Army lauds achievements of RDECOM scientists

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Six U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command laboratories and 111 employees were named 2009 Research and Development Achievement Award winners in an Aug. 24 announcement by the deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Research and Technology).

Two AH-64D Apaches from the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
Two AH-64D Apaches from the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, come in for a landing at Camp Taji, Iraq, after completing a reconnaissance mission in the skies over Baghdad Nov. 6, 2009. AMRDEC scientists were awarded for their work to improve the Apache’s communications systems.
Photo credit U.S. Army photo by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton
Click to enlarge

„Their contributions promise to improve the Army’s capability and enhance our national defense,“ Marilyn Miller Freeman said in the memo that also recognized the hard work and dedication of the scientists.

The award winners share a common vision and purpose – improving the mission effectiveness and safety of American warfighters.

IED defeat is priority No. 1

Nicole Devitt, a project leader in the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, received an RDA Award for her work heading the Recognition of Combatants-Improvised Explosive Devices Iraq and Afghanistan program.

„Going forward, we’ll do what the warfighter wants us to do,“ Devitt said. „If needed, we’ll expand to different threats or areas. IEDs are a proven tactic against us – it would be unwise to think [ROC-IED] will be used only in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will continue to be useful to train against potential [threats] in other areas.“

Col. Thomas H. Bryant, commander of the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate in the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, echoed Devitt’s comments. Bryant is the commander’s science and technology adviser with U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and discussed the Army Airborne Special/Combination Communications-15E Command and Control System team’s efforts.

„After only one month, this team designed, documented, substantiated the airworthiness, installed and flew an important modification that resulted in improved destruction of the IED network in Regional Command South,“ Bryant said. „IEDs are the single biggest casualty producing weapon in Afghanistan.“

Improving Army aviation

Bryant said the dedication of AATD scientists translates to improved capabilities for Soldiers. Implementing technology quickly is key when working to defeat the enemy, he said.

„The entire team, either together or separately, has literally traveled the globe installing this system to units needing enhanced connectivity and situational awareness on the go,“ he said. „At great personal risk, Dave Kinney deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, with almost no notice to test and install a newly designed variation to the 15E system. As incredible as flight testing a system tweak over an active combat zone sounds, it is more incredible that this team installed this capability only 30 days after the brigade commander notified AATD that he would like a modification.“

Jay Fletcher discussed his team’s dedication on the Rotorcraft Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory project. Fletcher is an AMRDEC flight control engineer and a RASCAL project manager for the U.S. Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate. The RASCAL is a Black Hawk helicopter modified for fly-by-wire control systems research, which means the control elements are actuated electronically rather than mechanically.

„I feel very fortunate to lead a group of highly skilled and motivated,“ Fletcher said. „It is most gratifying to know that these achievements provide significant benefits to the Army and that they are recognized by Army S&T leadership.“

Brian Grantham, an AMRDEC electronics engineer and acting team lead for navigation sensors, sees his team’s dedication translating to better equipment for Soldiers.

„It has been an honor to work on the Trajectory Correction Kit program with such an outstanding team of engineers,“ he said. „The AMRDEC team is delivering ever-increasing capability to the warfighter while reducing the burden on the taxpayer. The TCK program is an excellent example of that dedication.“

Dale Johnson, AMRDEC aerospace engineer, was recognized for his work on the Manned/Unmanned Common Architecture Program which will help Apache helicopters communicate with an array of systems.

„The MCAP architecture has provided opportunities to demonstrate how a Longbow Apache attack helicopter will interoperate with a diverse array of air and ground systems in the future,“ Johnson said. „In today’s Army, helicopters can only communicate with a select group of other systems that have radios designed for very specific purposes. In the network-centric environment of the future, Apache helicopters will have to interoperate with a much wider group of collaborators, including ground Soldiers, civilian authorities, as well as joint and coalition forces.“

Collaboration vital to scientific research

A common theme among the award winners is research collaboration, within a laboratory and between them as well. The expertise throughout RDECOM leads to better results and more effective research, recipients said.

Gerardo Melendez, director of Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, said teamwork among scientists is vital to implement technological improvements for warfighters.

„Each person named in this award has contributed to the Army’s mission in a big way,“ Melendez said. „Since all of the scientists in RDECOM work as a community, all honorees contribute to our nation, and to what we do here at Picatinny. I’m especially proud of the great showing of ARDEC engineers in this year’s program.“

Janice Rock, an AMRDEC electronics engineer, worked collaboratively on the Radio Frequency Microelectromechanical System with two other research centers.

„The project this award is based on involved AMRDEC, CERDEC and Army Research Laboratory,“ Rock said. „We worked together on this project over four years, culminating in an AMRDEC demonstration of a CERDEC phase-shifter development. The results will help shape the future of RF MEMS development. Working together across multiple labs with engineers of such a broad experience base has been amazing.“

Dr. Michael Groenert, a CERDEC persistent surveillance expert, stressed collaboration in rapidly fielding a new system.

„The AWAPSS [Airborne Wide Area Persistent Surveillance Sensor] team couldn’t have delivered this sensor system so quickly without the support of the NVESD flight test detachment at Davison Army Airfield and the local contractor team that supported our program,“ he said. „We are proud of the contribution that the AWAPSS system made to the JFCOM [Joint Forces Command] Empire Challenge exercise this summer, and hope AWAPSS will make an even greater contribution in support of our Soldiers when it begins operations in theater shortly.“

Focused on warfighters

Researchers emphasized the importance of keeping the needs of their customers — the warfighters — at the forefront of their efforts.

„The ability to work in a position that has the opportunity to give something back to the community, this nation and especially to the Soldier who is fighting for our freedom is amazing,“ Rock said.

ARL Director John Miller praised his scientists‘ dedication to advancing the missions of the Army’s Soldiers.

„They are developing critical technology-enabled capabilities for our Soldiers of today and the future,“ he said. „The ARL RDA award recipients are representative of the entire laboratory workforce in their dedication to relentlessly pushing the envelope in research, technology and analysis in support of the warfighter.“

By Dan Lafontaine (Research, Development and Engineering Command Public Affairs)

US Army

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