Army Seeks Ideas On Improving Equipment
By Lisa Burgess
Stars and Stripes
April 16, 2005
ARLINGTON, Va. — Are you your unit's expert "tinkerer"? Do you and your
friends spend precious downtime thinking about ways to make vehicles, weapons
and gear work better in the harsh environments of Iraq and Afghanistan?
If so, then the Army wants to hear from you.
Researchers in the Operational Forces Interface Group, or OFIG, at the Natick
(Mass.) Soldier Center are looking for interesting equipment ideas from soldiers
who have served or are serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring
The Soldier Innovation Initiative "is a way for us to get ideas faster from
users who have been in combat, and send them back" to Army laboratories,
commands, or schools for consideration, Sgt. 1st Class Sam Newland, the Army's
enlisted liaison to Natick Soldier Center, said in a Thursday telephone
The initiative grew out of Natick's long-standing Installation Visit program,
which sends researchers to the field each year to get servicemembers' feedback
on currently fielded equipment, according to Max Biela, OFIG's team leader.
In January 2004, researchers added a survey to the program "that specifically
targeted information about what soldiers had made, bought out of pocket, or
modified to increase their capabilities," Biela said in the telephone interview.
Unlike the Army's Ideas for Excellence Program, the purpose of the Soldier
Innovation Initiative is not to offer cash rewards.
Instead, the initiative "acts as the soldier's voice, to make sure that these
ideas get to the right labs or program offices," Newman said.
Thanks to enthusiastic soldier participation, Natick officials have already
passed many "outstanding" suggestions to a variety of Army program managers,
Some of the ideas are as simple as using wet socks to keep canteens cool,
Others are more complex, such as the "field expedient antenna kit" invented
by an 82nd Airborne Division radio operator deployed to Afghanistan.
Using readily available wires and other electronic parts, the operator built
"a specialized communications kit that reduced his load by 25 to 30 pounds, and
still communicated as well as the one issued by the Army," Newman said. "It was
Soldiers can submit ideas to the Soldier Innovation Initiative at http://www.natick.army.mil/soldier/hotline/index.htm.
Include your AKO e-mail address; the name of your company, battalion,
brigade, first sergeant, and country you are deployed to; and a full description
of your idea. Digital photos or sketches scanned into the computer are also
helpful, if you have access to such equipment, Biela said.
Sound Off...What do you think?
Join the discussion.
This article is provided courtesy
of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as
a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and
has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and
1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been
in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen
in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf
War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the
Stars & Stripes Website
Copyright 2005 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.