CCDC Soldier Center gathers Soldier input virtually to better understand exoskeleton needs

By Jean-Louis DeGay, CCDC Soldier CenterMay 22, 2020

Understanding exoskeleton needs
Caelli Craig, a researcher on the Consumer Research Team at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, talks virtually to a Soldier from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) "Sky Soldiers" based in Vicenza, Italy, about the physical demands of his job. CCDC SC is gathering Soldier input virtually to better understand exoskeleton needs. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

NATICK, Mass. – Without the ability to physically meet with Soldiers, researchers in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, are using creative and proactive ways to solicit input and gather feedback from our force. Using the Department of Defense’s Defense Collaboration Services, researchers were able to remotely meet with Soldiers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) “Sky Soldiers” based in Vicenza, Italy.

CCDC SC is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the CCDC SC’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. CCDC SC is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.

Over two days, researchers from CCDC SC’s Mission Equipment and Systems Branch and Consumer Research Team interviewed Soldiers from a wide range of military occupational specialties, or MOSs – including 88M (motor transport operator), 89B (ammunition specialist), 91B (wheeled vehicle mechanic), 92A (automated logistical specialist) and 92F (petroleum supply specialist) – in order to gain a greater understanding of their work and the physical demands that come with it. Soldiers discussed the challenges they faced in their respective jobs as well as injuries (lower back, neck, shoulder and leg) directly related to both training and combat conditions.

“Though researchers and exoskeleton developers can make their own inferences about which Soldier tasks and duties are most physically challenging, it is critical to speak directly with the Soldiers performing these tasks in order to gain additional insight into how they’re performed and the specifics about what makes them challenging,” said Caelli Craig, a researcher on CCDC SC’s Consumer Research Team. “These discussions not only help us determine where exoskeleton technologies could best mitigate physical strain, they also help us identify the level of Soldiers’ willingness or unwillingness to use exoskeleton systems as well as identify scenarios in which additional devices may actually become a cognitive or physical burden.”

Understanding those challenges will help inform exoskeleton research. In October 2017, the Chief of Staff of the Army identified exoskeletons as one of the potential materiel solutions to improve Soldier Lethality. The CCDC Soldier Center Exoskeleton effort is focused on understanding, vetting, demonstrating, and transitioning vital capability requirements and high technology readiness level exoskeleton technologies. This information and technology is focused on improving Soldier lethality and mission readiness and reducing the impact of physical load on Soldiers performing difficult tasks.

"Soldier performance, welfare, and their optimal effectiveness have always been at the core of our mission,” said David Audet, branch chief of CCDC Soldier Center’s Mission Equipment and Systems Branch, or ME&SB. “The collective work done across CCDC and its vast partner network (other government agencies, academia, industry) have significantly improved our ability to understand the physiological and cognitive impacts of combat and non-combat activities. Soldiers every day are selflessly taking on tasks that challenge the boundaries of human performance. We owe it to them to listen to those challenges and consider material and nonmaterial solutions such as exoskeletons and wearable technologies to protect them and increase their ability to survive and win the Multi-Domain Operations battles.  If there is a way to reach out to Soldiers, we will find it."

Learning how exoskeleton technologies have application to Combat Arms and Combat Service Support MOSs will better inform the maturation and development of technologies in order to lessen the physical burden of Soldiers across the entire force.


CCDC SC is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America's warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. CCDC SC is part of CCDC. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.