ComRaD wins Col. Rohland A. Isker Award

By Mallory Roussel (USARIEM)November 17, 2015

ComRaD wins Col. Rohland A. Isker Award
John McNulty, the Executive Director of Research & Development Associates, presents Andrea Lindsey of Department of Defense Human Performance Resource Center, Holly McClung of USARIEM, and Julie Smith of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Developm... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

NATICK, Massachusetts (Nov. 16, 2015) -- Tension was high at Research & Development Associates, an organization whose mission is to provide the safest and highest quality food and food service to the U.S. Armed Forces, when judges of the 2015 Colonel Rohland A. Isker Award debated over the winner.

The Rohland Isker Award is presented annually to civilian employees of the federal government or military personnel for outstanding contributions made to national preparedness in food, equipment, packaging, food service or related areas. Judges grant the award for significant accomplishments made in the past 12 months or to a series of project accomplishments made over a period of time.

"What project really had the greatest impact in the long term to benefit Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen away from their families?" said John McNulty, the executive director of Research & Development Associates, or R&DA, of the tiebreaker.

This year, the ComRaD, a website application based on a nutritional database created in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine's Military Nutrition Division, won for making nutritional information easily available to warfighters.

Application creators Holly McClung of USARIEM, Julie Smith of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, and Andrea Lindsey of Department of Defense Human Performance Resource Center were unable to attend the R&DA Awards Banquet on Oct. 21. However, McNulty took a trip from San Antonio, Texas, to present them with the award on Nov. 3 in Natick Soldier Systems Center's Grant Conference Center during the annual Combat Feeding Research and Engineering Board Meeting.

"ComRaD is a nutrition tool for warfighters and military dietitians working with warfighter populations in garrison to smartly plan their fueling and refueling for mission deployments," McClung said.

With a few clicks of a mouse, warfighters and dietitians can view menus for three types of rations: Meal, Ready to Eat; First Strike Ration; and Meal, Cold Weather/Long Range Patrol. They can even read the nutritional information in a nutrition label format for specific menu components, such as drinks and side dishes.

According to McClung, all nutritional information is accurate, and all menu components have been chemically analyzed, making the ComRaD the go-to application for precise, easily accessible nutrition information on individual items, menus, and daily food intake. The judges of the 2015 Rohland Isker Award were impressed by the capabilities of this software to provide warfighters with robust information about the rations and the potential for affecting their diets and mission readiness.

Smith, from NSRDEC's Combat Feeding Directorate, or CFD, took the vision of a publically available source of ration nutrition information to a website concept through her collaborations with McClung, from MND, when constructing a testing plan for chemically analyzing the ration components. McClung executed the testing plan and built the Ration Analysis System Database. Lindsey, from Uniformed Services University, or USU, was the liaison to contract programmers and is the website host.

"My contribution to ComRaD is the nutrition data," McClung said. "Basically, all the nutrient data that feeds into ComRaD is from my research team. Working collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and (veterinary) inspectors stationed at every ration manufacturing and assembly plant, ration component samples were captured during food production and shipped to USARIEM."

McClung's research team then inventoried and processed the ration samples before sending them to an outside lab for nutrition analysis. The chemical data from these analyses were then reviewed and systematically entered into the RAS Database, the fuel of ComRaD. McClung said it took the team close to nine years to fund analysis and build a complete dataset containing all food items--more than 300 components--in multiple years of MRE and First Strike Ration menus.

USARIEM generates all the ration nutritional data that feeds into ComRaD, but this was only possible because of a close collaboration with CFD. CFD took the partnership a step further by envisioning and assisting in the building of ComRaD and taking responsibility for the upkeep of the application. USU currently hosts ComRaD at HPRC's Human Performance Optimization website, which provides warfighters key resources in achieving total fitness, including performance nutrition.

"I feel this effort falls under performance nutrition as it offers the warfighter a tool to perform and recover smartly and efficiently," McClung said. "The goal of the site is to promote (Human Performance Optimization), and the ComRaD gives warfighters a tool for accurate and reputable nutrition information on the military rations."

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