NATICK, Mass. -- Scientists at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's Combat Feeding Directorate jumped at the chance to develop a nutrition bar based on identified paratrooper needs.

Paratroopers have demanding jobs, making proper nutrition and maintaining energy levels key to their performance and safety. Keeping paratroopers properly nourished is especially challenging during long flights when wait times between meals can last several hours.

The Combat Feeding Directorate scientists worked with the 82nd Airborne Division to solve this problem. The result is a "paratrooper bar" that is nutritious, provides energy, and is easy to carry and easy to eat.

While partnering with the 82nd earlier this year, NSRDEC's Cognitive Science Team noticed that paratroopers weren't eating during an extended period of time due to a policy that prohibits Soldiers from eating after being fitted with the parachute rigging. The Cognitive Science Team hypothesized that paratroopers' performance might improve if they could receive nutrition during this period.

"If they are rigged three or four hours before their jump, per their standard operating procedure, they were not allowed to eat anything because of concerns related to the integrity of the parachute and the harness system, specifically, about dirty fingers or food waste or things being spilled," said Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the Combat Feeding Directorate.

Working from a nutrition profile recommended by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick, the scientists developed the nutrition bar, focusing on carbohydrates and caffeine.

"As material developers, we identified that a beverage was not going to work," said Jeanette Kennedy, technical advisor with the directorate. "The item had to meet very specific requirements, including ease of consumption during turbulence. One solution was a nutrition bar that they can store in their left arm pocket."

The development of the paratrooper bar was part of a larger effort by several organizations in NSRDEC to partner with the 82nd to develop products and solutions that better meet Soldier needs.

"Partnering helps us find out what their needs are and can help us with future research efforts," said Kennedy. "Understanding context can help us guide research and development to meet an identified need."

Combat Feeding Directorate scientists have been creating nutrition bars for years based on specific needs, so they were able to create the Paratrooper Bar fairly quickly. The bar was recently used by the 82nd during a trans-Atlantic exercise, Exercise Swift Response 2016.

"The Paratrooper Bar is tied directly to the Chief of Staff of the Army's number one priority -- readiness," said Lt. Col. Peter L. Gilbert, commander, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

"We must ensure our paratroopers remain at peak levels of readiness during large-scale airborne operations, and the development and employment of the Paratrooper Bar does exactly that."

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The Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the Army Materiel Command.