By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 21, 2009) -- Combat gauze, the Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, and a new machine-gun cradle were among technologies recognized by U.S. Army Materiel Command during the "Top Ten Great Inventions of 2008" event at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City here.
The event, held yearly since 2002, celebrates the best technological advances in the Army. Criteria for being selected includes impact on Army capability, potential for benefit outside the Army and inventiveness. Additionally, all the technology nominated must have been fielded during 2008.
It's actually Soldiers in theater who pick the winners.
"We have Soldier panels, from the active divisions of the Army ... review all the nominations and vote on them," Donald W. Matts Jr., of Army Research Development and Engineering Command, who headed up the "Top Ten" program this year.
This year it was Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 25th Infantry Division who participated in the voting, Matts said.
"Each of the winners gets a trophy and plaque for their team, and even the ones that haven't won in the top ten -- they are winners too -- they've all fielded products the Soldiers are using in the field today."
The Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, or CROWS, was one of the 10 chosen this year as the best. The system amounts to a gun, mounted on a remotely controlled swivel, with multiple cameras. What it does is keep Soldiers inside a vehicle, while the remotely controlled weapon does the dangerous work on the outside -- exposed to insurgents and their improvised explosive devises.
"It's all about Soldier protection," said Michael Scott, of RDECOM. "It definitely saves Soldiers lives. The thought is to get the Soldier under armor and let him fire his weapon from the safety of being buttoned up in the vehicle."
The CROWS is now on more than 700 vehicles in both Iraq and Afghanistan, including the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, the humvee and the Abrams tank, Scott said. New systems are being fielded at a rate of about 20 a week.
With that exposure in the field, Scott said, evidence has come back that shows it does what it's meant to do -- save lives.
"With IED blasts, this system has come back basically in a bucket," he said. "If a Soldier was up there out of the hatch and his gun up on a pencil mount, he would be taking the shrapnel, not the system. So, the feedback is pretty good."
Also protecting Soldiers is a new set of armor for the MRAP. The "Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Expedient Armor Program Add-on-Armor Kit," or MEAP (AoA), was meant to protect MRAPs from explosively formed penetrators. The EFP is a new, deadlier weapon employed by insurgents, said Debbie DiCesare with the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center.
"We have a charge to provide protection against medium explosively formed penetrators in theater in Iraq," she said. "And it's a particularly lethal threat."
DiCesare and her team, without manufacturer-provided engineering data for MRAP, devised for the vehicles a new form of protection to save Soldiers' lives.
"We fabricated the parts and integrated it onto the vehicle and did all that in six weeks," she said.
A lot of testing went into the armor stateside, and today it's fitted to some 550 vehicles. But DiCesare said the real measure of success comes from the field.
"In my mind, it's when you get the e-mail back from the Soldier that says thanks for doing this, because it saved my life," DeCesare said is the best reward. "We've gotten e-mails and some letters. That's probably the most rewarding part."
When Soldiers do get hurt, there's Combat Gauze -- an inexpensive, lightweight, effective way to stop arterial bleeding. The gauze is impregnated with kaolin, a type of clay, known for the way it helps the body clot faster -- and stop bleeding.
"It's a hemostatic dressing, a very simple device, easy to use," said Dr. Michael Dubick, Army Institute of Surgical Research. "The important thing is that unlike other products that have been deployed, this one will stop an arterial hemorrhage. It's effective, and it seems to be safe."
Fielding on the Combat Gauze is pretty new now, Dubick said, and not a lot has come back from theater. But Dubick says he's heard of at least one report from Soldiers that it was effective -- and three additional reports from civilian trauma centers, who are also using it.
A total of ten technologies were named this year as the 'Top Ten Greatest Inventions of 2008." Each team was presented with a trophy and a plaque, commemorating their effort. The winning technologies and teams include:
• XM-153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS); U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
• Projectile Detection Cueing (PDCue)- Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) Lightning; U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
• Light Machine Gun & Medium Machine Gun Cradle; U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
• Overhead Cover for Objective Gunner Protection Kit; U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
• Enhanced Mobile Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment Vehicle; U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center
• Whisper; U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center
• Combat Gauze for Treating Hemorrhage in Injured Soldiers; U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research
• Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Armor Weight Reduction Spiral Program; U.S. Army Research Laboratory
• Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Expedient Armor Program Add-on-Armor Kit; U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center