NATICK, Mass. -- Protecting the Soldier, optimizing human performance and optimizing Soldier lethality are the centerpieces of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center's Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate.

Recently, a team from the Soldier Center initiated its first in a series of user roundtables at the Army's 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. Soldiers, recently back from deployment, discussed the strenuous tasks faced by warfighters before, during and after combat.

Discussions were designed to identify the physically and ergonomically strenuous tasks by Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS. Participants also discussed more universal tasks, including moving under heavy load, mounting/dismounting vehicles, climbing (with and without varying degrees of load), as well as the dragging, lifting, carrying and loading of patients into vehicles or onto aircraft.

Soldiers eagerly engaged researchers, detailing the challenges of performing these tasks under extreme environmental conditions (heat, snow, rain) with varying loads, as well as the challenges of performing these tasks while understaffed or under duress. Soldiers also detailed the physiological discomforts and injuries sustained during or after the mission as a result of those tasks and activities.

Several selected members from industry and academia also observed the discussions. The observers were invited based on the white papers submitted in April in response to the Office of the Secretary of Defense/Natick DOD Exoskeleton Request for Information.

The Soldier Center team will be conducting several other roundtables that with Soldiers at the Ranger School at Fort Benning, the 101st at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. A User Feedback Technical Interchange meeting, to discuss initial results from the roundtables, will occur in December 2018 or January 2019.


The U.S. Army Soldier 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.