By David McNally (U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Public Affairs)July 26, 2011
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- After carefully reviewing nomination packets for the most innovative advances in Army technology, a group of 10 Soldiers cast their votes for the Army's Greatest Inventions in a panel July 21.
Two panels of Soldiers, one made up of noncommissioned officers and another of field-grade officers are deciding what technologies have made the biggest impact in the field.
Army officials said the unique selection process reflects the voice of the Warfighter and insight into the future of Army equipment. "The AGI awards are truly Soldier Choice Awards," said Katie Zoller, program coordinator.
The Soldiers are helping choose the greatest Army inventions for the year not only found out about new technologies, they found out where the idea for most of it comes from -- the Soldiers themselves.
"I knew that new tech was being sent to the field on a rapid basis, but I was not aware that we had this kind of influence on what was sent out and when," said Sgt. 1st Class Lafonte Bennett, a panel judge and noncommissioned officer assigned to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
Army Warfighters judged each nomination's importance and impact based on their field experience. Army officials said the results of these panels are critical to the success of this program.
"It opened my eyes to the fact that there are a lot of people who dedicate many resources to improving the Army by getting better or modified equipment in the hands of Soldiers so we can be more effective as a fighting force," said Sgt. 1st Class Stanley J. Smith, a panel judge and analyst at the Communications-Electronic Research, Development and Engineering Center. "It wasn't very difficult for me to decide the inventions that were the best because while all the inventions were great, some stood out because of the impact they have or will have for a large amount of Soldiers."
The Army’s Greatest Inventions program recognizes the need for innovative technological ideas and systems to help in the fight.
"When we voted, we looked for a couple of things," Bennett said. "Could it be used Army-wide or just for a special group? Did we have something similar in the field already? We also considered if it help the Warfighter or be more of a hassle to use."
The Army Materiel Command started the annual Army-wide awards program in 2003 to recognize the Army’s greatest inventions for each calendar year. Nominations were submitted from the research and development community, including the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, U.S. Army Research Institute, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command and AMC.
Previous top inventions have ranged from a solar-powered portable power system to a new grenade launcher.
"I've never heard a Soldier say that nothing changes because that's all I've seen in my 11 years of service," Bennett said. "I’ve seen changes in the uniforms and weapons, and even the new packs we use to carry equipment."
Officials hope the awards program enhances communications and esprit de corps between the Warfighter and research and development communities while showcasing winning technologies selected by the Warfighter that satisfy Army goals.
In 2009 the Army expanded the program to include the Soldiers Greatest Invention Awards to recognize Soldiers for exemplary efforts to enhance their fellow Warfighters' equipment and performance. This is the first year the panels received nominations in this category.
Winners will be announced soon and later recognized at the annual Association of the United States Army convention in October.