Hood Herald/DAVID MORRIS - An unmanned Combat Autonomous Mobility System weaves between two traffic barrels as III Corps and General Dynamics Robotic Systems demonstrate the remote-controlled mobility system at Fort Hood. The project, currently in the assessment phase, allows any tactical vehicle to become robotically controlled while maintaining its ability to be manned.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch wants Fort Hood to be the nation's robotics center of excellence.

The commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, who received a master's degree in mechanical engineering, focusing on robotics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talked about his plan in late June before inviting members of the local media to see the technology at work.

The robots on the battlefield now are teleoperated, Lynch said, which means they require someone nearby to operate them. Robots tested and demonstrated at Fort Hood last month for possible use were developed by General Dynamics Robotic Systems and part of a Defense Department project called Combat Autonomous Mobility System, or CAMS. General Dynamics is working with the III Corps Robotics Team, led by Maj. Chip Daniels, to test CAMS in preparation of an operational users assessment later this year at the U.S. Operational Test Command.

The robots demonstrated drive Humvees and are a combination of lasers, cameras and sensors that drive the vehicles. Not only does the robot navigate the Humvee, it reacts to obstacles, including holes in the road and people who may run in front of the vehicle.

Humvees equipped with the technology can be manned or unmanned and can conduct a range of missions from resupply, convoys, patrols, observation, route clearance and casualty evacuation, according to information from General Dynamics. Soldiers operating the robots don't have to be in the immediate area.

This technology displaces soldiers from the most vulnerable and dangerous places on the battlefield, Daniels said.

In information from III Corps, Lynch said that he lost 153 soldiers in Iraq when he commanded the 3rd Infantry Division.

"They died in a place on the battlefield that I put them and I have to live with that every day for the rest of my life," Lynch said. "If I had this robotic technology available to me then, many of those young men and women would be alive today."

Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment helped test CAMS, providing input based on their recent deployment to Iraq. Staff Sgt. Eric Adams, a cavalry scout from Bandit Troop, 1st Squadron, said the system just needed a few tweaks and he was all for "anything that gets my guys out of harm's way for just a little bit."

The robots could be most helpful when conducting route reconnaissance and clearance missions, Adams said. The robot-operated Humvees could take the two lead positions because those are typically the ones that get hit by roadside bombs, he added.

Col. Reginald Allen, the regimental commander, said 3rd Armored Cavalry was playing an important role in the testing. If the technology matures to the point where it's saving soldiers' lives, then every minute his soldiers spent on the testing was well worth it, he added.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547. The New York Times contributed to this report.

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