U.S. Army’s Data & Analysis Center to uncover and analyze metrics for squad effectiveness

By Kaylan Hutchison, DEVCOM DAC Strategic CommunicationsJanuary 25, 2021

Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. — U.S. Army DEVCOM Combat Capabilities Development Command Data & Analysis Center (DEVCOM DAC), formally CCDC Data & Analysis Center (CCDC DAC), has tailored their Squad Performance Metrics, or SPM, to welcome more Command-wide collaboration in pinpointing key data to assess squad performance.

Soldiers perform obstacle course and improvised cart building during Soldier Performance Metrics test event at Fort Hood, Texas in January 2020.
Soldiers perform obstacle course and improvised cart building during Soldier Performance Metrics test event at Fort Hood, Texas in January 2020. (Photo Credit: Courtney Bacon, US Army PEO Soldier Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

Dr. Samantha Chambers, lead of the Active Measures Effort Evaluation portion of SPM, has worked closely with warfighters to gather data to establish relevant markers of performance. She is a member of DAC’s Human Systems Integration Division, a group with the core mission of serving as the Soldier’s advocate in the Army System Acquisition process.

Chambers’ team conducted in-person evaluations across various U.S. Army installations, collecting demographics and career history (e.g., time of service, current position, training history and past assignments) from Soldiers to better evaluate unit cohesiveness; how well a squad works together; and how likely they are to succeed at different performance elements given the makeup of the squad. Soldiers were also put through set tasks, scenarios and obstacle courses for analysts to extract physiological status data.

“We’ve collected data from the standpoint of trying to establish measures and metrics of performance, building a methodology,” Chambers said. “We were trying to quantify what is quantifiable: how do I turn this visual information, this objective and subjective information, into a number?”

Future approaches for SPM, however, are changing. DAC is now opening its aperture to science and technology, or S&T, stakeholders to create a more expansive and reliable data pool. DEVCOM Soldier Center, DEVCOM Army Research Lab, Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and PEO Soldier are transitioning research for future SPM evaluations to better validate and assess the S&T community’s physiological data and methodology that examine squad lethality. According to Chambers, this is an opportunity for more Command efficiency and collaboration.

Soldiers perform obstacle course and improvised cart building during Soldier Performance Metrics test event at Fort Hood, Texas in January 2020.
Soldiers perform obstacle course and improvised cart building during Soldier Performance Metrics test event at Fort Hood, Texas in January 2020. (Photo Credit: Courtney Bacon, US Army PEO Soldier Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
“We’re now assessing transitioned measures and metrics of performance in an operationally relevant environment,” Chambers said. “The short-term goal is to understand which measures are predictive of performance. From there, our long-term overarching goal is to gather and visualize indicators of performance and readiness.”

Once those indicators are established, the Army focus turns to targeted improvements, whether that be training, materiel development and/or doctrine. “We’re looking at what metrics make a squad effective in accomplishing their mission. How do we replicate that? How do we improve that?” said Greg Dietrich, DAC’s Soldier Lethality Analysis program manager.

Key data ultimately helps inform vital decisions. “We must be able to assess a squad’s state at any given moment and decide whether or not to send them into the fight, or when they’re in the fight, track how they’re doing and what they need,” Dietrich said. “And once the relevant markers are set, we must be able to get that data to decision makers so they know the state of their small unit, ready to deploy, or currently in battle."

The SPM data has been chosen as one of the pilots for the Army Experimentation Resource Data Repository, known as AERDR, an Army Futures Command data management effort to develop a database for experimental data.

DAC’s data science and human systems integration competencies perfectly position SPM for this work. “SPM—because of its timing and the type of data collected—is a perfect pilot program for the human performance data aspect of AERDR,” Dietrich said.

And DAC is no stranger to data management. The human behavior representation working group, led by DAC and co-chaired by Dietrich and Lt. Col. Hodges, deputy director of the Modeling Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School, aims to organize the immense data to better establish relevant predictors for how a Soldier or squad will perform. “One of the efforts [DAC] has been working on is taking the lead in the human behavior representation community, to set, prioritize and maintain standards for the data,” Dietrich said.

DAC does not work in a bubble autonomously, but rather in a collaborative team effort with a range of Army organizations to optimize data collection and standardization. A notable symbiotic partnership is with DEVCOM Soldier Center, working in tandem with DAC, to further determine what physiological and biological status monitors will be predictive of performance. The Measuring and Advancing Soldier Tactical Readiness and Effectiveness program, known as MASTR-E, is a large and sweeping effort under which Soldier Center collects data.

MASTR-E is a large-scale S&T effort to measure, predict and enhance Soldier and Squad cognitive and physical performance for close combat in relevant environments using on-body and off-body sensors and lab and field experiments to maximize Soldier lethality. The effort is Soldier-focused rather than equipment-focused, which is a true embodiment of Soldier centered design. The holistic approach taken by measuring temporary physical indicators, like stress levels, and static and slowly changing indicators, like fitness levels and memory, ties back to overall performance outcomes said George Matook, Soldier Center’s MASTR-E program manager.

Soldier Center’s Director Douglas Tamilio, and previous DAC Director James Amato, signed a transition agreement for MASTR-E, allowing both Centers to gain insight into individual and collective performance, as well as pinpoint characteristics of an effective unit. Many of MASTR-E’s outcomes will also transition to SPM.

“We must understand what’s important to measure and what we can do with that information,” Matook said.

The systematic SPM approach to identify key metrics that predict squad performance also hits hard at the “human element,” feeding into more representative models and simulations. Rather than relying on models that treat humans similar to robots, with no degradation, fatigue, fear or need to rest, DAC provides modeling support to fill the human representation gap to show accurate human behavior. A Soldier aim error model based on fatigue effects, developed from a MASTR-E pilot study in FY18, has also been provided under the transition agreement to DAC for feedback. DAC plans to incorporate this model into the Soldier and Squad Trade Space Analysis Framework, which will better represent Soldier state and capability for the assessment of both positive and negative effects of Soldier equipment for acquisition.

“Senior leaders need realistic data and our S&T community is allowing them to make the best decisions that will affect the Army’s future,” Matook said.

While the SPM framework uncovers how specific metrics impact the makeup of the squad—from each individual squad member to the squad as a whole— it enforces better models and simulations, and thus more informed decisions. The direct in-the-moment benefit, however, is not overlooked. “Getting feedback from Soldiers is rewarding,” Chambers said. “Many Soldiers and leaders are able to get some training value from our events and having them express that to us is always a feel-good moment.”