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Nett Warrior to connect Soldiers to each other, leaders

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (June 15, 2010) -- The Army christened the new Ground Soldier System June 14 with a name that honors World War II Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert B. Nett.

The system, now in development, will be lighter and more advanced than the current Land Warrior Strike system now being used by a brigade in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to officials at Program Manager Land Warrior. The next generation of the system will now be called "Nett Warrior."

The Army made the naming announcement during a ceremony in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on the Army's birthday. Col. David W. Riggins, program manager for Soldier Warrior, explained why his team chose to name their system after Nett, who earned the military's highest award for valor.

"One of the things we discussed ... was that we knew we wanted to maintain a warrior ethos, "Riggins said. "We knew we wanted to honor a great American hero. We knew that we wanted it to be a maneuver leader. This is a leader system -- to make them more effective. So it was a pretty easy choice."

Nett's son, Dr. Robert B. Nett Jr., spoke at the ceremony and relayed insights about his father -- who he called "pappy" -- that revealed a man who was a Soldier to the core.

"I remember helping my dad put his medal around his neck," Nett Jr. said. "He'd say a prayer and give credit to his men. He said he was only a representative of their actions."

Nett Jr. said once, as a child, a school teacher had asked her students how many would eat with them for their Christmas dinner. Nett surprised her when he told her it would be in the hundreds.

"We always ate with my father's Soldiers who could not go home to their families," Nett Jr. said.

"Dad taught me the greatest experience in life was the privilege to serve," he said.

Nett, who died in 2008, enlisted in the Army in 1940, at the age of 17. He served until 1978, and attained the rank of colonel during his service. It was because of his actions during World War II, while serving as part of the Philippines Campaign, that he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

On Dec. 14, 1944, Nett was serving as a lieutenant in the Philippines. He served as part of Company E, 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division. Nett commanded Company E in an attack against a reinforced battalion of Japanese that had held up the American advance for two days. Nett led the assault against the enemy soldiers.

While engaged with the enemy, Nett managed to kill seven Japanese using his rifle and bayonet. Despite being seriously wounded, he continued to lead his Soldiers. He was wounded an additional two times while attempting to achieve their objective.

"He calmly made all arrangements for the resumption of the advance, turned over his command to another officer, and then walked unaided to the rear for medical treatment," reads the Medal of Honor citation. "By his remarkable courage in continuing forward through sheer determination despite successive wounds, Lt. Nett provided an inspiring example for his men and was instrumental in the capture of a vital strongpoint."

Nett Warrior is a system worn on a Soldier's body that will provide "unparalleled situational awareness" to Soldiers on the ground. The system includes a radio, a helmet-mounted display and a hand-held data input device. The wiring for the system is integrated into a protective vest.

With Nett Warrior, Soldiers will be able to see their location, the location of their fellow Soldiers, and the location of known enemies on a moving map.

"What this system will mean is they are never lost, never out of reach of their buddies," said Riggins. "They are able to adapt to dynamics of changing ... combat, and able to share all that information about all aspects of their mission in order to cut through that fog of war."

Mal O'Neill, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said Nett Warrior brings to ground-pounders what the F-22 Raptor brings to pilots and the M1 Abrams brings to tankers.

"You look at something like the F-22 and the Abrams tanks and you say these are decisive weapons -- as soon as the bad guy knows he's going to be flying against an F-22, he doesn't even want to leave the ground. Same thing with an enemy tanker going up against an Abrams tank -- he's not going to have a good day," O'Neill said.

"We need to make the U.S. Army Soldier and Marine decisive weapons, and the way you do that is you use Net Warrior," O'Neill said. "There is no reason in the world why ... a Soldier can't know everything that is moving within a kilometer and he and his leadership can figure out what to do about that thing."

O'Neill said that Nett Warrior should field to Soldiers around 2013. He said the system is meant to be used at fire-team level, tying most junior Soldiers to leadership at squad level.

The Nett Warrior system will be integrated into a protective vest that carries armor plates, but the technology only adds about five pounds atop an equivalent protective vest. Additionally, the battery-powered system will be designed to run for about 24 hours on a four-hour charge.

"Nett Warrior" will be the common name of the system, which maintains the official nomenclature "Ground Soldier System Increment I." System development was awarded to three separate competing companies. Each of the three companies delivered 60 systems which are undergoing developmental testing.