By Crystal MarshallDecember 21, 2017
WASHINGTON -- From advancements in battlefield care, to continued dominance in cybersecurity and a renewed emphasis on modernization, 2017 was a groundbreaking year for Army innovations in the medical, technological and cyber fields.
It's 3 a.m., and the U.S. Army physician assistant stationed in rural Africa is jolted awake by a radio call. The field medics are bringing in a Soldier who was critically wounded by a gunshot that damaged the femoral artery. As the team prepares for the procedure, the physician assistant contacts the on-call trauma surgeon -- who is more than 3,000 miles away.
This fictitious scenario was part of a training exercise that helped explore how physician assistants can step in to perform lifesaving measures on a Soldier injured in theater, where there either isn't the time or the capability to get injured personnel to a surgeon immediately.
The training also tested a new capability that will allow forward providers to stabilize injuries that threaten life, limb, or eyesight. This capability comes in the form of the augmented reality glasses that the physician assistant used during the training, which not only gave him the ability to review the procedure before he performed it, but also allowed the surgeon to be there with him even though the surgeon wasn't physically present.
The surgeon is not only able to communicate and provide feedback to the physician assistant throughout the procedure, but he can also help monitor vital signs and draw or write directly within the physician assistant's field of vision. This allows the physician assistant to immediately identify incision points or problem areas as the surgeon's notes "appear" on the patient.
"From this training, I'm confident that we can guide a provider remotely to save a life," said Dr. (Lt. Col.) Tyler Harris, an orthopedic surgeon at Womack Army Medical Center (WAMC), served as the surgeon and tele-mentor during the training. "The procedure and the training are straightforward. With just two instruments and a pair of glasses, we saved a guy's life in under a minute."
Eventually, the training program will expand to include guidance for non-surgical providers on providing advanced burn care, releasing pressure behind an eye, packing and temporarily closing the abdominal cavity, easing pressure in the skull and, as in the training scenario, accessing deep vessels to stop bleeding.
ARMY RANGER WHOLE BLOOD PROGRAM
For injured Soldiers on the battlefield, the ability to quickly receive a blood transfusion could be the determining factor between life or death.
That's why the 75th Ranger Regiment developed the O Low Titer, or ROLO, Whole Blood Program to bring emergency blood transfusion from the hospital environment to the battlefield. The program was developed in concert with international multidiscipline civilian and military providers of the Trauma Hemostasis and Oxygenation Research network.
In the Army, the Armed Services Blood Bank Center-Pacific Northwest, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is the only center that does this process, according to Victor Shermer at the JBLM center. The ROLO Whole Blood Program went from concept to implementation at the unit-level in only 18 months.
The program identifies all blood group O members of the unit and then tests them to determine possible donors to be used at the point of injury. Previous research and publications demonstrate that whole blood with low anti-A and anti-B IgM titers presents a low/negligible risk of a catastrophic acute hemolytic transfusion reaction when given to individuals that are not of the same blood group.
"Low Titer O Whole Blood is important because it can be used as a universal blood product for any blood type," Shermer explained.
"Recognition at the Army-level of the ROLO Whole Blood Program would not be possible without the dedicated Army Medical Department team committed to providing Soldiers better trauma casualty care on the battlefield," said Lt. Col. Ethan Miles, 75th Ranger Regiment surgeon.
The U.S. Army Cyber Command, founded in 2010, continued to keep abreast and ahead of global cyber threats that would threaten the Army's or the Defense Department's cybersecurity and cyberspace operations.
On Nov. 2, ARCYBER announced that all of the Army's Cyber Mission Force teams achieved full operational capability, or FOC, at the end of September 2017, more than a year ahead of schedule. This incredible progress ensures that
All 41 of the Army's active duty Cyber Mission Force teams were validated FOC by U.S. Cyber Command on Sept. 28. Since the first of these teams was rated initially capable in 2014, they have been employed by the Department of Defense as part of coordinated military strategy around the world, performing both defensive cyberspace and combat support missions. With the Army reaching the FOC milestone, this employment continues uninterrupted.
The Army's effort to build 41 fully operational teams was focused on the active component, divided between Cyber Protection Teams, known as CPTs, and offensive mission teams. Beyond this effort, the service is also building another 21 CPTs within the U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve. As these reserve component teams come online, they will be critical to the Army's cyber defense posture.
The Army continued to place modernization of its capabilities and technologies as one of its top priorities for the year, as evidenced by the creation of the U.S. Army Futures Command. According to Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper, the command will have eight cross-functional teams, or CFTs, that will provide the unity of effort and command needed to reduce the requirements development process from 60 months down to around 12.
The CFTs' primary focus will be on the Army's six modernization priorities, Esper said, which are the development of improved long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and Soldier lethality.
"Mindful of past failures, the Army will ensure that technological solutions are mature before we begin a program of record," Esper said. "This includes a threat-based strategy that has aligned 80 percent of the Army's science and technology funding requests against the six modernization priorities."
(Editor's Note: This article is part of a series reflecting on the top Army events of 2017. This article is a compilation of four different articles, whose links are below: "Technology provides ability to save lives through telesurgery" by Eve Meinhardt, "Ranger program wins Army's top innovation prize" by 75th Ranger Regiment Public Affairs, "Active Army cyber teams fully operational a year-plus ahead of schedule" by U.S. Army Cyber Command, and "US Army Futures Command to reform modernization, says secretary of the Army" by David Vergun.)