Forty Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center employees got a rare treat Aug. 17 -- the chance to ride in a Black Hawk helicopter to Fort Devens and see the Base Camp Systems Integration Lab (SIL) to get a small taste of what it is like to be a Soldier.

"What a great day to experience what it's like to be an airborne Soldier," said Dr. Jack Obusek, NSRDEC director. "This is an incredible opportunity to make a connection with what Soldiers do and what we do."

After taking helicopter rides provided by the Massachusetts National Guard, employees gathered around a small-scale model of the "Force Provider" base camp at the SIL, where they received an overview of the camp and its purpose.

"This provides a slice of home," said Mike Hope, Combat Field Service Equipment Team leader for Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems.

While at the site, employees took small group tours of nine different stations on base conducted by subject-matter experts of the various systems, such as power systems/micro grid, hygiene, and next-generation billeting systems.

"This gave the workforce an opportunity for scientists and engineers to get exposed to both the military system setting up a base camp as well as exposure to the risks associated," said Maj. Brian Meekins. "This gives the scientists and engineers a context and frame of reference in order for them to be able to do more in the future."

During the tours, employees had the opportunity to ask questions and gain a better understanding of the different systems and how they might be able to assist with work in the future.

"Seeing what is current or soon to be helps (us) to see where things are moving and what area we need to look towards," said Robert Stote.

Employees also watched a sling-load demonstration and ate Unitized Group Ration-Express ration samples for lunch. In short, they spent a little time viewing the world through the Soldier's eyes.

"While the Black Hawk trip up was the most fun, seeing and understanding how a base camp functions is an invaluable experience," said Dr. Romy Kirby. "It will help us as we move forward in our research and think about what is needed out in theater. On some level, all employees would benefit from such an experience."

Everyone who participated in the event gained a better understanding of what life must be like for a Soldier.

"Being here opened my eyes to what's going on," said Dr. Dawn Nida. "Even when you're doing work in a lab environment, it's necessary to remember the mission. This brings us in contact with the mission."