ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., Sept. 8, 2011 -- When it comes to developing a high-tech solution to a technical problem, the Army turns to professional researchers, engineers and scientists at labs and research centers across the nation. But with Soldiers serving many time zones away, this is often a challenge -- especially when an immediate solution is needed.
Since January, the Army has been establishing a "technology think tank" where the troops need it most: Afghanistan.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, with its headquarters here, has Prototype Integration Facilities, or PIFs, at installations in Maryland, New Jersey, Michigan and Alabama.
By moving a small cell of personnel, equipment and expertise to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, RDECOM is attempting to better serve warfighters by removing time and distance barriers.
"I think the PIF will offer the warfighter immediate interface with the science and technology community to address capability gaps," Army civilian engineer Scott Smith said.
Smith wanted to be front and center of the Army's effort to bring technology solutions to Soldiers. He's nearly completed his six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan and will soon return to Warren, Mich., where he works at the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.
"I responded to a solicitation and volunteered to deploy toward the goal of setting up a forward fabrication facility," Smith said. "The warfighter will be able to effectively drive up to the front door of the PIF, work with engineers and technicians to formulate a solution and have it built quickly."
The Army's stateside PIFs provide turnkey solutions for prototype development, manufacturing, systems integration, modification, experimentation and subsystem and system testing. As they are government owned and government operated, they keep costs low and remain focused on meeting warfighter needs.
A PIF's goal is to produce results as quickly as possible for the lowest cost. Army officials at the RDECOM Field Assistance in Science and Technology, or RFAST, Center said they hope to bring that capability online at Bagram Airfield soon.
"I see immense value in having the RFAST remain focused on the PIF," Smith said. "between theatre and stateside facilities."
Smith is a former Soldier and Desert Storm veteran. He served in the active-duty Army for five years, and the Army Reserve for five years. His background as a truck mechanic and his education -- a bachelor's and master's degree in mechanical engineering -- give him the skills to bring technology solutions that are Soldier-focused.
"I have been able get organizations to work together to bring capabilities to the warfighter," he said. "Our customers are happy to get needed capabilities. Personally I think working with Soldiers kicks ass."