S&T for tomorrow is part of the Army's story at AUSA

October 23, 2014

By Joyce P. Brayboy, U.S. Army Research Laboratory

Dr. Thomas Plaisted is a materials engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory who uses computer modeling to understand impact to the head.

He recently told his story about one aspect of fundamental science behind head protection to more than 3,000 attendees at the Association of the U.S. Army opening ceremony.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," provided a patriotic performance during the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington D.C.

"Everyone in the ranks of our great Army — officer, enlisted and civilian — is a steward of our profession," said the announcer. "By far, the most important resource is our people — the Soldiers, civilians and families who are literally the lifeblood of our profession."

Plaisted spoke to the audience through a video, where he talked about his role in a network of trusted professionals who guide the future of the nation's land forces.

The Research, Development and Engineering Command is in charge with coming up with the best technology to ensure that Soldiers have a decisive advantage on the battlefield, he said.

"What I do on a day-to-day basis all comes back to the Soldier," Plaisted said. "It is the potential to stop a life-altering injury that keeps scientists and engineers focused on forming a consensus for the best long-term solutions."

ARL is interested in high-risk and high-payoff technologies, Plaisted said.

"Sometimes we get to celebrate, but other times we have to acknowledge our ideas just aren't going to work out," he said. "It is the search for protective solutions brings our work into focus."

For instance, one project Plaisted is working on to use 3D printing to make skulls, which will allow researchers to mimic the mechanical response of a human skull. The novel concept could form the basis for an effective tool in the study of shockwave affects on the brain because the synthetic bone material is layered in a way similar to the skull.

The public may not even realize that the Department of Defense, the wider medical community and academic institution are working to solve complex problems like mild traumatic brain injury until they hear the story from the people who live it, said Thomas Moyer, director of public affairs at ARL.

"ARL is the nation's premiere laboratory for land forces," Moyer said.

The workforce is focused on developing foundational research innovations and discoveries that lead to the technology that will drive the world's finest land force into the future, he said.

Responsible stewardship of our nation's resources was one of three Army pillars exemplified in the ceremony by Plaisted and his ARL colleagues, Sikhanda Satapathy, mechanical engineer, team leader, and Dr. Ann Dileonardi, neuroscientist.

The three walked across the stage, standing along with Staff Sgt. Troy Tow, who was wounded by an improvised explosive device in 2011, and has since transitioned from Wounded Warrior to caring for Warriors at Fort Riley, Kansas. In the performance, his experience depicted the pillar of "honorable service."

Maj. Christina Cook was front and center on stage representing the pillar of "military expertise," the first woman in the 1st Cavalry Division to qualify on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. She said she just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Her crew treated her as another Army officer.

As Field Band Soldiers concluded the opening ceremony, "For 239 years we have been proud to say that we are America's Army. We stand strong ready to respond when America calls."

Following a standing ovation for the patriotic performance, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh gave the keynote address that reminded the audience why the U.S. Army is the "Greatest land power the world has ever seen."

He called for predictable long-term Army funding.

"When trouble comes, no matter the challenge, they don't call Bejing. They don't call Moscow. They call us, the United States Army. And, despite predictions of many, the calls keep coming," McHugh said.

ARL looks into the foundational innovation that give the U.S. land forces an edge on the battlefield in that long-term future.

The scientists and engineers at ARL are responsible for pursuing novel concepts, technological breakthroughs and ground-breaking discoveries to support our Soldiers for a dynamic and uncertain tomorrow.

Plaisted's is one of the many stories about ARL technology with the potential to make a difference for land forces.

Held every October in Washington, the AUSA annual meeting is the largest land power exposition and professional development forum in North America. The event consists of presentations, panel discussions on pertinent military, and national security subjects, workshops and important AUSA business meetings.


Last Update / Reviewed: October 23, 2014