By Mr John D Harlow, Natick (for Soldiers magazine)October 1, 2011
THE Natick Soldier Systems Center provides the science behind the Soldier.
It's the only place in the world that is totally focused on the Soldier. This is what the folks at the NSSC in Massachusetts focus on every day. They answer questions like, "How can we give Soldiers all the nutrients they need while operating at high altitudes in the mountains of Afghanistan," and "How can we lighten the load of a foot Soldier on patrol in Iraq?" At Natick, it's all about the Soldier.
The four tenant units at Natick--the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center; the U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine; Program Manager Field Sustainment and the Integrated Logistics Support Center--provide Soldiers a broad range of support. If a Soldier wears it, eats it, sleeps under it or has it airdropped to them, it is researched and developed on the 78-acre campus.
"We're excited to show the work we do for the Soldier to the Soldier," said Brig. Gen. John McGuiness, the commanding general of NSSC. "There are projects we are working on here that are already in theater to help make things easier on our Soldiers."
It is the NSRDEC's mission to maximize the warfighter's survivability, sustainability, mobility, combat effectiveness and field quality of life by treating the warfighter as a system. The NSRDEC, led by Dr. John Obusek, adds value to the Soldier through technology generation, application and transition, enabling rapid fielding of the right equipment, Soldier systems technology integration and transition, and the ability to solve field problems quickly.
The USARIEM, led by Col. Gaston Bathalon, conducts biomedical research to improve and sustain warfighter health and performance under all imaginable conditions. It is internationally recognized as both the center of excellence for warfighter performance science and useful applications, and a world-class laboratory for environmental medicine, physiology, performance and nutrition research.
"USARIEM serves a unique role in the Department of Defense," said Bathalon. "In no other single location will you find the collection of expertise in Soldier performance and sustainment that we maintain here at Natick. The work conducted by the professionals here helps Soldiers in every aspect of their daily lives, from the food they eat, to the way they exercise, to the uniforms they wear and the equipment they carry.
"Ultimately, our presence and the work we do is a testament to the commitment of the Army and the Department of Defense to the welfare of our servicemembers. And USARIEM's outstanding scientists, Soldiers and support staff (are) proud to be engaged in supporting that mission."
The ILSC, led by Michael Ahearn, provides innovative, robust and streamlined total life cycle logistics and materiel readiness support to warfighters throughout the DOD.
"The ILSC's acquisition and technology partners at Natick develop the most advanced warfighter technologies ever fielded," said Matt Cooke, Team Leader, Soldier Support Systems, TACOM ILSC. "Without proper logistics, however, those technologies are unsupportable in the field and would thereby be quickly rendered useless. The ILSC creates synergy with its acquisition and technology counterparts at Natick by developing and providing cost effective and efficient logistics support throughout every phase of a weapon system's life cycle.
"ILSC logisticians begin working on new acquisition programs prior to milestone A, contributing to the development of requirements documents and life-cycle sustainment plans," Cooke continued. "As systems are developed and fielded, the ILSC continues to partner, ensuring that all logistics elements are in place throughout the life cycle. The ILSC also procures and distributes both the end item and spare parts directly to the warfighter. This enables Natick-developed equipment to be supported and sustained for the duration of its life cycle, maximizing Soldier lethality and survivability."
Three PMs conduct business at Natick. Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment provides comfortable uniforms that enhance mission effectiveness. These products protect against manmade threats such as fire and biological/chemical agents, as well as environmental threats such as extreme weather conditions. PM-SCIE also provides improved parachute systems.
Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems enhances the combat effectiveness and quality of life for the Soldier by providing equipment, systems and technical support to sustain and improve the environments in which they live, train and operate.
Program Manager for Special Operation Forces Survival, Support and Equipment Systems is a full-service program management office that manages the development, acquisition and fielding, and full life-cycle sustainment of SOF-unique individual equipment to ensure the success of the joint unconventional mission.
NSSC also houses the U.S. Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility and the Coast Guard Clothing Design and Technical office, as well as members of the Air Force and Marine Corps.
Nearly 2,000 employees conduct research, development, acquisition and sustainment to maximize combat effectiveness and survivability of servicemembers. The employees are focused daily on making the world better for Soldiers. The people who comprise the center's workforce are professionals in fields ranging from aerospace to zoology, and hold a combined 103 doctorates, 198 masters' and 312 bachelors' degrees, and two are medical doctors.
The center not only uses the resources of its highly educated workforce to better equip Soldiers, it collaborates with the education centers surrounding the installation: More than 200 accredited academic institutions in New England partner with the NSSC to support servicemembers. The economic impact in the Boston area is nearly $400 million.
The facilities at NSSC are unique and highly specialized. On the small peninsula, you can find the Doriot Climatic Chambers, Altitude Chamber, Hydro-Environmental Chamber, Soldier Performance Science Center, Biomechanics Lab, 3-D Anthropometric Lab, CIE Fightability Course, Bone Health Lab, Materials Science Lab, Camouflage Analysis and Demo Lab, Airdrop Certification Test Facility, Textile Testing facilities, Thermal Test Facility, High Performance Fiber Facility and Polymer Film Center of Excellence, where research results in superior technology for the warfighter.
Not only is NSSC committed to providing today's Soldiers with the best equipment possible, its professionals also keep their eyes on the future. Through the Science Technology Engineering and Math outreach partnership, NSSC has partnered with the Massachusetts Governor's Council, MetroWest STEM Education Network, Massachusetts High Tech Council Initiative, Navy and Air Force Outreach, Federal Laboratory Consortium, the Women in Science and Engineering program and the MassBioEd Foundation to bring in the next generation of engineers to support Soldiers of the future.