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Freedom fighters

Members of the RIT family found many ways to serve during the war in Iraq. Following are stories of just a few of the alumni, faculty, staff and students who helped the effort.

On the front lines

Lt. Col. Daniel Stafford of RIT’s Army ROTC department learned that 17 recent grads of the program were among the 125,000 servicemembers deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Satish Kandlikar helped develop heating technology for military meals.

“We heard a very compelling story from 2nd Lt. Jeffery Bartel ’02,” says Stafford. Bartel completed his officer basic course and was assigned to Vilseck, Germany. Two weeks after arriving, he was ordered to lead his platoon into combat. He was required to airlift his Bradley Fighting Vehicles (armed personnel carriers) along with M1 Abrams tanks from another unit to Bashir and then on to Kirkuk, taking part in the first-ever airlift of M-1 tanks via a C-17 aircraft into a combat environment.

“I have learned so much already and what a way to start a career,” Bartel wrote. Regarding RIT and his ROTC training, he says “You have taught me so much . . . [I] cannot show you enough appreciation.”

The department also had word that the following were deployed:Capt. Todd Farrell ’97; Capt. Jacob Fox ’98; Capt. Kevin Hickey ’99; Capt. Andrew Yeager ’99; 1st Lt. Phillip Benner ’00; 1st Lt. Derek Boyle ’00; 1st Lt. Meredith Chasler ’01; 1st Lt. Jennifer Farrell (Funk) ’00; 1st Lt. Roderick Van Winkle ’00; 1st Lt. Eric Yarbrough ’00; 1st Lt. Daniel Cohen ’01; 1st Lt. Gregory Davis ’01; 1st Lt. Sherri Fazzio ’01; 1st Lt. Andrew Sinden ’01; 1st Lt. Thomas Whitmore 01; 2nd Lt. Erin Griep ’02.

“This list represents only a few of the dozens upon dozens of RIT alums stationed around the world,” notes Stafford. “We pray for their safe return.”

Turn on the heat

U.S. troops in Iraq ate Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) heated by technology developed with help from RIT.

The technology works like this: water added to a plastic pouch containing a magnesium-and-salt mixture produces heat, says Satish Kandlikar, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Thermal Analysis and Microfluidics Laboratory in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering.

Kandlikar helped simulate and optimize heat generation and delivery in “flameless ration heaters” under contracts with the U.S. Army. The device, patented by the Army, has been used with MREs since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Similar technology under development for “tub rations” would provide hot meals for groups of soldiers. Kandlikar is also studying advanced cooling technology for computer chips and electronic devices that may be useful in military communication and missile-control applications.

“Applying high-tech research tools in support of soldiers in battlefield conditions is something for which we’re very proud,” Kandlikar says.

Better tests, better gear

Two May graduates of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering help keep U.S. service men and women safe from chemical and biological attacks.

Dan Blodgett, left, helps Scott Hunter with protective gear like that worn by U.S. troops. Blodgett and Hunter received master’s degrees in applied statistics in May.

Dan Blodgett ’03, an advanced statistician with Westar Corp., and Scott Hunter ’03, an advanced statistician for Lockheed Martin Corp., work as civilians at the U.S. Army chemical protective equipment division at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. They devised sampling methodology to improve the testing of protective gear and chemical- and biological-agent detectors used by the military.

The two received master’s degrees in quality and applied statistics. They completed the program via distance learning and visited campus for the first time this past spring for final oral exams.

“RIT has given me the confidence to ensure high testing standards and to protect our nation’s soldiers,” Hunter says.

Studying and serving

Andrew Soto is working on an RIT degree from onboard a Navy vessel.

Soto serves as a chief petty officer on the U.S.S. Coronado, a command ship providing force protection from chemical, biological and nuclear attack, part of the U.S. Navy’s 3rd Fleet. He’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences concentrating on emergency management and safety through RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology.

“My position involves much of what I have been studying,” Soto says.

In his 19 years in the Navy – the last four as an RIT distance learning student – Soto has been deployed in Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean Sea regions and Spain. Balancing work and online studies requires self-discipline, he says. “It’s been a very good experience.”

He’ll graduate next year.

Fabrics for protection

To stay in the air for long missions, military aircraft must refuel in flight. High-tech, flame-retardant fabrics produced by a company with RIT connections help make this precarious maneuver possible.

1st Lt. Sherri Fazzio ’01 (business), right, and a colleague pose with Iraqi currency. As an Army finance officer, Fazzio was responsible for securing and accounting for millions in now-worthless money.

“We make covers for all the air-to-air refueling systems,” says Bal Dixit ’74 (MBA), chairman and CEO of Newtex Industries Inc. and a member of the RIT Board of Trustees. The company, based in Victor, N.Y., is a leading manufacturer of high-temperature, coated, aluminized fabrics, tapes, ropes and tubing as well as safety clothing for heat-resistant industrial applications.

Many of the company’s products have military uses, Dixit says. For two decades, Newtex has supplied the United States Navy, which uses such materials extensively in shipbuilding.

Dixit, who has a master’s degree in engineering as well as an MBA, founded the company in 1978 to manufacture a safe, affordable alternative to asbestos. From its start with four original products Dixit developed, the company now markets several thousand products including high-temperature safety suits, gloves and mitts; safety clothing to protect from radiant and ambient heat sources; insulation for boilers and pipes; gaskets for exhaust manifolds; and fabrics for welding applications.

The Pentagon “is a good customer,” says Dixit, “but military contracts are not the biggest part of our business.” Most of Newtex sales are to the private sector, including the oil industry. The company also manufactures decorative, non-flammable, paintable wall coverings.

Mike Saffran

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