Tag Archives: ARDEC

NCO forges valuable partnerships with veterans at Natick

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

When he first arrived at Natick Soldier Systems Center for duty as 1st sergeant of the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, 1st Sgt. Miguel A. Martinez Jr. had heard the assignment in Massachusetts wouldn’t be a typical one.

“My response was the first sergeant position is the same regardless of where you are and what you’re doing because your first and foremost priority is the health and welfare of the Soldier and then to try to advance the organization,” Martinez said.

He made sure all Soldiers were taken care of and that they were meeting all standard Army requirements. Then, Martinez set out to meet every director or team leader at the small military installation.

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade test female body armor. In a collaborative effort, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center worked with Program Executive Office Soldier on an improved outer tactical vest designed specifically for women. The innovation was named one of Time Magazine’s “Best Inventions” in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade test female body armor. In a collaborative effort, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center worked with Program Executive Office Soldier on an improved outer tactical vest designed specifically for women. The innovation was named one of Time Magazine’s “Best Inventions” in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)

“I told each one, ‘My intent is to have an NCO from this organization help every single team here at some point,’” Martinez said. “Before, [what I was suggesting] was pretty much nonexistent. We didn’t have any of our NCOs help any of our directorates. I wanted to change that because I was previously at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center [at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey], and I saw how those Soldiers interacted. That’s what I wanted to bring here.

“A lot of people think the NCO’s main job here is to manage the human research volunteer program,” he said. “That’s only partly true. We are here to make sure HRVs are being trained properly and also to help all of the studies. I asked the HRDD commander, Capt. Enrique Curiel, about my recommendations and told him what I wanted to do. Together, we started making little changes.”

‘Different animal’

Located in Massachusetts, the birthplace of the U.S. Army, the Soldier Systems Center employs about 160 active-duty Soldiers and 1,800 civilians. Roughly a platoon of the Soldiers at Natick serve as human research volunteers for scientific studies at NSRDEC, while NCOs fill roles that run the gamut from parachute riggers in the parachute shop or noncommissioned officers in charge at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

“I started teaming up my NCOs to work with other teams [at Natick],” Martinez said. “I told my guys we need to start getting embedded [in projects]. The more the scientists see us, the more they are going to remember the NCOs and the more relevant we are. We want to be seen. We want to be in the front of their minds, so when they have a new project or are starting a new job, I want them to think about talking to NCOs.”

Martinez views working with the scientists, engineers and other civilian employees at Natick as a mutual partnership.

A scientist from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center tests uniforms for burn injury protection at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Mass. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)
A scientist from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center tests uniforms for burn injury protection at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Mass. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)

“One of the biggest things I noticed that was shocking to me is that when I met with some people, they told me they were under the impression that the NCO chain of command here switched out every 90 days like the HRVs,” he said. “That only solidified my desire to meet everybody here because I need to change that way of thinking. I told them we are here for three years. We don’t switch out every 90 days; those are the HRVs. The NCOs and officers are here for three years, and we want to be able to work with you guys.

“I can open those doors for them [in the military], and they will not have to be slowed down by trying to get the right people in the right place to talk to them,” he said.

Work often brings Sarah Ross, human research volunteer test coordinator, and Martinez together at Natick’s Doriot Climatic Chambers. As a veteran noncommissioned officer, Ross has a history there. Her last duty assignment was as NCO in charge of the facility, and she was also a medic assigned to USARIEM when she a Soldier.

The chambers are a unique facility that can mimic environmental conditions from any location around the globe. Temperature, humidity, wind, rain and solar radiation can be simulated for testing on HRVs or military equipment.

Ross’s military experience often comes in handy when trying to bridge communication between scientists, engineers and Soldiers.

1st Sgt. Miguel A. Martinez Jr., 1st sergeant of the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, works with Sarah Ross, human research volunteer test coordinator, at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Massachusetts. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
1st Sgt. Miguel A. Martinez Jr., 1st sergeant of the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, works with Sarah Ross, human research volunteer test coordinator, at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Massachusetts. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“1st Sgt. Martinez is the Soldier component that HRVs have 24 hours a day, because although they are human subjects they are Soldiers 24 hours a day,” Ross said. “It’s important that we work really well together. [Natick] is a different animal, and as a veteran, I understand that. I know from my own experiences, it is a completely different ballgame.

“1st Sgt. Martinez and I work together really well to make sure that the Soldiers get opportunities to participate in things, and that they are always ready as Soldiers because that’s the number one priority ─ making sure that HRVs are always safe when they are volunteering in these studies,” she said.

Teamwork

One of the projects Martinez and Ross worked on together was to revise the physical restrictions document, concerning the participation of HRVs in studies.

“Some of the things I wanted to change were due to risk aversion,” Martinez said. “Principal investigators don’t want to get in trouble or do anything wrong. They don’t want to hurt the HRVs, or tarnish the name of the detachment, program or installation.”

