By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public AffairsApril 9, 2018
NATICK, Mass. -- Dr. Carolyn Bensel has dedicated her career to making sure that Soldier clothing and equipment enable or enhance, rather than hinder, a Soldier's ability to carry out his or her mission.
During her 46-year career at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Bensel led the Human Factors Group, from 1971 to 1990, and served as a senior researcher in the areas of human factors, biomechanics, and human systems integration, or HSI.
"We did a lot of work as applied research and in the development of equipment," said Bensel. "A lot of the work was prototype assessment. Our concern, then and now, was to ensure that clothing and equipment function as they are supposed to, and that the Soldier can execute his or her tasks as needed."
Bensel was the driving force behind the advancement of human factors and HSI at Natick, domains that are key to the enhancement of Soldier performance, Soldier lethality, as well as squad performance.
"The increased focus on the squad is exciting," said Bensel. "It all started with an increased awareness of the individual Soldier. From its beginning, Natick has had a human factors element of scientists and engineers, which is pretty remarkable in and of itself. Natick's early focus on developing clothing and individual equipment brought human factors into the mix."
Currently, Bensel works as a research fellow for the Oak Ridge Institute for Science, or ORISE, and Education/Oak Ridge Associated Universities, or ORAU. She continues to mentor members of NSRDEC's Human Factors and Biomechanics Teams in research design, statistical analysis and as a subject matter expert in the areas of human factors, biomechanics, and Soldier performance.
In recognition of her extensive impact on the field of human factors, and more specifically HSI, Bensel was selected as the recipient of the 2017 Human Systems Integration Practitioner's Workshop Special Achievement Award, hosted by Dr. Beverly Knapp, acting director, Army Human Systems Integration, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1.
"In her 40-plus years working for Natick, she has made a huge impact on not only the organization, but also the field of human factors," said Blake Mitchell, Human Factors team leader.
Bensel's research has been published in more than 75 publications and included in 50 presentations on Soldier performance, psychophysiological responses in extreme environments, injury occurrence, and equipment effects on Soldiers' biomechanical and physiological responses.
Her research has included the effects of clothing and individual equipment, or CIE, on Soldier performance, focusing primarily on boots/footwear, chemical-biological protective ensembles, body armor, cold weather clothing, military loads, and exoskeletons.
In her nomination of Bensel, Mitchell noted that "much of Dr. Bensel's early work drove the development of the methodologies still in use today for the assessment of CIE. Her research legacy continues through the mentoring of numerous scientists specifically in unique statistical and technical research methodologies relevant to the areas of HSI."
"When we look at the range of the items that a Soldier has to interface with, we have to have an empirical approach to collect reliable, valuable data," said Bensel. "So a lot of our effort has gone, and continues to go, into the development of the methodologies to apply to look at how these items work. The focus is always on the Soldier user."
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 provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.