January 24, 2014 --
By Carden Hedelt, MCSC Corporate Communications
A good scientist will design hard tests with one isolated variable in a controlled environment. Field testing often introduces several variables at once. So says Dr. Rebecca Jaworski, a biomedical engineer with the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad at Marine Corps Systems Command. She and Mackie Jordan, Engineer with PdM Infantry Comat Equipment had the opportunity to move from controlled laboratory experiments to the field environment and see the real-world application of the modular scalable vestprototypes during an extended embedment with Marines from 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance outside of Fort Irwin, Calif., in late November.
Over several days of riding in Light Armored Vehicles, Jordan and Jaworski surveyed Marines on what they liked and didn’t like about two different MSV variants. The individual armor team in MCSC’s Infantry Weapons Systems is developing this technology to give Marines better fitting armor solutions to meet their needs for different missions.
MCSC is the Department of the Navy's systems command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology systems. It is also the Marine Corps commandant's agent for acquisition and sustainment of warfighting systems and equipment.
Currently, Marines go to war with a multiple-vest strategy and the MSV hopes to eliminate the need for several different vests through modularity. The point of the embedment was to get the best possible feedback about the MSV, which, according to Jaworski, often comes from spur-of-the-moment comments. So, the two engineers fell in lock-step with the Marines of 1st LAR, sleeping in the field, eating meals, ready-to-eat rations and wearing legacy Plate Carriers.
“I don’t know any other way Mackie and I could have gotten these data,” Jaworski said. “Even though it’s qualitative data, we were getting the feedback from Marines who are going to spend hours in this gear. We took tons of notes and got more surveys than we thought we would.”
“We had a few Marines ask if they could keep their systems because they liked them so much, so we figured that we’re on the right path,” said Jordan.
The two variants of the MSV the Marines wore were the fighting jacket and the plate carrier with load distribution system. The fighting jacket is the sleeker and lighter of the two and is intended for use with smaller loads. The PC with LDS variant, on the other hand, is bulkier than the fighting jacket and better suited for Marines carrying larger loads for a longer time.
The Marines of 1st LAR preferred the lighter fighting jacket over the PC with LDS variant.
“That’s kind of what we expected because the PC with LDS is meant to be used when Marines are carrying their packs for a long time and with the LAR, you’re doing more in-and-out of vehicles and things like that,” Jordan said.
Jordan and Jaworski will apply the data they collected to both variants of the MSV to make sure the Marines who wear them will be protected while aiming for optimal comfort and an acceptable weight.
Jaworski, who is married to a Marine, was surprised by some of the feedback she got.
“The thing I gained from this trip was perspective,” Jaworski said. “I thought I had a good understanding of the field because of my husband, but this embedment gave me a perspective beyond ‘This is how I envision they’re going to use it.’ Seeing how Marines function in the field with our equipment has changed how I’ll think when I’m at work.”
Maj. James Pelland, team lead for individual armor, is eager to get to work on the two MSV variants that Jordan and Jaworski tested with 1st LAR.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “We still have an appropriate amount of time to make those designs better but the positive feedback makes me feel good about the path we’ve chosen as a design team.”
Pelland also said that he hopes to have more members of his team embed with Marine units in the future.
According to Pelland, close observation during embedments is essential in two ways. The gear that will eventually be fielded to Marines gets that much better, and there is no better personal development for MCSC employees.
“We want to get as many eyes on Marines as possible to see how they use their gear,” he said. “It’s just the best way to get customer feedback, and the experience that our civilians get is completely invaluable.”
For a related story, click here.