Army displays latest warfighting innovations

The Army showcased its Future Force Warrior system, the latest in war-fighting technology, at Soldier Modernization Day on Capitol Hill June 16.

Military researchers, developers, testers and engineers displayed current innovations in Soldier technology to senators and congressional staffers who witnessed how technology can impact Soldiers’ lives while sampling the Army’s newest field rations.

“What we’re doing today is showing members of Congress how American dollars are being well spent to benefit our Soldiers everyday,” said Brig. Gen. James Moran, commanding general, Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., and Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va.

He explained the Future Force Warrior system is a designed as an integrated “system of systems” as part of the Army transformation to a Soldier-centric force that will complement future combat systems.

“Under the concept of managing the Soldier as a system, two uniform systems are under development,” Moran said. The Future Force Warrior system will be available to Soldiers in 2010. The Vision 2020 Future Warrior system, which follows the concept of the 2010 Future Force Warrior system, will be fielded 10 years later.

“The result is a single integrated combat system that enhances Soldier performance in all critical areas: increased effectiveness, decreased load and improved mission flexibility and enables continuous upgrades. By managing the Soldier as a system, Program Executive Office Soldier will save Soldiers’ lives, improve their quality of life and increase their combat effectiveness,” Moran said.

The uniforms, which are designed to increase lethality and survivability, will lighten the Soldier’s load from approximately 100 pounds, currently carried by combat Soldiers, Moran said, to 45 pounds.

“Soldiers have been treated like Christmas trees in the past, and not just because they were wearing green – each year the Army hung something extra on them,” said Philip Brandon, director, Soldier Systems Center. “Their equipment was not an integrated system, but rather a series of add-ons.”

Brandon said the Soldier’s warfighting needs must be considered as a single platform, functioning as a system and integrated with other systems.

“Once a Soldier has too much weight strapped on, he or she may start a process of elimination in order to reduce weight. In a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie scene, Soldiers were forced to ditch equipment,” he said. “That type of decision-making is not necessary in this world of technology.”

Other items featured at Soldier Modernization Day included: new types of Meals, Ready to Eat, or MREs, Unitized Group Rations, and components of the new First Strike Ration.

“We interview 13,000 Soldiers annually to determine which MREs they like best. With that data, we introduce five new menu items and delete five items that Soldiers don’t enjoy,” said Richard Walunas, chief of strategic communications at the Natick Soldier Center. “To be fit on the battlefield, Soldiers need fuel and we provide them with exactly what they want because they deserve the best.”

Other new technologies at the exhibit included the Cargo Aerial Delivery Systems, camouflage net systems, space heaters, field kitchen and food service equipment, shelters, shear thickening fluid for personnel protection, lightweight armor technologies, the Advanced Combat Helmet, and photovoltaic technologies.

“The precision air-drop technology system, which is attached to guide actuators, allows supplies to be dropped to Soldiers from 20,000 feet, so they can receive much- needed assistance without the plane having to expose itself to danger,” Walunas said.

Soldiers deployed to hot-climate areas such as Iraq can make use of solar sun shades.

“The shades are material strips that when placed on top of tents, use photovoltaic technology to convert light to electricity. The energy can also be stored for use at night and can generate approximately one to two kilowatts of electricity. Soldiers will make use of natural resources to aid them in their missions too,” he said.

Soldiers of yesterday were also present to view today’s technology on Capitol Hill. World War II veterans Oliver Benson Medcalf and Logan Council, who visited the Russell Senate Office Building by chance, stumbled across the display.

“There’s a lot of new-fangled technology out there now that we surely could have made use of,” Council said, who served with a signal corps in the Philippines in 1943. “It’s not easy to be a Soldier during war times, and technology can make a big difference in troops’ abilities.”

Sgt. Daniel Harshman, from Hagerstown, Md., knows about the role technology plays in Soldiers’ lives. He spent four years in the Army on active duty, has served four years in the National Guard and Army Reserve, and works as a Department of Defense civilian employee for Operational Forces Interface Group in Natick.

“Technology can improve our infallibility and survivability so we can get the mission accomplished and get home sooner. We can fight, win a war and be home in time for dinner when we have the right equipment to do the job,” Harshman said.

A Shreveport, La., Soldier who joined the Army to “do something different and be a part of something big” said having cutting-edge technology available to Soldiers is vital to readiness.

“It’s crucial that we have what we need when we need it,” said Master Sgt. Roy Pipkin.

From U.S. Army

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