Principal investigators were limiting the activity of some HRVs to an extreme, sometimes resulting in Soldiers who were going back to the Army after their 90-day HRV stint at Natick unable to fulfill the physical requirements of being Soldiers.

“We want to make sure these Soldiers are healthy,” Ross said. “We want to make sure they have appropriate recovery time, and sometimes these principal investigators err on the side of caution. … The principle investigator is thinking, ‘I want to make sure my subject is protected, and that they are not doing something outside the realm of the study.’ And HRDD is thinking, ‘I want to make sure my Soldiers are ready to be able to do the PT necessary and additionally anything physical they have to do as Soldiers.’”

Because Soldiers’ careers were being affected, Martinez saw he needed to get involved.

“The PIs actually started explaining, ‘This is what I will be doing, this is what I want,’ and Capt. Curiel, and I will make sense of it,” Martinez said. “We will agree, or we will debate. Eventually, we come to a good middle ground, and everybody is happy.

“We told the civilians, ‘We can help you; we can do all these things to help your project and not be in conflict with your study,’” he said.

For Martinez, it helps to have someone such as Ross, with her military experience, serving in her position.

“If there are any questions I might have that are study-related, she is my go-to person,” Martinez said.

Ross couldn’t be happier that she ended up in a job she loves. Despite separating from the Army, she still works with Soldiers every day.

“Although I have been here eight years, I am still learning,” Ross said. “I have to make sure I am aware and updated, and that I am familiar with [federal regulations on human subjects and how Soldiers should be treated] so I can be the best facilitator with the program. At the same time, I love these Soldiers. I have the best job in the Army. I still get to serve without wearing the uniform … and I get to meet 30 new selfless Soldiers every 90 days. I meet 120 new Soldiers every year, which is so cool.”

Ross is part of a growing population of veterans who found work at Natick after leaving the military.

“The veteran population is pretty strong,” Ross said. “It’s close to 300 veterans who work at this installation. I think in this environment [being a veteran] is instrumental to [Natick’s] success.”

Despite its size, the work done at Natick extends far beyond its small confines. Valuable Soldiers’ feedback goes a long way toward building projects and contributing to the readiness of the big Army.

“Here, it doesn’t matter what your rank is,” Ross said. “It doesn’t matter how long you have been in the Army. What matters is that you give us your opinion and that we are going to take that under consideration. That is one thing that I love. I don’t know where else that happens.”

The experience has proven invaluable to NCOs such as Martinez, who says there are still many tasks he wants to work on to better the detachment.

“When I leave here and I continue my service, I will always keep Natick on the phone,” Martinez said. “Now that I have worked here, I want to continue to work and would like to tell Natick they have an open door with me.

As a veteran, Ross is particularly grateful for the opportunity to work with Soldiers. It’s not unusual for Natick to have about 20 studies running at the same time.

“This place is incredible,” Ross said. “The things that we do for the Soldier in this small installation blow my mind. At the same time I am talking to you, there is a Soldier down at the biomechanics lab doing a VO2 max ride test, at the same time they are blistering Soldiers in this front room, at the same time another scientist is doing a thermal test and burning a uniform, at the same time there’s a change of command over here, at the same time there is a glove dexterity test happening and at the same there are Soldiers at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, testing a uniform in an obstacle course.”

The Soldiers, scientists, engineers and civilians form a powerful team at Natick, with a common goal, she said.

“We have all of these facilities, and we are all just working toward giving the best equipment and making sure Soldiers can function to the best of their abilities,” Ross said. “You could argue that Soldiers/warfighters are the best athletes in the world, and we have to make sure a team of 100 people goes out with every Soldier [on the field]. They might not be present with Soldiers, but they are there.

“They are there in the uniform that Soldiers are wearing,” she said. “They are there in the boots Soldiers are wearing. They are there in that Kevlar. They are there in that weapon. They are there with Soldiers without actually being physically present, and that’s incredible to me.”

RDECOM’s NCOs use expertise to assist in Army product development

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCOJournal

It wasn’t the detailed overview of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command or even the staff ride to John F. Kennedy Space Center that particularly motivated the noncommissioned officers. It was the valuable connections made for future project collaborations that would prove the most gratifying during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center.

Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of RDECOM, urged the 54 NCOs who attended to capitalize on their shared link to RDECOM and make those connections at the training sessions.

Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Simulation and Training Technology Center, which is named after Smith. Hardwick is the senior enlisted advisor for Army Research Laboratory’s Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Simulation and Training Technology Center, which is named after Smith. Hardwick is the senior enlisted advisor for Army Research Laboratory’s Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“Start thinking, ‘How do I better work with others out there to leverage the product that we are building in design, so that way we can give the benefit to the Soldiers in the Army?’” Snyder said. “Because that’s what it’s about. It’s about the Soldiers; it’s not about us. It’s about the unit, it’s about the Soldier in the field and the product that we provide them, and the best product that we can give them.”

