ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- American Soldiers serving in Afghanistan face fresh challenges at every turn. But a team of Army technology and engineering experts is now making headway by turning those challenges into opportunities.

In January the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command started positioning civilian engineers, technologists and specialists in the same time zone as America's Warfighters to listen to problems and brainstorm solutions.

The RDECOM Field Assistance in Science and Technology Center is now located at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Whether it is making existing equipment work under new conditions, or researching how emerging technologies might improve operations, the Army is putting the right people where they need to be.

"The benefits we get from this experience is direct engagement with the Warfighters," civilian physicist Michael Fields said. "It helps us to understand the challenges they face as they work to complete their missions, and we gain a better understanding of how to generate new capabilities to meet those challenges."

Before volunteering to deploy to Afghanistan, Fields was an RDECOM physicist for the U.S. Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Forward-deployed technology experts like Fields have a deep reach into the RDECOM laboratories and research centers located in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Alabama.

The command has more than 13,000 civilian scientists, engineers and technology experts working on empowering, unburdening and protecting America's Warfighters.

"One of the projects I've worked on here has been conducting a literature review and authoring a comprehensive and current summary of solar power technology," Field said. "Hopefully this will contribute to an emerging operational energy initiative for the Department of Defense."

Fields has been able to work through several key requests during his six-month deployment. His background includes bachelor's and master's degrees in applied physics and now first-hand experience in the field working with Soldiers.

Fields left Afghanistan September 7 and will return to an RDECOM research laboratory in Virginia.

"Some challenges involve understanding and navigating through the process of engagement in addressing Warfighters' concerns about capability gaps with their equipment," Fields said. "The overall experience, though not without its challenges, has been rewarding and very educational."