View Full Version : Rifle scopes to recon robots

04-06-06, 08:30 AM
Rifle scopes to recon robots
April 06,2006

Frank Norbury had a mud pit in his tent, the perfect pitch for a water filtration unit that can extract drinkable water from any kind of crud, sludge and slop imaginable.

Human urine? Check. The effluent at the bottom of a Port-o-John? You betcha.

While most would avoid water from such sources like the plague, many in the armed forces don’t have that luxury, especially those like special forces or recon Marines who go deep into enemy territory.

“This is a niche product,” Norbury admitted.

That’s why Hydration Technologies Inc., which sells the filters, came to the Marine South Expo at Camp Lejeune Wednesday and today to display its wares. An annual fair displaying everything a war fighter needs or dreams about, the expo offers Marines the chance to see new gear, critique it and ask questions. And it gives vendors an opportunity to mingle with those who put their products to the ultimate test.

“It is a true user’s show,” said retired Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead, the chairman of the Marine Corps League’s exposition committee. “This isn’t a bunch of procurement-staff people. This is for the trigger pullers, the guys and gals sleeping in the tents and driving the trucks.”

The expo offers no shortage of night-vision goggles, pistols, rifle scopes, 2-way radios, tourniquets, mine-clearing vehicles, reconnaissance robots, IED detectors, protective clothing, shelters and communication equipment. In short, anything needed to satiate the tech hunger of your average leatherneck.

“There’s a lot of new inventions that not a lot of people know about,” said Sgt. Justin Carpenter, a logistics Marine with II Marine Expeditionary Force. “You can spread the word, spread the info back to your unit.”

Maj. Bill Sablan, the executive officer of the Marine Combat Training Battalion at Camp Geiger’s School of Infantry, said he comes for a glimpse into the future.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I come to take a look at the new products, learn about what’s out there and what the Marine Corps is purchasing. It’s a good deal.”

While the usual fare of weapon augments, armored vehicles and protective gear was there in force, there were a number of new vendors who brought a twist.

Take the TRX, designed by former Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick. The rope-like exercise system designed by Hetrick’s company, Fitness Anywhere, lives up to that name. It’s designed to provide functional strength training anywhere. A promotional video showed a Marine hooking it to the side of a 7-ton truck in a sand blasted environment like Iraq.

That product, for one, met Carpenter’s approval after he gave it a try.

“I liked it,” he said. “I go to the gym quite a bit, so I’m always looking for something new. I started breaking a sweat right off the bat.”

The expo also offers a great time for feedback that becomes product improvement because Marines take this gear into the field and use it in creative ways.

“A lot of the vendors solicit and ask for info,” Sablan said. “I’ve purchased things prior to deployment and then offered feedback. They actually do make changes, which is good to see. They know the only way to sell their wares is to stay ahead of the curve.”

And that seemed to be the best way to enamor Marines. Give them something technologically “out there” but still practical on today’s battlefield.

Staff. Sgt. Eric Johnson, with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, took a liking to General Dynamics’ “Command and Control to Go,” which featured new-fangled wireless and portable communication units.

“Being as many places I’ve been, it’s good to have something like this,” he said while trying out one of the headsets. “I wish everyone had something like this. That’s something that will benefit all the units out there. That’s one of the problems we always have, communication.”

The expo continues from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. today.

Contact Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 229.