ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Soldiers’ protective masks must be ready for the unforeseen hazards of combat. The U.S. Army relies on the scientists of Edgewood Chemical Biological Center to design, engineer and test these critical items.
PROTECT OUR PROTECTORS’
Jadey Pareja, an Edgewood Chemical Biological Center , or ECBC, chemist, leads five scientists in the Protective Equipment Test Branch who test and analyze the carbon materials that will be integrated into mask filters. Her team aims to provide the scientific platform that shields America’s protectors.
“Our mission within our team is to protect our protectors,” Pareja said. “Everything we do within these walls is eventually going to be fielded to the Soldier. If we don’t do something properly or miss one tiny step, it could ultimately affect the life of someone protecting our country.”
Pareja, the carbon team leader, and her colleagues test individual- and collective-protection systems for joint-service programs. They ensure the carbon components meet the requirements for equipment fielded to Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors.
‘I LOVED LEARNING ABOUT ALL THE CHEMICALS’
Pareja said she developed a passion for chemistry with the encouragement of her parents and teachers.
“Several teachers in middle and high school were not only there to teach you but to support you,” Pareja said. “I’ve always been a math and science hands-on person. I needed to be active and in the lab. I started working in a pharmacy when I was 16 as a junior pharmacy technician, and I loved it. I loved learning about all the chemicals, what drugs were made out of, everything about it.”
Pareja graduated from Edgewood High School and hoped to become a pharmacist after earning a bachelor of science in chemistry from Stevenson University in Baltimore County. However, she returned to the area after college to work at Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, in 2002. She worked as a contractor until ECBC hired her in 2005.
“Shortly before going to pharmacy school, I decided it wasn’t the avenue I wanted to pursue. I wound up working at the place where I grew up,” she said. “Here I am working in Edgewood.”
SCIENTIFIC PARTNERSHIPS TO SUPPORT THE SOLDIER
Pareja stressed the strong bonds between scientists and engineers allow ECBC to deliver the best products to the field. Her group complements the work of the permeation and mask teams within the Protective Equipment Test Branch to provide protection from chemical and biological hazards.
“The mask team will test the masks as a complete end item with the carbon filter on them. We also have the permeation team that tests the actual material — suits, boots, gloves — that the Soldier will wear in the field,” she said.
The carbon team conducts several tests on M‑18 and M‑12 filters and C2A1 and M‑61 canisters, Pareja said. It also taps into the wide knowledge base of subject matter experts across ECBC’s three directorates.
“We do a lot of routine testing, which has been designed by the Research and Technology Directorate. We work a lot of hands-on, side-by-side with them,” she said. “Once they perfect a method, they pass it on to us. There is a lot of interaction between the research side and engineering side. We rely heavily on their expertise.”