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Military News

Altman: Socom assault suit conjures images of Trek planet

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Published:   |   Updated: September 23, 2013 at 05:40 AM

Any time I can work a “Star Trek” reference into my column, I will, so here goes.

Tuesday, at a defense industry conference in Clearwater, a purchasing official from U.S. Special Operations Command is going to talk about the development of the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, otherwise known as TALOS. According to Socom, TALOS is the command's “vision to provide Special Operation Forces with enhanced mobility and protection technologies in a fully integrated assault suit. Some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, situational awareness, command and control computers, power management systems, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.”

For anyone who didn't grow up on endless “Star Trek” reruns, the planet Talos IV was off limits to Starfleet personnel, “due to the addictive qualities of the illusion technology,” possessed by the Talosians, according to a series website. But beyond that, the two-part episode dealt largely with the mental and physical effects of the wounds of war, as experienced by Capt. Christopher Pike.

Back on Earth, Karin Fones from Socom's Technical Industrial Liaison Office will speak about the TALOS project (but presumably not Talosians) during the luncheon at the 7th annual Florida Defense & Technology Showcase at Sheraton Sand Key Resort on Clearwater Beach.

She'll be speaking to an audience of defense prime contractors, subcontractors and others in the science and technology sectors about expanding partnerships among academics, industry and government in support of a bold new acquisition model, according to conference organizers.

The main goal of the conference “is to bring a focus/reminder that Florida is strong with defense contractors and is the place to do business and find strong and innovative contractors,” according to spokeswoman Danielle Weitlauf. “The showcase is planned each year by the Florida Federal Contractors Association and the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. It is supported by Congressman (C.W. Bill) Young who invites prime contractors to the showcase with the intent of connecting with Tampa Bay defense contractors.”

The conference attracts about 250 attendees and 50 exhibitors, said Weitlauf. “The main benefit to the local economy is to continue to grow and strengthening companies and their relationships with prime contractors primarily from D.C. region,” she said.

As for TALOS, Socom has put out what is called “Broad Agency Announcement” for proposals and research into the TALOS system.

“Prior studies and analysis have determined a number of technical challenges exist to create the TALOS vision,” according to Socom. “Those challenges include system weight, ballistic protection, power generation and storage, mobility/agility, and subsystem integration. Ultimately, USSOCOM will be forced to make design tradeoffs between required improvements and the cost to deliver a revolutionary capability to protect SOF on future missions.”

One special operator I know, who spent years lugging kit through all kinds of hot and hellish warzones, seemed dubious about the end result.

“My sense is it is an uparmored Pinocchio!” joked Scott Neil, a retired special forces master sergeant and Silver Star recipient. “Now the commander can shove a monkey in a suit and ask us to survive a machine gun, IED, and poor intelligence all on the same objective. And when you die in it as it melts to your body, you can bury them in it! But in all seriousness, I'd like to see them invest in another kind of suit — a business suit. Not one of the operators who has been wearing 80 pounds of body armor and kit will be in Socom after hundreds of millions are spent, but we will be fighting a new fight — transitioning back to be ordinary Americans.”

Gold Star Mothers' Day

Over the years, I have come to know a number of families who have lost children in service to the country. Most had children who died at the hands of the enemy. Some died by their own hand. Regardless of the reason, they have made the transition from Blue Star Families to Gold Star Families.

To honor those losses, Sunday, Sept. 29, is Gold Star Mothers Day, a tradition that began in 1936 and is celebrated on the last Sunday of September.

On July 16, 2011, Toni and Craig Gross became Gold Star parents when their son, Cpl. Frank R. Gross, was killed in Afghanistan.

“In honor of this day, consider flying the colors or making a donation to a local 'military service related organization such as the USO Tampa Bay, American Gold Star Mothers Inc., or 'My Warriors' Place,' “ in Ruskin,” said Toni Gross, president of Tampa Gulf Coast North chapter of Gold Star Mothers Inc. “Please join our nation in honoring our Gold Star families and remember, the next time you see that tiny Gold Star lapel pin, say to that person wearing it, 'We are grateful for the sacrifice that your loved one made in their service to this nation and acknowledge you for your loss and sacrifice as well.'”

Golf to support Fisher House

One of my favorite places in Tampa is the Fisher House at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. It's where the families of those undergoing long-term recuperation can stay, so they can be close and provide much-needed support.

On Oct. 25, the seventh annual Tampa Fisher House Golf Classic will take place at the Pebble Creek Golf Course in New Tampa to raise money and awareness to support the Fisher House, which depends on volunteers and voluntary support to enhance its operations and programs.

The fundraiser will provide products and services for visiting family members. Organizers are looking for sponsors and players. PaverWorks is the event sponsor along with Operation Helping Hand and the Pepin Distributing Company. For more information, or to donate, contact Executive Director Valerie Casey at (813) 317-8886, valcasey3@aol.com.

Support Guard, Reserve

President Barack Obama has declared Sept. 22 through Sept. 28 as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week. “I call upon all Americans to join me in expressing our heartfelt thanks to the members of the National Guard and Reserve and their civilian employers. I also call on State and local officials, private organizations, and all military commanders, to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities,” the president said in his proclamation.

Deaths in Afghanistan

The Pentagon announced the deaths of two soldiers last week in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

 Staff Sgt. Randall R. Lane, 43, of Indianapolis, Ind., died Sept. 13, in Kabul, Afghanistan, from a noncombat related illness. He was assigned to the 190th Transportation Battalion, 38th Sustainment Brigade, Franklin, Ind.

Staff Sgt. Robert E. Thomas Jr., 24, of Fontana, Calif., died Sept. 13, at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, of wounds suffered during a noncombat related incident on April 21, 2013, in Maiwand, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, Fort Bliss, Texas.

There have now been 2,259 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation's longest war.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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