FORT SILL, Okla. (June 13, 2013) -- The Army uses Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery prerequisite scores for a recruit to get into a given military occupational specialty (MOS), and as a probable indicator of the Soldier's success to complete the MOS training. In the future, the Army will, similarly, have physical standard requirements which must be met by a recruit to qualify for a combat MOS.
The Soldier 2020 Gender-Neutral Physical Standards Study is under way to establish those requirements.
Scientists were at Fort Sill June 5-6, and observed cannon crewmembers go through rigorous MOS 13B- specific tasks, as well as common Soldier tasks, as part of the research.
"The study will provide a fair and objective appraisal of the physical requirements to be a successful and effective Soldier at any level, and even in highly specialized MOSs," said Dr. Edward Zambraski, Military Performance Division chief at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM). "That's important so that a Soldier can be successful in doing his or her job, but also to minimize the chance of a Soldier being hurt attempting to do their job."
The secretary of defense rescinded the 1994 Direct Ground combat definition and assignment rule and directed the full integration of women into currently closed units and positions after the development of a gender-neutral occupational standards.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff directed the Army to validate physical performance standards for each job that remains closed to women through the gender-neutral study. Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is leading the study with support from Forces Command and the Army Medical Command's USARIEM.
"That's what gives us our marching orders to do this study: To make sure they (combat MOSs) stay closed or can they, in fact, be opened?' And, if they are opened then what is the criteria to figure out if someone is physically fit to do the task," said Master Sgt. Matthew Dorman, Field Artillery Proponent Office career management noncommissioned officer for the FA branch.
TRADOC has identified the most physically arduous tasks in the combat MOSs, and researchers with USARIEM are studying how hard a Soldier has to work to perform those tasks, Zambraski said. Parts of the study are also being conducted at forts Bliss and Hood, Texas; Bragg, N.C.; and Leonard Wood, Mo., in infantry, combat engineer and armor MOSs.
Scientists observed 28 field artillerymen from the 214th Fires Brigade June 4, as they performed an ammunition transfer, lifted the wheel arm assembly on an M777 155mm howitzer, recovered the spade trail arm and blade on the same howitzer, and set up a Gun Laying Positioning System, Dorman said.
The same Soldiers also rotated through stations where they performed common warrior tasks: hand grenade throw, dragging a casualty and filling and moving sandbags to create a fighting position.
The next day another 28 FA Soldiers from the 75th FiB performed the same tasks.
The ammo transfer was a three-Soldier task that required them to load 90 155mm rounds onto racks in an M992 Carrier Ammunition Tracked, or CAT.
"Even though they can rotate positions, it's still pretty difficult because each round weighs 94 pounds," Dorman said.
During the casualty drag, Soldiers shouted encouragement and suggestions as Spc. Andrew Gibson, C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th FA, struggled to move a "victim," who weighed about 285 pounds with personal protective equipment.
"It was pretty tough -- the mass of it," said Gibson, who had to drag the Soldier 15 meters as quickly as possible.
Jan Redmond, USARIEM research physiologist, made observations and took photos of the Soldiers working and weighed objects that the Soldiers lifted.
"You don't realize how physical demanding the tasks are until you try to pick up some of the things," she said, "and how physical fatiguing they are over time because the tasks are repetitive in nature."
The researchers were pretty much just making observations, and on later visits they will measure physiological parameters, such as heart rates, as well as the physics and mechanics required for the body to complete tasks.
One of the major components of the study is to first reassess and determine the basic fitness requirements that every Soldier should possess regardless of their job, their sex and age, Zambraski said. That's why USARIEM is looking at the physical demands of the common Soldier tasks.
Another element is to determine the physical demands associated with the combat MOSs. USARIEM investigators reviewed the combat MOS training manuals for the tasks requiring the most strength and endurance, Zambraski said.
"The whole idea is to get those physical demands quantitated, to be able to develop very simple predictive tests for strength, performance, endurance or agility, and apply those test to males and females," he said.
Currently, prospective Army recruits must pass a physical during the Military Entrance Processing Station indoctrination. In the future they may also have to, for example, demonstrate their abilities to do so many biceps curls to replicate a task in an MOS, Dorman said. Then, working with their Army recruiter who has the results of their physical standards scores, they can see what MOSs they qualify for.
Maj. Brad Warr, USARIEM researching physician assistant, said the only physical standard Basic Combat Training Soldiers must now score a minimum level on the Army Physical Fitness Test. In their subsequent MOS Advanced Individual Training, some MOSs may have certain physical requirements that must be completed to graduate, such as a ruck march in infantry school.
Once the physical standards are in place it will help ensure the right people are placed safely and accurately in the right jobs, Warr said.