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Army engineering team builds solutions in Afghanistan

January 25, 2012

By Mr. Dan Lafontaine (RDECOM)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- American Soldiers in Afghanistan confronted with a technological hurdle have a new resource they can engage.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Field Assistance in Science and Technology-Center, or RFAST-C, Prototype Integration Facility became fully operational in late December, said Sgt. Maj. Matt DeLay, the team's noncommissioned-officer-in-charge from July to November 2011.

The facility is located in the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, which also houses 44 program managers.


"Now that the RFAST-C is up and running, it's the only one of its kind within Southwest Asia," DeLay said. "We have the capability to shorten the time of [requests for information] that are coming in. [Requests] no longer have to go back to the States."

A U.S. Army officer, NCO, and civilian engineers and technicians from throughout RDECOM deploy in four- to six-month rotations to comprise the RFAST-C. DeLay said the team's intellectual capacity separates it from other units.

RDECOM selects engineers from its research centers with expertise in communications, electronics, night-vision devices, weapons, vehicles, and chemical and biological agents.

The RFAST-C works with a broad range of organizations in theater, including Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, which combats improvised explosive devices; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force; and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

RFAST-C's engineers and technicians use press brakes, lathe machines, laser scanners, water jet machines, vertical milling machines, band saws and welding machines for engineering, designing and fabricating equipment upgrades.

"[RFAST-C] has the engineering rigor behind it. A lot of the other places with similar machinery couldn't do the engineering because they didn't have the knowledge," DeLay said. "They didn't have the engineers to say, 'Here's the tensile strength of this metal. Here's the type of metal you want to make this with.' "

DeLay said he traveled most of the time in theater to talk with Soldiers about their concerns with technology gaps and inform them of RFAST-C's capabilities. He visited 27 of 193 combat outposts across Afghanistan. American Forces Network also produced a video segment on RFAST-C that was distributed locally and in Europe.


The engineering cell started to produce solutions in November. One of the first products was a hybrid hook that attaches to a sickle stick tool to allow Warfighters to manipulate objects from a distance.

"The Marine Corps said they looking for a hook that catches command wire. Throw it out there, pull it across the road, and see whether there was a command wire put there," DeLay said.

Other products delivered to Soldiers are hooks that attach to the end of a TALON robot for scraping materials; a buttstock rail-mounted system to hold optical devices for improving situational awareness of the gunner inside the turret while traversing rough terrain; a camera mount for the 360-degree PatrolView Camera; a tire step for the MaxxPro vehicle to aid in maintenance; and prototype hinges for up-armored Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected All-Terrain Vehicle door stops to prevent inadvertent closing on Soldiers.

The current RFAST-C roster includes: officer-in-charge Lt. Col. Alan Samuels; civilian executive officer Kevin Brady, Communications--Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; civilian director Mark Oetken, Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center; engineer Dave Tomkinson, CERDEC; engineer Jim Granitzki, ARDEC; engineer Jill Logsdon, Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center; engineer Mike Zalewski, CERDEC; engineer Colin Graham, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center; technician Keith Sheridan, TARDEC; and technician Thomas Gardner, ARDEC.

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