NATICK, Mass. (June 27, 2017) -- The Physical Performance Optimization and Assessment Team from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, received the Army Medicine Wolf Pack Award for the second quarter of fiscal year 2017 for their years of physical and physiological research with the Training and Doctrine Command to develop the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT.

The Wolf Pack Award is a quarterly award that recognizes and celebrates teamwork by Soldiers, civilians and contractors in support of the Army Medicine mission. The OPAT was among a group of strong nominations for this award and will now compete for the 2017 Wolf Pack of the Year Award.

Deputy Surgeon General Maj. Gen. Robert Tenhet and Army Medical Department, or AMEDD, Civilian Corps Chief Gregg Stevens, SES, presented the award in a ceremony at Natick on June 23. Also in attendance was Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Tenhet congratulated the team for their efforts and achievements, which would have future impacts on how the Army identifies and evaluates recruits for combat Military Occupational Specialties, or MOSs.

"There is a dynamic change that is about to take place in how we assess our Soldiers in the future," Tenhet said. "You talk about what Army Medicine does for our Soldiers and families. You can also talk about what it does for readiness and how we impact readiness in the future. I can't think of a more current example of how we do that than the OPAT team and what they have been able to accomplish. On behalf of The Surgeon General, I congratulate the team."

The purpose of administering the OPAT is to identify recruits most likely to succeed in combat MOSs. Building on three years of USARIEM's previous work in their "Physical Demands Study," the USARIEM team, with support from Army Public Health Center Staff, successfully executed what the U.S. Army Medical Command described as "one of the largest and most impactful research missions in the Institute's history."

From January to December 2016, the team conducted over 27 field studies in initial military training settings at Fort Benning, Fort Leonard Wood and Fort Sill by administering a robust battery of physical performance tasks and questionnaires before and after training. This effort resulted in the set of four OPAT tests: a standing long jump, a medicine ball throw, an incremental squat lift and an interval aerobic run. During this project, the team validated the predictive ability of the OPAT to accurately place Soldiers into seven combat MOSs.

Due to their efforts, the OPAT was fully implemented starting this year and is now required for all future Army candidates seeking to enter active, Reserve or National Guard duty.

"This team worked particularly hard--all of our teams have worked particularly hard--but we really appreciate the recognition," Holcomb said. "It is part of our mission to do everything we can to make sure our warfighters are ready, so this is an example of a team that has taken a lot of hard work to come to fruition."

Stevens stated that the history of the Wolf Pack Award is all about teaming civilians and military members to work together to achieve something significant for the Army Medicine mission.

"The work that you've done with helping recruiters select the right person for the right job, I think, is going to have huge potential to have impact on our Army," Stevens said.

The USARIEM team now is in the middle of a longitudinal study, in which they are following volunteers for the next two years of their service to assess how successful they are in their assigned MOSs after receiving their OPAT results.

Marilyn Sharp, the study's principal investigator, as well as Dr. Steven Foulis and Staff Sgt. Josue Contreras, accepted the award on behalf of the 25 team members who were part of the OPAT project.

"I'm proud to receive this award as part of the OPAT team," Foulis said. "It recognizes how hard the team--Soldiers, civilians and contractors alike--worked together to accomplish what felt at some points like an insurmountable task."

"It's a great honor for the team to be recognized at this level," Sharp said. "The OPAT has the potential to have a huge impact on how the Army does business. It will help put recruits in jobs in which they are physically qualified, improving military readiness and reducing injury. It is exciting that a USARIEM product has been implemented Army-wide."