USAARL celebrates 50 years of excellence, innovation
October 18, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 18, 2012) -- Soldiers and senior leaders of Fort Rucker came together at the Neel Aeromedical Science Center to celebrate the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory's 50th anniversary, and pay tribute to its buildings namesake, Maj. Gen. Spurgeon Neel.
The ceremony began with a commemorative ceremony followed by a science symposium and panel discussion, and a tour of USAARL's facility.
"Today's observance is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the significant accomplishments of the past and present members of the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory," said Maj. Jonathan Deeter, narrator for the ceremony. "We also come to commemorate the tradition of research excellence embodied in the advancement of aeromedical capabilities utilized on and off the battlefield."
USAARL's main mission is to discover innovative medical solutions for the Army by conducting basic and applied medical research, according to Col. Dana Renta, commander of USAARL. "We work to discover new answers to problems or we take known answers and discover ways to develop new solutions. USAARL is one of the Army's top medical and technological enablers."
USAARL has helped in development and research in many areas, such as hearing and vision thresholds, medical standards, jetlag, fatigue, helmets, visors, night-vision goggles, seats and restraints, and hovering aids, according to Renta.
"Our strength lies in our ability to transform ourselves -- to adapt to change, be agile and responsive, and to find relevant and affordable medical solutions, regardless of environmental or resource constraints," she said. "Our strength is in our network partners and the Aviation community."
Maj. Gen. James K. Gilman, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, agreed that partnerships are important to success.
"It is important to point out that this laboratory started as a true partnership between the medical community and the Aviation community," he said. "That partnership has been the key to success over the last 50 years, and I will tell you that the partnership is absolutely alive, well and vital, today."
The research laboratory got its start in 1962 when the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Unit was established as a result of a staff study conducted by Neel and Maj. Gen. Ernest Easterbrook, then commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center and commandant of the U.S. Army Aviation School, according to Renta.
"As with everything, it began with a thought," she said. "As a medical company commander assigned to the 69th Infantry Division in Germany in 1945, [Neel] and his unit became stranded on the wrong side of the Elbe River. He thought, if he only had a helicopter to take his wounded to get medical care."
At that moment, he envisioned a better way to transport wounded Soldiers off of the battlefield, but he knew that a good idea wasn't going to be enough to spark change, said Renta. If he wanted change, he would have to create an infrastructure and secure the backing to get it done.
"Half a century later, [Neel's] vision has led to battlefield survivability rates that exceed 95 percent," she said. "All because he dared to imagine and chase his dreams, and all in support of our wounded warfighters."
After the official part of the ceremony, people in attendance were able to take a tour of the facility and see the different aircraft that USAARL helped improve, see scrapbooks of USAARL's history, and look at the different divisions of the facility such as the Warfighter Health Division, Sensory Research Division and Warfighter Protection Division.
The research laboratory's latest endeavor is the renovation of the new biodynamics research facility, which will house the installation's largest non-ballistic projectile launchers and a vertical acceleration tower, according to Renta.
"Today's observation is a celebration that reminds us that relationships matter," she said. "It's USAARL's promise to the Aviator, the airborne Soldier and the ground warriors, that we're going to continue to find medical solutions that reduce health hazards, prevent injury, and protect and improve performance."