Charting a New Course: MEDCoE, DEVCOM and Baylor Strategic Alliance for Exoskeleton Innovation

By Capt. Ryan Scott, Requirements Division, MED CDIDFebruary 2, 2024

U.S. Army Soldier, Capt. Ryan Scott, demonstrates a exoskeleton technology while Chad Hearing, a technical project manager from DEVCOM, discussed his team's current endeavors, including a biomechanical and ergonomic analysis of medical tasks at the combat medic training site at Camp Bullis, to gauge how exoskeleton technology can be seamlessly integrated into a medic’s daily task and reduce injury with members of DEVCOM, MED CDID and the Army-Baylor Doctorate DPT program.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Soldier, Capt. Ryan Scott, demonstrates a exoskeleton technology while Chad Hearing, a technical project manager from DEVCOM, discussed his team's current endeavors, including a biomechanical and ergonomic analysis of medical tasks at the combat medic training site at Camp Bullis, to gauge how exoskeleton technology can be seamlessly integrated into a medic’s daily task and reduce injury with members of DEVCOM, MED CDID and the Army-Baylor Doctorate DPT program. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Members of MEDCOE, the MED CDID, DEVCOM and the Army-Baylor Doctorate DPT work on a joint venture for assessing exoskeleton technology. Facilitated through the DEVCOM-MEDCoE partnership, the inclusion of Baylor University’s DPT students adds a vital academic perspective to the research, crucial for assessing exoskeleton tech's effectiveness in boosting soldier resilience and performance.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Members of MEDCOE, the MED CDID, DEVCOM and the Army-Baylor Doctorate DPT work on a joint venture for assessing exoskeleton technology. Facilitated through the DEVCOM-MEDCoE partnership, the inclusion of Baylor University’s DPT students adds a vital academic perspective to the research, crucial for assessing exoskeleton tech's effectiveness in boosting soldier resilience and performance. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

For as long as science fiction has inspired humanity to push the envelope of technology, members of the Army have been visualizing of an exosuit capability to augment the Soldiers' abilities.

For the last several years, initiatives like the Soldier Assistive Bionic Exosuit for Resupply (SABER) exoskeleton have been showcased and showing improvement, and at the Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE) headquarters in Joint Base San Antonio, a groundbreaking strategy meeting marked a significant advancement in military healthcare technology.

Leading this effort and strategy session, MEDCoE Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Clint Murray, fostered deeper cooperation among key figures such as the Medical Capability Development and Integration Directorate (MED CDID) Director, Col. James J. Jones, MEDCoE Dean, Col. Matt Douglas, and the Exoskeleton Technology Manager at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Soldier Center, Chad Haering.

The session was held at the Army Baylor University's Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program's research lab in San Antonio further underscoring the transformative potential of exoskeleton technology in reducing musculoskeletal injuries and enhancing human performance within the military.

This collaboration builds on previous joint efforts, like the showcase SABER exoskeleton at Project Convergence 22, a project Haering's team contributed to and led. The SABER, an advanced wearable tech, demonstrates how exoskeletons can boost physical capabilities and combat musculoskeletal Disease Non-Battle Injuries (DNBI) while improving overall military performance.

Murray stressed the essential importance of the DEVCOM-MEDCoE partnership, said: "Our meeting breaks through the conventional boundaries of tech exploration; it is a vital pledge toward shaping solutions that mitigate DNBI and augment the effectiveness of our forces.” Murray added,  “It's imperative that these innovations are designed to be lightweight, integrate with the essentials our Soldiers already wear, and do not introduce any element of discomfort.”

"Our combined efforts are essential to developing a strategy that will meet the needs of our Soldiers and adapt to future scenarios," said Jones, MED-CDID Director. "The Army Health Systems imperatives of clearing the battlefield, maximizing return to duty, and overcoming contested logistics are more important than ever in the face of evolving threats and future operating environments."

Hearing, the DEVCOM Exoskeleton Technology Manager, discussed his team's current endeavors, including a biomechanical and ergonomic analysis of medical tasks at the combat medic training site at Camp Bullis, to gauge how exoskeleton technology can be seamlessly integrated into a medic's daily task and reduce injury.

Including in our sessions, Baylor University's DPT students, facilitated through the DEVCOM-MEDCoE partnership, adds a vital academic perspective to the research, crucial for assessing exoskeleton tech's effectiveness in boosting Soldier resilience and performance.

"Our collaboration reflects a holistic approach to advancing military healthcare by merging cutting-edge technology, academic research, and clinical insights to shape future AHS and Military Health System (MHS) requirements," said Douglas, dean, MEDCoE, speaking on the venture's interdisciplinary nature.

This initiative explores how exoskeleton technology can revolutionize military operations by enhancing strength and endurance and reducing DNBI recovery resources. It seeks to bridge current gaps in injury prevention and performance enhancement.

As the MEDCoE, MED-CDID, DEVCOM Soldier Center, and Baylor's DPT program continue their partnership, it stands as a significant milestone in AHS and MHS transformation and collaboration to meet the Chief of Staff's four priorities: warfighting, combat readiness, transformation, and discipline. The collaboration with the Futures and Concepts Center further solidifies this effort, ensuring alignment with broader military objectives and strategic focus.