By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOMJanuary 24, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 24,2012) -- American Soldiers deployed across Afghanistan are asking questions and making suggestions about their equipment, weapons and vehicles to U.S. Army scientists at Bagram Airfield.
The Army launched the Soldier Technology Suggestion Portal Aug. 25, 2011, to enable feedback through an Army Knowledge Online website.
Sgt. Maj. Matt DeLay, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, spent six months in 2011 traveling across Afghanistan talking directly with Soldiers about their concerns with technology gaps.
DeLay told Soldiers about the portal and capabilities of the RDECOM Field Assistance in Science and Technology-Center, or RFAST-C, at Bagram Airfield. RFAST-C is composed of civilian engineers and technicians, as well as Soldiers, who are providing scientific solutions directly in theater.
"We've been marketing the portal. Here is a problem -- here is a solution -- let's fix it. We've been promoting that across the board," said DeLay, a 23-year Infantryman.
DeLay traveled to 27 of 193 combat outposts in Afghanistan and Regional Commands East, West and North to meet with as many Soldiers as possible. The portal's target audience is all Soldiers, whether enlisted or officers, DeLay said.
"I met with Regional Command commanders, sergeants major, battalion commanders and brigade commanders. I gave out brochures and cards," DeLay said. "I briefed first sergeants and Soldiers. I took Soldiers through the process."
"Let's get on a [Secret Internet Protocol Router Network] computer. Here's how you do it. Slowly but surely, it's catching on," he said.
RFAST-C's civilian executive officer monitors the portal for incoming messages and then forwards the question or suggestion to an engineer. The engineer responds to the Soldier.
If the RFAST-C engineering team is not able to help the Soldier, it contacts a colleague in the United States for reach-back assistance through military research and development centers, industry or academia.
Most of the feedback has been about a Soldier's kit, specifically uniform and weapons questions, DeLay said.
To access the portal, Soldiers can go to the RDECOM Web site at www.army.mil/rdecom. Click the link, "Soldier Technology Suggestion Portal," in the left-hand column to obtain an AKO address. Technology questions, ideas or suggestions must be submitted through a SIPRNET terminal.