By Kelly P. PateMay 19, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 19, 2008) - Set against a backdrop of aerial stunts in the skies over Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the Army's new technologies were on display at the Joint Service Open House for Armed Forces Day.
Department of Defense members and school-sponsored children had the grounds to themselves Friday on the first day of the three-day event where members of the Army -- active, Guard and Reserve -- explained equipment and provided technology demonstrations.
Inside Hangar 2, Soldiers with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal detachment gave visitors a chance to "drive" a TALON robot.
The TALON is a quick, durable lightweight tracked vehicle used for explosive ordnance disposal, reconnaissance, hazmat and other missions.
The idea was to use remote controls and an electronic screen displaying the terrain from the robot's vantage point, to pick up a soda can while being able to see only what the robot electronically sees.
"The TALON is the workforce of the Army right now as far as robots," said Staff Sgt. Donald Pearl from the EOD detachment at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. "It's one of the stronger robots we have in a smaller, compact version."
Used in Iraq and Afghanistan, the robot can take an explosive downrange to place on an Improvised Explosive Device and detonate it, Pearl said.
If the robot goes down, the back-up plan is a high-tech bomb suit.
The displayed suit has an integrated helmet system with amplification adapting system to protect the ears. The system is sensitive enough to nearly pick up the ticks of a watch but can also muffle-down the noise of a blast, Pearl said.
"With sixty-five pounds of Kevlar, it's a really good unit," Pearl said.
In one outdoor exhibit, members of 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion used a display of an Improvised Explosive Device mounted to a highway guard rail to show how a basic knowledge of electricity and circuitry turns into a deadly roadside bomb.
The display, which people began to refer to as "CSI Baghdad," included a battlefield forensics kit. Staff Sgt. Seymour Edwards said the process of fingerprinting, bagging and tagging evidence and sending it back to the rear, and sending information back to the battlefield helps Soldiers identify the enemy.
Children climbed on board for a closer look at a Bradley Fighting Vehicle - the Army's way of getting troops in and out of the battlefield safely, said Spc. John Paul Thompson, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.
Next to the Bradley, the M1-A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank System Enhancement Package Version 2 was on display. The tank is equipped with a new night sight Drivers Vision Enhancer that enables Soldiers to see through dust and includes a camera so the driver can look behind him when he backs up, said Spc. Jeff Van Camp.
"They added on the 50-caliber that can be used from inside using the tank's pinpoint accuracy, as opposed to the old version where you're rocking it on top," Van Camp said. The U.S. Army's parachute team, the Golden Knights, made time for photo opportunities in advance of a demonstration jump the next day.
The sky wasn't the only source of thunder at the event. A roar from ground level invited visitors for an up-close look at the Army racecar on display.
Army Reserve Soldiers gave a walk-through of the process of how swamp water is turned into drinking water for Soldiers, and new life-saving capabilities in firefighting and rescue vehicles.
Surrounded by technology displays, Army recruiter Staff Sgt. Steven Tirsell, who manned a booth inside Hangar 2, said the Army is a chance to reach for something better.
"The Army has given me experiences and opportunities I don't think I would have been able to get where I grew up back home," Tirsell said. "It's been fun."