The Natick Soldier Systems Center senior commander served as the keynote speaker Jan. 27 at the TD Bank Breakfast Series held by the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce at the Courtyard by Marriott in Natick.

Brigadier General John J. McGuiness spoke to chamber members about the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, NSSC, and doing business with the Army.

"I do appreciate the opportunity to come and visit with you today," McGuiness said. "It's important to just get the word out and be able to interact."

McGuiness pointed out that everything at Natick is done with the idea of empowering, unburdening and protecting the war fighter.

"We are the Army's labs and scientists and engineers," McGuiness said. "And we are looking out to the future. So when you say, 'What's next in the Army?' That's what we do. Our Soldiers depend on that."

War, said McGuiness, is "a game of cat and mouse. As things constantly evolve, we want to make sure that we have the latest in terms of science and technology available to Soldiers."

As McGuiness pointed out, reducing the burden on Soldiers is among Natick's most important areas of concentration. He offered an example.

"If you're a female combat medic, you're carrying more than how much you weigh," McGuiness said. "Some of these (women) are carrying about 140 pounds, because not only are you carrying all your normal gear, but then you're carrying all the medical equipment for everybody else.

"So we've got folks that are overburdened. That's not only the physical side, but also the cognitive side."

On the 78-acre Natick campus, research into such issues is done by a team with representatives from all of the services, McGuiness said.

"We really are a joint base," said McGuiness, adding that Natick in fiscal year 2011 awarded $305 million in contracts to Massachusetts firms.

McGuiness told chamber members that there are ample opportunities to work with Natick. He noted that last year small businesses did more than $1 billion of work for the Defense Department. Half of those businesses, he said, had fewer than 25 employees each.

McGuiness said that he and other service members might wear uniforms, but that they weren't unlike the chamber members.

"We're just a reflection of society," McGuiness said. "Who you are is who we are."