Magazine article National Defense

Marine Corps Laboratory Strives to Respond to Pressing Needs

Magazine article National Defense

Marine Corps Laboratory Strives to Respond to Pressing Needs

Article excerpt

As Marines prepare for extended combat duty in Iraq, the Corps' research arm is seeking solutions to problems ranging from countering roadside bombs and developing limb protection devices to improving low-level communications and refining urban combat tactics.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is working with the Office of Naval Research, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Army to provide quick results, said lab commander Brig. Gen. Tom Waldhauser. The lab modeled some of its efforts on the Army's Rapid Equipping Force, he said.

Vehicles of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which has returned to Iraq for a second tour, received explosive resistant coatings to mitigate the improvised explosive device (IED) threat, Waldhauser told National Defense.

That temporary solution has been developed rapidly to protect vehicles that are made of thinner steel and have not received thicker reinforced doors, Waldhauser said.

The Humvees come in several levels of thickness, he explained, with some made out of thinner steel than others. "It has been found through testing [that] this coating will assist in bringing up the level of protection," he said. The coating essentially would make the thinner steel as tough as its more robust counterparts, said Waldhauser, whose lab is involved in testing and evaluating the substance. Some vehicles in Iraq already have been sprayed with it, he said.

Because every Humvee has been slated to receive increased small-arms protection, "now the question that they are trying to answer up there is, 'Is it worth the effort to spray all these doors that ultimately will be replaced by thicker steel?'" But the coating has proved to be a quickly dispatched interim solution, he said.

IEDs, however, are a tougher nut to crack. Therefore, at the joint level, the Marine Corps and Navy are working with the Army and Coast Guard under the IED-process working group. The Army has the lead on the project.

The working group is trying to combine "all of the ongoing efforts that each of the service has been undertaking," said Waldhauser. Although the working group just recently emerged, the Army and the Marine Corps have been working together for more than a year to "coordinate the effort, as well as leverage the technologies and discoveries that they have made," he said.

IEDs are not the only Factors plaguing Marines in the field. The lab also had to come up with more effective means to protect parts of the body not already shielded by armor. "We have some things in theater ... some face shields. We even developed some different types of shorts" because of recurring groin injuries, Waldhauser said.

ONR, for its part, is specifically working to develop what it calls "a short-fuse helmet" similar to a football player's helmet--an idea Navy Secretary Gordon England suggested after he returned from a visit to Iraq, said Waldhauser, who also is the vice commander of ONR and represents the Marines' science and technology interests.

Meanwhile, to treat wounded Marines on the battlefield, the service has fielded improved individual first-aid kits, according to Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon, head of the Marine Corps Systems Command.

"The current individual first-aid kit has not been improved in more than 30 years and does not provide the life-saving medical technologies available today," he said during congressional testimony earlier this year. …

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