Army researchers strive to understand vulnerabilities, mitigate injuries
April 10, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 10, 2013) -- Joint Trauma Analysis and Prevention of Injury in Combat program -- the name itself implies vast scale. Formed in July 2006, the program is a partnership among Defense Department intelligence, operational, medical, and materiel-development communities that collect, integrate and analyze injury and operational data from theater.
The goal is to improve DOD's understanding of vulnerabilities to threats and enable the development of improved tactics, techniques, and procedures, known as TTPs, and materiel solutions to prevent or mitigate traumatic injuries.
Paul Tanenbaum, Ph.D., director of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Army Research Laboratory Survivability and Lethality Analysis Directorate, known as SLAD, explained the big-picture impacts.
"For SLAD the thing that's perhaps most exciting about [Joint Trauma Analysis and Prevention of Injury in Combat] is that it's opened the floodgates of communication," Tanenbaum said. "We now receive lots of very timely and detailed medical data along with the mission that was being executed, threats, and so forth. And in turn, we now have a great new channel to communicate our analyses, recommendations, and the like to people who can make things happen."
The mission is vast, but vital. Due to the nature of the full-spectrum operations of the Army and Marine Corps, it is important to capitalize on opportunities to quickly identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities through incident analysis and lessons learned, he said, in order to adjust TTPs and upgrade vehicles and protective equipment.
Charles Kennedy, an engineer in SLAD, is ARL's program manager for Joint Trauma Analysis and Prevention of Injury in Combat, or JTAPIC. Members of SLAD's Warfighter Survivability Branch work closely with ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, known as WRMD, and many others to address a variety of issues including analyzing the survivability of the mounted and dismounted warfighter.
For example, SLAD has developed an end-user tool for coding injuries. This software program, called VisualAID, provides a way to illustrate injuries to warfighters in a dignified way that is appropriate for a variety of audiences. It also helps translate the medical implications of the injuries for non-medical audiences.
For example, if a vehicle designer is reading a report written in medical jargon, he may not glean vital connections to design changes that he could have made.
With a 3-D image of the warfighter with injuries color coded to show their severity, these design options are much easier to discern. SLAD's computer scientists have worked to code the new program to make it a user-friendly interface while still providing a large amount of information using the Abbreviated Injuries Scale, an international standard for classifying injuries by type and severity used by both the medical and engineering communities.
"SLAD is mapping injuries to specific regions of the body and identifying the specific anatomy affected," Kennedy said.
Developing modeling tools to visualize injuries is not new for SLAD. SLAD developed its Operational Requirement-based Casualty Assessment system, known as ORCA, which models mounted and dismounted Soldiers, in the 1990s. About six years ago, SLAD integrated ORCA into MUVES S2 -- SLAD's modeling system for interactions between vehicles and ballistic threats.
VisualAID is another tool demonstrating SLAD's ability to provide detailed and accurate modeling and simulation for both personnel and platforms. It is available to all JTAPIC members for their use in coding injuries. This uniform, web-based program should increase the accuracy of coded injuries because of its user-friendly interface, while still providing the high-power geometry underneath.
Another JTAPIC area where SLAD has concentrated is analyzing fragments and small-arms munitions recovered by medical examiners from victims killed in action. This information is valuable on several levels. In the beginning of SLAD's work on the JTAPIC program, SLAD would analyze fragments when needed for specific event reconstruction or for cases of interest. In 2011, SLAD undertook the task of analyzing all fragments and small arms munitions recovered from KIAs, and they are now able to provide trend information, which has proved useful in developing suggestions for adjustments to materiel.
For example, Karen Pizzolato, a chemist in SLAD, briefed Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, then-Army Materiel Command commanding general, on trends in small-arms head wounds. The briefing pushed specific design modifications for current helmets.
Since then, SLAD has also been engaged in answering further questions about the performance of new helmets.
"SLAD's role is to be an impartial provider of analysis so that decision makers, materiel developers, and PMs have the information that they need to make the most informed decision," Pizzolato said.
The fragment analysis begins with WMRD's sterilizing the fragments. SLAD then produces a 3-D scan of the fragment, thereby preserving the geometry of each sample. Next, WMRD analyzes the fragment to identify its chemical composition and assists in small-arms identifications. This information helps analysts identify threats and threat components. It also allows analysts to determine new enemy TTPs.
Finally, using data from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System and other available information, SLAD analysts can reverse engineer the incident to determine such things as projectile velocity. This provides additional pieces of the puzzle for members of JTAPIC working to analyze battlefield incidents.
JTAPIC is powerful because it provides an interface for all of its members. For example, members of the research community such as ARL can easily access members of the Dismounted Incident Analysis Team, to have operational assumptions validated. There are even times that the information uncovered through fragment analysis -- reported up to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs -- has been used in veterans' treatment and counseling.
JTAPIC has proved successful by opening lines of communication and providing forums for sharing information across many different agencies. The various communities have worked together to provide deeper information which has resulted in tangible results for increased Soldier survivability. SLAD has been able to leverage its unique workforce to provide in-depth analysis. Engineering, computer science, chemistry, operations research, and biology are just a few of the scientific fields that converge at SLAD to provide the most accurate analysis for survivability of personnel and platforms.