FAST programs increase researchers’ expertise for Soldiers
The U.S. Army Research and Development Command’s Field Assistance in Science and Technology program, or FAST, provides support for technology requirements and capability gaps to organizations and units all over the world through embedded science and technology advisors, both civilian and military.
The program allows supporting units to have direct reach-back capability to the research laboratories through science and technology advisors.
Technical advisors, Dr. Samantha Chambers and Rick Haddox, both from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, are currently serving a two-to-three year tour with the XVIII Airborne Corps and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Haddox previously worked with the FAST office during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before being selected for the FAST program in April 2016, Chambers was an electronics engineer in ARL’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate. There she worked with the spatial vision laboratory on 3-D imagery for threat detection and night vision enhancement. Haddox was a member of the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate’s dismounted weapons technology assessment team and worked on the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System (fire control) assessment and the Integrated Ballistic Reticle Sight.
“We (the S&T advisors) are the link between the warfighter and the research community,” Chambers said. “We are identifying capability gaps and technology requirements within the units we support and request solutions from the Army Materiel Command through the FAST office. We also identify technology needs for the future force.”
Chambers said she was looking for a developmental assignment to “bridge the gap between research and acquisition,” and this assignment allows her to provide a link between the warfighter, researchers and acquisition personnel.
Haddox said a normal day consists of supporting the Special Forces Soldiers in the USASOC G9 S&T Division. Together they seek solutions to the command’s capability gaps.
“Most days consist of meetings, presentations, demonstrations, field exercises and hands on application supporting the warfighter both at Fort Bragg and at deployed locations. This is an opportunity to work side-by-side with the warfighter and by using RDECOM resources — many SOC capability gaps have been successfully resolved. The process provides commanders and military leaders direct access to the Army’s laboratories and research and development centers. ARL processes the cutting edge technologies needed to support the warfighter and the FAST advisors identify the technology for the capability gaps,” Haddox said.
Both Chambers and Haddox said they want to support the “world’s best trained and equipped Soldiers.”
“This program is important because getting technology solutions from the research centers and labs within RDECOM to the Soldiers can be expedited,” she said. “This translates to the Soldier being able to complete his or her mission more effectively.”
Chambers said she hopes to gain enough perspective to take this information back to ARL.
“I would like to continue closing the gap between research and acquisition. I want to use my experience to stay connected to the warfighter and ensure that the research and development at ARL align with the future force,” said Chambers, who in her first six months said she has learned a great deal about the structure of the Army and how it differs from the civilian structure.
Haddox said his past experience has been supporting the “Big Army.”
“The Special Operations Forces are different due to extremely fluid mission requirements that requires an immediate response. I’m truly a believer of the crawl, walk, run developmental process. I currently feel I am in the walk stage of the assignment, but within the next few months I hope to better understand the SOF mission and continue to support current and future needs of the SOF community,” Haddox said.
Chambers is grateful for the opportunities she’s received at ARL.
“ARL allows its researchers to complete developmental assignments like this one because it is beneficial for the individual and the lab. The individual benefits from a career development opportunity and the lab benefits from a direct link to warfighter capability gaps. And, this supports ARL’s mission to ‘discover, innovate and transition S&T to ensure dominant strategic land power.’ Discover — knowing what the Soldier needs to tailor research efforts; innovate — identifying what the technology the future force will require; and transition — getting technology and information to the Soldier faster,” Chambers said.
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The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.