Coming to their sensors: AFC organizations work together to better understand COVID-19 susceptibility and impact on Optimizing the Human Weapon System

By Jane Benson, CCDC Soldier Center Public AffairsOctober 5, 2020

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

NATICK, Mass. – Collaborative research is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, organizations within the Army Futures Command have come together to garner insight into both COVID-19 susceptibility and Optimizing the Human Weapon System, or OHWS. Researchers aim to develop a predictive algorithm that enables screening and triage for military unit members while maintaining the end objective of OHWS.

AFC’s U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, is working with AFC’s U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s (MRDC’s) Military Infectious Disease and Military Operational Medicine Research Program on an MRDC-led, sensor-based study relating physiological status to health stressors. The effort also involves the 10th Mountain Division and other experts throughout the military, industry, and academia.

During this past summer, in the second leg of the long-term study, MRDC resourced CCDC SC to provide wearable sensors to up to 1,000 Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division for a period of one year. Physiological signals from the commercially available sensors are being used to monitor Soldier health and develop algorithms for detection of presymptomatic or asymptomatic signatures of infection and illness.

Joseph Patterson — the lead for CCDC SC’s role in the MRDC-resourced effort as well as a work package lead for CCDC SC’s Measuring and Advancing Soldier Tactical Readiness and Effectiveness, or MASTR-E, Program — said that OHWS is aimed at providing insights into human performance, physiology, and symptomology in correlation to susceptibility to illness, including the COVID-19 virus.

The data will be key to advancing efforts to increase Soldier performance in general and will specifically benefit MASTR-E, a large scale program led by CCDC SC that will measure, predict, and enhance close combat performance with predictive performance algorithms, sensors, data-driven decision aids, and targeted interventions to maximize Soldier performance.

George Matook, program manager for CCDC SC’s MASTR-E Program, had this to say about the COVID-19 and OHWS sensor-based study.

“We are advancing research while simultaneously providing capability to Soldiers,” said Matook. “Holistic Health and Fitness, or H2F, is the human performance optimization program for the Army. They're going to take the performance data from our sensors and use it to inform their interventions to help Soldiers perform better.”

Lt. Col. Christopher Rowe of the 10th Mountain Division believes the data gathered will lead to a better understanding of the physiological demands of various job functions.

“We are excited to be part of this project and we are grateful to be partnered with CCDC SC; their support to our battalion has been phenomenal,” said Rowe. “The data collected from the wearables will help us to maintain readiness and better understand our Soldiers. As we learn more about the unique demands placed on individuals within our unit, we hope to use a data-driven approach to training individuals and units and selecting the right people for the right job based, in part, on our more comprehensive understanding of the physiological demands of that position.”

Patterson explained that during the ongoing effort, Soldiers and leaders will gain insights into cardio load, muscle load, perceived load, and recovery, which will inform how unit and individual training is affecting health, readiness, and lethality.

Patterson emphasized that the “unity of effort” among MRDC, CCDC SC, and the 10th Mountain Division, as well as other collaborators, is key to the successful execution of this effort.

Matook echoed Patterson’s sentiment.

“It doesn't happen unless all these pieces are in place,” said Matook. “This is a great example of near-term capability delivery and unity of effort across the Army Futures Command and other services to help the readiness of the force, both from a health and a performance perspective.”

Patterson explained that OHWS will accelerate research on understanding how Soldier training helps promote overall unit readiness. Unit readiness is an area of emphasis within the MASTR-E program, and thus insights garnered during the COVID-19 sensor study will also help advance the MASTR-E program.

“Nobody has ever rolled out sensors/performance software at this scale before,” said Matook. “We don't know what we don't know – from logistics, to compliance, to its role and utility in training, etc. This is a huge opportunity to learn what works and what doesn't directly from Soldiers on a large scale.”


About CCDC SC: 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.

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.