Some will find it appropriate that the Army Project Officer for the iconic “Ma Deuce”.50 caliber heavy machine gun is – what else? –a woman.
“Ma”, the M2/M2A1’s fictional namesake, would be proud that a female, Project Manager Soldier Lethality’s, Laura Battista, has overseen the program bearing Ma’s name for the past 15 years.
A few years after graduating from New Jersey Institute of Technology with her Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Laura began her career in federal service. She joined Picatinny Arsenal’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (now CCDC-AC) as a General Engineer/Environmental Scientist, a stint that saw her earn a patent for her work in corrosion resistant, self-healing coatings for Army materiel.
In 2005, she took a position with PM Soldier Weapons (now PM Soldier Lethality) as a Project Officer for Crew Served Weapons. That’s when she began working on the M2 machine gun. After responding to multiple malfunction reports from the field about Soldiers injured when the M2’s headspace and timing weren’t properly set, Laura began working with the weapon’s Integrated Product Team and vendor General Dynamics to make the Ma Deuce safer and easier to use.
She was responsible for testing, producing and ultimately fielding the improved M2A1 to its first unit in 2011. That same year, the M2A1 was named one of the top 10 Army Greatest Inventions for 2011. Over 38,000 M2A1s have been fielded to date, replacing the legacy M2.
Today, Laura still manages the M2 and M2A1 in addition to PM SL’s medium caliber weapons programs. She currently is working to upgrade the M2A1 even more by reducing its weight. She and her team have developed prototypes with select parts made of titanium to reduce the weight of the M2A1 from 84 to 61 pounds- a 27% weight reduction.
“In the era of lightening the Warfighter’s load as well as providing lethal solutions to vehicle platforms with weight restrictions, we want to keep the M2A1 safe, powerful, reliable, and simply make it lighter,” she said. Asked about being a role model to other women in engineering and other professions, Laura says she’s honored.
“There are many incredible women I work with at PM Soldier Lethality and CCDC-AC but we are certainly few and far between in this male dominated profession. I love what I do and the people I work with.”
“I’m encouraged to see so many curious young females at events such as ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering’ who light up when we explain who we are and what we do, especially when they hear how we are in charge of our programs, we are empowered to make decisions on behalf of the Army and are not just on the sidelines.”