By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public AffairsMay 5, 2014
NATICK, Mass. (May 5, 2014) -- Researchers from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's Consumer Research Team have devised a way to measure and model warfighter quality of life in base camps serving fewer than 1,000 personnel.
The Technology-enabled Demonstration Capability for Sustainability/Logistics-Basing team, known as TeCD 4A, developed the model and tools in support of its goals to reduce fuel, water and waste at base camps while maintaining quality of life.
"This project is the first ever to model and quantify quality of life in a base camp," explained Justine Federici, an NSRDEC researcher. "Under TeCD 4A you can't just reduce fuel, water and waste, you also have to maintain the quality of life. A metric previously did not exist to assess if quality of life is impacted by these reductions. Without a way to measure quality of life, there was no good way to trade off fuel, water and waste savings against impact on [quality of life]. For example, a camp can save a lot of water by only letting Soldiers shower once a week -- the minimum allowed under current regulations -- but this would definitely hurt quality of life."
Natick researchers have found that quality of life has a critical impact on Soldier readiness and morale. Soldiers said it interviews:
"Taking a running-water shower makes you feel human."
"When a guy is out on patrol, the first thing he is thinking of when he gets back is a hot meal."
"The ability to take a shower and wash all the grime off had the most gratifying effect. ... It gives you that feeling 'well, it's not that bad here.'"
To develop the quality of life model, Army researchers began by interviewing Soldiers who had experience living in remote base camps with less than 1,000 personnel.
These interviews revealed attributes of a base camp that affect Soldier quality of life, such as the availability of hot and fresh food, air-conditioning in billets, the ability to take a shower, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation resources such as a gym and Internet connectivity.
A group of senior non-commissioned officers and officers confirmed these attributes in a war game conducted in partnership with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Researchers gathered these insights from Soldiers and combined them with information from other experts to create a survey that would let researchers measure the effect of every base camp attribute on Soldier quality of life.
"The survey was tested in March of 2013," Federici said. "The team got valuable feedback from Soldiers during the test, which has been folded into a new version of the survey, which will be given to 1,200 Soldiers this August at four different installations. To make the survey more interactive and engaging, the survey was designed to run on tablet computers with a touch screen interface."
"This quality of life research work will enable the Army to identify critical expeditionary base camp services that maintain or enhance Soldier readiness," said Claudia Quigley, head of NSRDEC's Expeditionary Basing/Collective Protection Directorate. "As a member of the G4 Contingency Basing Quality of Life Working Group, this research is in collaboration with other quality of life projects across the contingency basing community. This important research also supports TeCD 4A and PEO CS&CSS (Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support) Contingency Basing Infrastructure needs for defining essential [quality of life] factors on contingency bases."
NSRDEC researchers on the Consumer Research Team developed this first-ever survey and model to ascertain which systems have the greatest impact on quality of life. The Consumer Research Team's mission is to research the needs, attitudes and behaviors of the warfighter as they pertain to the selection and use of Soldier products and new capability concepts.
Researchers found the work on quality of life benefits from the team members' extensive background in conducting operationally relevant surveys and gathering consumer insights on acceptance of Soldier Systems products ranging from combat rations, to expeditionary shelters, to combat clothing and equipment.
By creating a way to measure quality of life and model it -- just as you can with fuel, water, waste and other physical resources -- NSRDEC will be able to help make sure new base camp technologies are developed with the Soldier in mind. Sometimes something as simple as a warm shower can make all the difference to a Soldier deployed to a remote area, far from home.
In the words of one Soldier, "It's the little things."
ABOUT NATICK SOLDIER RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND ENGINEERING CENTER
The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.