We’d always been curious about the Natick Soldier Systems Center, often referred to around town as the Natick Army Labs, so when the opportunity came up to attend a Zoom meeting to learn more about the only active Army installation in New England, we jumped at the chance. Hosted by the Natick Historical Society, NHS director Niki Lefebvre introduced Col. Frank Moore of DEVCOM Soldier Center, one of Natick Lab’s research and technology collaborators. Lefebvre welcomed Moore and asked the occasional clarifying question as he led over 70 participants through a fascinating Power Point presentation about the 174-acre site that includes 459k square feet of lab space and 75 family housing units for active military personnel.
Moore provided an overview of the 15 tenant organizations operating at the Systems Center, all of which are dedicated to one goal: working together to optimize soldier readiness and safety. About 1,500 people are employed at the facility including 1,188 civilians, 90 military personnel, and 220 contractors. The Systems Center takes great pride in the brainpower concentrated in that small corner of Natick—it’s a smart bunch that collectively holds over 1,231 college and university degrees.
A large part of what happens at the Systems Center involves clothing. Both the US Navy and the Coast Guard run research and development on clothing design and textiles. Some other partner organizations work on soldier protective equipment including combat equipment and weaponry systems.
The conversation focused on the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM), where Moore works. The stated mission of DEVCOM, the national and international leader in warfighter science and technology development, is to “provide the Army with innovative science and technology solutions to optimize the performance of our soldiers” by “ensuring dominance through superior scientific and engineering expertise.”
That group’s 903 employees, made up of a combination of military and civilians, work on parachute design and parachutist safety; military nutrition; fiber and textile science such as camouflage concealment and ballistic protection; optimizing and enhancing soldier performance; soldier protection through enhanced equipment design, environmental protection; chemical biological protection; and Army training tech that includes live training exercises.
Moore says DEVCOM is known as “the soldier’s research center”, meaning that everything done there focuses on keeping soldiers safe and optimizing their performance.
Durning the Q & A period, several residents fondly remembered back when the Army Labs opened up to the pubic for tours and asked if that would be repeated in the future. Moore said due to COVID that’s not possible for now, but hoped that is something that could happen in the future.
Moore did seem confident that a ribbon-cutting ceremony could take place in 2023, when an under-construction $50 million dollar 4-story facility is slated to be completed. This new building will house the Soldier and Squad Performance Research Institute, a research lab the Army says is, “designed to inform and optimize soldier and squad lethality and combat readiness.”
Until then, Moore said the Systems Center is always looking for qualified candidates to fill a host of jobs. A quick google search showed they are in search of a textile technologist; a general engineer; an architect; a warehouse/inventory control specialist; and more.
Next up on the Natick Historical Society’s calendar: a presentation by Boston University American Studies PhD candidate Mariah Gruner titled, Ten Thousand Digital Absurdities: the Power of the Needlework in 19th Century America.
Ask about Advertising on Natick Report.