CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Although Marines are not the transformers seen in films on the silver screen, they are equipped with some of the latest technologies available today.
Director of Science and Technology for II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), Col. David Thompson, ensured Marines had the right equipment when they went into the field to battle insurgents, and do their jobs as safely as possible.
“He leveraged the latest technology and ensured its rapid deployment to save lives,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Randy Tootle, Logistics chief, II MEF (Fwd).
“A good example would be the ballistic boxers,” said Assistant Chief of Staff, Logistics, Col. Jeffery Hooks, I MEF (Fwd).
Thompson and his team researched the type of material that would withstand a blast and not cause infection. Lightweight silk, coated in an anti-microbial agent with an extra layer of ballistic protection on the inside was the final solution. A manufacturer was found and a rush order arranged. The boxers are currently standard issue to military members working outside forward operating bases in Afghanistan.
When a piece of gear needed modification, Thompson made it happen.
“He re-engineered the grabber, so they could actually toss those things out,” Tootle said, adding that the grabber is a device used for finding trip wires attached to roadside bombs.
“He worked with the machinists from several other sections, doing numerous designs,” Tootle said, “Then sent it to [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] for testing.”
After several redesigns and fine tuning between the engineers and the EOD teams, the result was a claw-like tool with the capacity to extend and dig while being small enough to fit in a pack.
Thompson’s team worked on vehicle upgrades, acquiring and installing new underbody kits. Deployed eight times in 10 years, Thompson said he knows the difference the right equipment, used properly, can make in theater. He said he saw the results of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle modified so the blast radius moved away from, rather than up into the vehicle.
“I didn’t see the blast, but I saw the cab and everything around it,” Thompson said. “I was concerned for the people inside. When I found out they all walked away, I said, ‘Thank God we all did a good job. All the work we did paid off.’”
He was able to outfit Marines with new ground penetrating radar systems and sniper detection gear at the same time.
“That was a great day because both are game-changing technologies,” Thompson said.
Not every day ended on an upbeat note for the colonel. He lost a fellow Marine he’d encouraged to join the Corps.
“It’s my job to try and find ways to prevent that,” Thompson said. “Every casualty means a lot to me. I look at that and ask, ‘What could I have done better?’”
Thompson will bring home a better knowledge of special equipment items as a force multiplier, and the difference that proper training makes when using technology in combat.
He also got an up close and personal experience of the inner workings at the senior leadership level, he said.
“They get it,” Thompson said. “They understand what it takes to save lives.”
This work, Leveraging technology adds force multiplier, saves lives in combat, by L.A. Shively, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.