Exercising skills

The 54 NCOs are part of RDECOM’s vast enterprise and are assigned to either Headquarters, Army Research Laboratory or the six research, development and engineering centers — Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center or AMRDEC; Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center or ARDEC; Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center or CERDEC; Edgewood Chemical Biological Center or ECBC, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center or NSRDEC; and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center or TARDEC.

The NCOs provide military expertise throughout RDECOM. They work closely with a large civilian workforce of scientists and engineers to develop products and technologies.

Neuropsychologist Hector Gonzalez of Army Research Laboratory advises Sgt. 1st Class Laritza Hamby on how to use the Construction Equipment Virtual Trainer research equipment in October during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Neuropsychologist Hector Gonzalez of Army Research Laboratory advises Sgt. 1st Class Laritza Hamby on how to use the Construction Equipment Virtual Trainer research equipment in October during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“Why you are here is to provide user-level input to our scientists and engineers so they can develop the best product they can develop, to get to our Soldiers the first time,” Snyder told the NCOs during the training sessions. “We cannot afford to keep providing a product quickly, that we have to continue to go back and to modernize and revamp. We just can’t afford it.”

Because most of the NCOs come from the operational side of the Army to RDECOM, working with civilians may prove to be a little tricky in the beginning.

“Sometimes our civilians are a little bit intimidated by a Soldier coming into the process because they are not used to working with a Soldier,” Snyder told the NCOs. “You have to show them the benefit that you can be to them in that process. The rank you wear does not matter. They can’t associate rank with anything. What they can associate with though is your technical expertise, and until you show them the technical expertise you provide, you will not gain that trust and they will not come to you seeking that advice.”

Organizational roles

NCOs at the training sessions were eager to ask Snyder, who assumed his position in March, about his job at RDECOM.

“Sergeant Major, how long did it take you to get comfortable in your position, coming out of an operational brigade sergeant major position?” asked Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Zito, senior NCO advisor to AMRDEC.

Science and technology manager Bill Pike, right, shows NCOs simple entry and exit wounds used for medical simulation training in October at the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Science and technology manager Bill Pike, right, shows NCOs simple entry and exit wounds used for medical simulation training in October at the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“I am more comfortable than when I first took the seat because I try to embed myself in the process,” Snyder said. “I ask questions. There are plenty of things out there that I do not know yet. That just makes me want to know and ask more questions. I need all of you to do the same thing. The folks in this room know a lot more about how that piece of equipment is going to be utilized in the field than our scientists and engineers do.”

All of the information helped put NCOs at ease, especially in helping them to figure out their organizational roles.

“That RDECOM brief was pretty amazing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tyler D. Hardy, Satellite Communications Terminal chief, Space and Terrestrial Communications Division, CERDEC. “I have been here for about three years. I wish I had heard it two years ago. That would have helped immensely, because RDECOM is so complex. That helped me understand where we fit in to the grand scheme of things. I’m getting ready to leave RDECOM, and it will help me brief the new NCOs who are coming in. Now, I have a better understanding.”

On display

A group of ARL scientists and engineers treated NCOs to technology demonstrations, which included the virtual 3D platform Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment using virtual puppeteering, as well as technological advances in tactical combat casualty care using medical simulation.

Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, urges NCOs to make professional connections during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions. More than 50 NCOs attended the event in October in the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, urges NCOs to make professional connections during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions. More than 50 NCOs attended the event in October in the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

NCOs from ARL, AMRDEC, ARDEC, CERDEC, ECBC, NSRDEC and TARDEC presented outlines of their organizations to give other training participants a better understanding of what each contributes to RDECOM.

The NCOs also heard a variety of topics discussed, including guidance on professional development, the updated noncommissioned officer evaluation report and the Army’s new Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy.

“I thought the professional development piece was very helpful,” Zito said. “I thought that was really interesting [advice] to further my career and longevity in the military. It was very helpful on what to look for within myself and how to help Soldiers when I get back into the fight and be more productive as a leader.”

Snyder also told the NCOs about the effort to put the word out on RDECOM within the operational Army.

“I’ve been working with Army Training and Doctrine Command to get a block of instruction about RDECOM into the Basic Leaders Course,” Snyder said. “We’re trying to embed a block of training, not just about RDECOM but Army Materiel Command in general, because AMC is misunderstood. We’re trying to embed it in BLC so that our young leaders, who are the ones who are going to find the problems in equipment, have reachback capability to us.”

For Sgt. Maj. Todd Galindo, RDECOM G3, operations sergeant major, the NCOPDS training sessions offered a valuable opportunity to keep all NCOs up to date. Galindo is a new addition to the organization.

“Being a part of RDECOM really completes everything for me and what I’ve done on the operational side of the house,” Galindo said. “It’s a shame that I didn’t know this before, but now that I do I want to share it with everybody else. I know a lot of folks out in the force and hopefully I can make my rounds to explain what RDECOM does. That way, Soldiers can come in and be a part of it.”