Six Soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, recently traveled to U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass., to test groundbreaking combat gear and equipment designed to enable troops to move faster and easier on the battlefield.
“NATICK is where the Army and other military branches do a lot of research for our equipment – from uniforms to gear,” said Spc. Gil Montanez, a combat medic in Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3-71 Cavalry. “(Then) they have Soldiers and test the new equipment out.”
Soldiers spent three days testing the equipment at NSRDEC. They were given a scenario-based simulation, designed to emulate a real mission in Afghanistan.
On day one of testing, they were introduced to the scenario and asked to go through it with their normal combat gear and body armor.
“What we did was take a scenario-based simulation, where they would give us new gear and we would test it on the battlefield,” Montanez said. “They gave us the gear and a combat scenario, and we tested it.”
The scenario required Soldiers to embark on a dismounted combat patrol from a combat outpost to a village to perform a cordon and search mission. The follow-on mission required Soldiers to carry a cache away from the village and destroy it.
On the second day of testing, they went through the same scenario in the new gear. Soldiers wore an exoskeleton-type suit with built-in body armor and cooling systems, designed to help distribute the weight of a Soldier’s combat load.
“It made us move faster; (with it on), you can move without any hindrance,” Montanez said. “A lot of the stuff we tested was all about unburdening the Soldier so they are lighter and can move faster on the battlefield.”
On the third day of testing, Soldiers used a load-bearing device, used to carry up to 400 pounds. The state-of-the-art device follows the operator’s voice commands and can move at a speed of 10 miles per hour.
“In later years, given more testing and time to develop, it would definitely help unburden the ground Soldier,” Montanez said.
While the developers at NSRDEC are still working on making the Soldier’s combat load more bearable, they received immediate feedback from Titans. Developers asked troops their opinions about what else they could do to make them more effective in combat.
“They asked about things we would like to see in the next few years,” Montanez said. “They are down there developing things that will help us.”
Soldiers had positive feedback about the equipment they tested. It is designed to keep them safer and help them complete their mission.
“This will definitely help the Soldiers follow through with the Warrior Ethos,” Montanez said. “‘I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.’”