By J.D. LeipoldMay 5, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 5, 2012) -- Its name may not sound particularly impressive, but on the tenth anniversary of Program Executive Office Soldier, arguably, no other Army organization has done more to add to the lethality, comfort and safety of the American service member.
At its Fort Belvoir, Va., home, May 4, not only did PEO Soldier celebrate a decade of treating the Soldier as a system, it welcomed new leader, Ranger and Special Forces-tabbed Brig. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, and bid farewell to outgoing PEO Maj. Gen. Camille M. Nichols. Nichols will become the first commanding general of Army Contracting Command.
Since its inception in April 2002, PEO Soldier has had four program executive officers. Each was dedicated to developing, producing, fielding and sustaining virtually everything a Soldier wears, carries and operates.
In opening remarks, Nichols praised the PEO Soldier workforce saying they make the best gear in the world and that they were recognized as world leaders in Soldier protection, sensors and small arms. She also said the PEO Soldier force has become agile and responsive by reaching out and asking combat-seasoned service members for feedback on the pros and cons of equipment.
"They have partnered with world-class research organizations and industry to seek out and quickly produce modified equipment to give our Soldiers even better and lighter gear in near real-time," Nichols said, referring to the PEO workforce.
The organization also unveiled a new logo to represent the organization.
"It's a visual representation that embodies PEO Soldier's dedication to the Soldier; for they are our strength and our purpose," Nichols said. "I thank each and every one of you who has been part of the PEO Soldier legacy [for] what you've accomplished to make this a world-renowned organization."
Nichols called attention to Maj. Joel Dillon, who won the PEO competition to design a new logo for the organization. With a background in art, he submitted three designs which were selected first, second and third out of more than 100 submissions. Dillon also created the crest for his West Point class ring of 1997.
"I wanted to represent the Soldier of course, because that's what PEO Soldier is all about," he said. "The logo itself includes the silhouettes of three Soldiers on patrol, backed by an American flag. I also wanted to make sure the name Program Executive Office Soldier was bold and visible. I just wanted to make sure it was something that was easily recognizable and clearly focused on Soldiers, because that's what we focus on; an enduring type of legacy."
Retired Brig. Gen. James R. Moran, who was tasked with standing up PEO Soldier in 2002, recalled how just 10 years ago the organization's headquarters was in an abandoned motor pool and PEO Soldier Equipment was based in an abandoned warehouse. The war wasn't expected to last but a few months, so there was no real thought of growing the organization, he said.
Moran said he wasn't deterred by the Washington, D.C., cynicism, but was instead moved after making trips to the military morgue in Delaware to pay respects to the country's war dead from Iraq and Afghanistan. There he saw fatherless children, pregnant wives and despairing parents. He also recollected the years of worry when his father had served in Korea and later Vietnam. When Moran retired in 2006, PEO Soldier's budget had grown to $3.2 billion. In 2012, it's nearly twice that.
"I said on my retirement these three things PEO Soldier would do: save Soldiers' lives -- and we save thousands of them; improve the quality of their lives -- and we have improved the quality of life for over a million Soldiers; and improve their combat effectiveness. That means for an Army, killing the enemy -- we did that too."
Maj. Gen. R. Mark Brown, who served as the second program executive officer for PEO Soldier, spoke via video telecast from Qatar. He was followed by Maj. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, who served as the third executive for PEO Soldier, from 2008-2011.
Fuller, who will retire within the month after 32 years of service, looked back at his days in Germany when sunshine invaded the freshly painted new tank he sat in. He and his fellow tankers sat miserably, but quietly, in vintage, wet and stinking Army wool.
"As an Army, I believe we get lost in the platforms and systems and forget that every platform, every system, is manned, operated and maintained by a Soldier," he said. "Forming PEO Soldier allowed us to focus our attention on the needs of the individual Soldier and that of the collective Soldier."
Don't let the needs of the Soldier get pushed to the bottom of the list, Fuller cautioned. He said the Army must keep the needs of Soldiers at the top, "or we'll have some other newly-minted Soldier like me using a new piece of equipment and wondering why their basic needs were not taken care of."
PEO SOLDER ACCOMPLISHMENTS
PEO Soldier's structure began development in 1992. It's divided into four sub-programs: Project Manager Soldier Weapons, PM Soldier Warrior, PM Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, and PM Soldier Sensors and Lasers.
Highlights from PEO Soldier's first 10 years include:
-- Development of the XM25 air-burst grenade launcher. The XM25 is the first small-arms weapon that uses smart technology. Today, it continues to be tested in Afghanistan where its success has earned it the nickname "the Punisher." Eight PEO Soldier weapons systems developed since 2004 have been designees of "Army Greatest Invention" status.
-- Development and incorporation of the Improved Outer Tactical Vest. The vest comes in three pounds lighter than the Outer Tactical Vest, while still providing an equal level of protection over a larger area. The IOTV has a quick-release system which allows Soldiers to remove the system in one motion.
-- Development, with the Marine Corps, of the Enhanced Combat Helmet. The helmet is made from different plastics and provides improved penetration resistance with less weight. Contracts between the two services have been signed.
-- Development of a helmet sensor system which records the forces a Soldier suffers in blasts like those from improvised explosive devices. The main goal is to provide information to the medical community so they can learn how different forces correlate to particular brain trauma.
-- Development and distribution of the helmet-mounted Monocular Night Vision Device, the AN/PVS 14, which has become the workhorse of night operations. Nearly 450,000 have been fielded.
-- Development of the Sense Through the Wall hand-held electromagnetic, radar system. The system will provide dismounted and remote users the ability to detect, locate and classify threats including personnel, booby traps, explosives and chemical bio hazards. The system is still undergoing testing.
Presently, PEO Soldier is looking to improve upon the M4A1 Carbine, through the Army's Individual Carbine Competition. Since the M4 carbine was introduced in 1997, it has become so popular with Soldiers for its reliability, that a Soldier survey in 2011 found 89 percent of its users found satisfaction with the weapon. The M4A1 comes in three inches shorter than the M16A2 and has a collapsible stock allowing greater mobility in close quarters.
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