For Teddy Damour, a chemical engineer with Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Research and Development Directorate (R&T), the most rewarding part of his work at the Center is to see the equipment developed by ECBC/RDECOM used in theater, in the hands of the Warfighter. For six months this year, Damour had the opportunity to do just that.
As a part of a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command program called Field Assistance Science and Technology Team (FAST), Damour, had the opportunity to work alongside the Warfighters in Iraq as a Civilian Science and Technology Adviser, to assist with several projects and provide on-site solutions to technological issues that arose. His objectives included identifying technology gaps to help improve the survival and well-being of the Warfighter, provide advice to operational commanders on technology and implement new systems in the operational area and conduct assessments of technologies.
“The project left me with a great feeling of accomplishment once I returned state-side,” Damour said.
The RDECOM program deploys both soldiers and D.A. civilians, like Damour, to locations in Iraq and Afghanistan to support the Warfighter with all issues they might have with the technology they use to enhance and support their mission. The civilians would identify concerns or requirements from the Warfighter about their equipment and then determine solutions to resolve the issues. Issues were resolved either on the spot or by relaying the concern back to the RDECOM labs to create a solution and creating a suitable timeframe for solving the problem.
“I traveled throughout Iraq – North, South, East and West – talking to the Warfighters to understand the issues they had with their equipment,” said Damour, who spent February –August 2011 at Camp Victory in Baghdad. “For example, there was an issue with the vehicles not having enough power to support additional lights; we went to the RDECOM labs to determine how we could supplement the power on the vehicle to be used at full capacity during night missions.”
Damour first found out about the RDECOM program through the work he did previously at ECBC in the Smoke Grenade Army Program he worked with, and the Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) Program he also is actively involved with. The programs were seeking people with Army and IED experience, experience Damour had to offer.
In addition to providing technical support to the Warfighter, Damour took the opportunity to learn about a different culture and gain a new exposure to the work done at ECBC.
“It is something that most scientists and engineers might not always have the opportunity to see – the end result of their hard work, directly supporting and increasing the efficiency of the Warfighters’ missions.
“I went on Route clearing missions, aerial missions and foot patrols with the soldiers,” Damour said. “It was great to be over there and see how the Warfighters conduct their business. It was a great experience to be with them. Even though I was a civilian, they expected me to contribute and come along to see what they really do their mission.”
Damour also tackled a real-time threat while overseas: Developing solutions to mitigate rocket and mortar attacks.
“That was one of the primary technologies I worked on, gathering ‘real-world’ information on how to survive and minimize casualties from rocket attacks,” Damour said.
The team Damour worked with was charged with improving the warning time for a possible rocket or mortar attack, allowing in some cases to prevent the attacks.
”The project included integrating different types of software, radars, and camera systems in order to find ways to improve the speed of rocket detection, to send out earlier warnings, and possibly discover the place of origin of the rocket in order to apprehend the persons responsible. Eventually, the hope is that a type of technology can be developed that can knock the rocket out of the sky before it even explodes at its destination,” Damour said.
Damour’s day-to-day work in Iraq varied. Sometimes he conducted work in an office setting with scientists from other organizations. Other times Damour found himself lacing up his boots to join the Warfighters on the road to find IEDs. The fast-paced excitement and unpredictability of the project won over Damour.
The opportunity to experience a new culture and learn about the geopolitical composition of Iraq was an added bonus next to working one-on-one with the Warfighter for Damour.
“I can now read Arabic and write the alphabet. I’ve tasted the food and interacted with Iraqis allowing me to gain an added perspective on the work the US is doing over there,” Damour said. “I would definitely go back if the opportunity presented itself again."