NATICK, Mass. — The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Soldier Center recently hosted a visit by Maj. Gen. Julius “Dale” Alford, commanding general of U.S. Marine Corps Training Command, to share its expertise in the area of human performance research.
Alford was invited to visit Soldier Center by the Close Combat Lethality Task Force (CCLTF), which was formally established by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) in 2018 “to develop, evaluate, recommend and monitor the implementation of improvements to U.S. squad level infantry combat formations to ensure overmatch against pacing threats and strengthen the combat lethality, resiliency and readiness of infantry squads.”
Alford was accompanied by key personnel from OSD CCLTF, U.S. Marine Corps Training Command’s Human Performance Division, the Institute for Defense Analysis, U.S. Special Operations Command, the Marine Corps Semper Fit Program, and the Office of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps is currently undergoing a redesign of its formal infantry training, and the inclusion of human performance programs to maximize development and optimize performance is vital to their efforts.
“The Marine Corps is looking to create a more effective, lethal, mobile, and survivable infantry person,” said CCLTF Weapons and Equipment Line of Effort Manager, Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Five (Gunner) Stephen Larose. “Some have even referred to this effort as a new Commando Course.”
“Formal learning centers, such as the School of Infantry (SOI)-East and West, have been engaged in redesigning entry level infantry training, and to get beyond ‘skin deep,’ the Marine Corps knows that it needs to employ human performance programs within the development pipeline to support Force Design 2030,” said Larose.
Established by Marine Corps Commandant General David H. Berger in 2019, Force Design 2030 is the Marine Corps’ latest effort to “adapt, remain relevant, and out maneuver its adversaries on future battlefields.” Like the Army Force Modernization Strategy, a critical component of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 is increasing the close combat lethality of individual Marines through human performance programs in concert with modernized training and equipment.
“We will need to increase our up-front, entry-level training investment, and then look to make corresponding modifications to advanced infantry training to develop the quality, maturity and capabilities envisioned — including the multidisciplinary infantry approach — in the IPT findings,” said Berger in his Force Design 2030 report from March 2020.
The December 8 visit provided a comprehensive overview of the facilities, programs, and technologies involved in Soldier Center’s human performance research, including the Measuring and Advancing Soldier Tactical Readiness and Effectiveness, or MASTR-E, program, and the forthcoming Soldier Squad Research Performance Institute (S2PRINT) facility. It allowed direct information sharing and detailed discussions between the Marines and the program leads managing the center’s human performance research and technology development efforts aimed at enhancing Soldier Lethality.
“Soldier Center’s efforts in human performance, starting with MASTR-E, and expanding to S2PRINT may be the premier human performance efforts in regards to general purpose infantry,” said Larose. “SOCOM has many tribes that include human performance programs, but DEVCOM Soldier Center may be the premier organization focused on scale and scope for the infantry forces.”
The visit began with a briefing on all the U.S. Marine Corps related programs being executed by Soldier Center’s Infantry Combat Equipment Team, which include personnel protective equipment items, combat helmets and headborne protection prototypes, load-bearing equipment, mountain cold weather clothing and equipment, combat and dress uniforms, as well as technical data package and configuration management support.
The group then received tours of several in-house laboratories integral to Soldier Center’s human performance research, including its Design and Pattern Prototype Studio, Load Carriage Lab, Low Velocity Impact and Ballistic Lab, Interactive Small Combat Unit-in-the-loop Lab, Biomechanics Lab, Cognitive Science Lab, and Doriot Climatic Chambers. The morning session ended with an overview briefing and rations demonstration at the center’s Combat Feeding Division.
The Marines were also shown the construction of the S2PRINT building, scheduled to be completed in 2023. The 80,600-square-foot S2PRINT facility will serve as a platform for innovative human performance research to optimize individual Soldier and small unit readiness, performance and resiliency. S2PRINT will provide Army scientists, engineers, and researchers a controlled environment to conduct applied, multidisciplinary studies.
Other government and Department of Defense agencies, including the Marine Corps, will be able to use S2PRINT to collaborate with their industrial partners, universities and sister services to enhance warfighter performance.
The afternoon was dedicated to formal briefings and in-depth discussions about Soldier Center’s signature human performance research program, MASTR-E, and a supplemental project born out of MASTR-E called Optimizing the Human Weapons System (OHWS). Both MASTR-E and OHWS are using commercially available, wearable biometric sensors to collect, measure and analyze the physiological, psychological, and behavioral variables impacting Soldiers during high-stress events in order to predict their performance in combat.
“The CCLTF invested in MASTR-E during the stand-up of the task force in 2018 and has watched OHWS develop with the 10th Mountain Division, funded through the CARES Act [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security] in 2020,” said Larose. “OHWS is an off shoot of MASTR-E and was deployed to combat with the 4-31 Polar Bear Battalion”
Alford wants to implement similar methodologies into Marine Corps infantry training and the insight he gained from his visit to Soldier Center is helping set the stage for a synchronized approach with relevant commands and continued Army-Marine collaboration on human performance programs.
“I’m going to recommend to the commanding generals of Marine Corps Systems Command, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory all visit Soldier Center to gain a common operating picture of how the Army is doing human performance,” Alford said during the visit’s wrap up discussion.
While each military service has been carving their own path through the evolving, multidisciplinary field of human performance research, an expanding patchwork of S&T partnerships, funding, technology developments, and cross-service collaborations are steadily advancing the goal of increased close combat lethality for the nation’s warfighters.
“I think our senior leaders understand that the future will be more joint than ever,” said Larose. “I foresee formal learning at the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, and the SOI's in the Marine Corps beginning to exchange more data, and that we may also see both sites begin to use similar human performance programs such as MASTR-E, OHWS, and S2PRINT at Soldier Center.”
The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’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. DEVCOM Soldier Center 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.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers is also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM 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. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.