in Michigan, and was always curious about what they did at this installation, " said Spec. Bernard Quackenbush, an Avionics Mechanic at the Army Research Lab in White Sands N.M. "It's interesting to see how the work here affects the rest of the Army."

The group also visited some of TARDEC's industry partners. One was a defense contractor that specializes in military equipment and hardware, and the other was a racing team with advanced automotive engineering and systems integration capabilities.

"I'm very surprised to learn that the Army partners with industry," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Seltzer, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Specialist at Picatinny Arsenal, N. J. "You wouldn't think they would partner with a race team, but when you stop to consider all the research and effort that goes into making a race car run better, it makes sense."

The Army research and development community routinely partners with industry through the competitive bid process. Leveraging the technology of industry partners helps avoid duplication of effort, saves money, and brings new technology to the Warfighter faster. In many cases, an industry partner can log significantly more test miles on commercial vehicles than the Army ever could on a military application.

On March 11, RDECOM G-3 Sgt. Maj. Matthew DeLay briefed the group on plans to develop and standardize future NCO professional development training. Each Soldier completed a questionnaire asking for input and suggestions on how to improve the program.

"There's always something different coming back, info-wise, from these sessions, because the mission is always changing," DeLay said. "We are always looking toward the future, and adapting our training to meet Warfighter needs."

Major Gen. Nick Justice conducted a sensing session with the group on the final day as well, asking for candid Soldier input. "There's a lot of experience in this room, and you guys represent a cross section of the Army, " he told the Soldiers. "Having you in the labs and centers is very important, because I want all my engineers and scientists to smell the gun smoke and diesel fuel under your care. Our focus is, and always will be the Warfighter."