• Remote Robotic System to Help Medics Assess Injured Soldiers

    Barb Ruppert

    With a death rate for U.S. Army medics substantially higher than that of regular infantry members, the Army needed a solution to ensure that medics could assess an injured Soldier without leaving cover.

    Researchers are developing the remote system’s capability to detect internal bleeding. Shown here is a negative pressure chamber used to simulate battlefield blood loss in a laboratory setting. The test subject’s legs and lower torso are slid into the tube, which is then sealed and activated to draw blood away from the upper body. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of MRMC.)

    A robotic system that could enable medics to determine an injured Soldier’s status remotely could save many lives—including not only the medic’s, but the life of the Soldier whose injury may require special transport techniques or who must be treated immediately to prevent death on the battlefield.

    For the past three years, scientists at PERL Research, Huntsville, AL, have been developing such a system in conjunction with the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC). Research has focused on robotic stand-off thermal imaging sensors for vital signs and hemorrhage. The team displayed the technology at the 27th Army Science Conference in November 2010.

    “We are developing a revolutionary technology to assess an injured Soldier remotely without having to actually touch him or her,” said Paul Cox, PERL Research Senior Scientist. “This sensing technology will be integrated onto a robot, thereby allowing the medic to stay behind cover in situations when the area is not secured or there are possibly explosive devices. There are currently no other technologies that can perform this type of remote, non-contact patient assessment.”

    How It Works

    The automated remote triage system integrates intelligent software and sensors to assist in a medic’s remote assessment. The system uses a thermographic (temperature-sensing) camera to measure the wounded Soldier’s heart rate, respiration rate, and skin temperature. Also included are a spinal injury sensor and a hand-held triage computer to determine severity of injury based on the person’s vital signs. The system integrates the medic’s assessment of the situation (via video monitoring and two-way audio interaction) with the automated processing of the sensor data to determine the injured Soldier’s status.

    The PERL Research automated remote triage system promises to enable medics to assess injured Soldiers without leaving cover. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of MRMC.)

    According to Cox, the system could be used in the field less than two years from now for standard triage parameters such as breathing, circulation, exposure, and injury severity. “More research is needed for more detailed patient assessment such as detecting internal hemorrhaging,” he added.

    Internal bleeding is the leading cause of death on the battlefield and is very difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. PERL has completed initial testing with Dr. William Cooke of the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Education and Human Development to begin correlating data from its thermographic camera with stroke volume, the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat. Stroke volume is a strong indicator of hemorrhage but cannot be measured in the field practically using current devices.

    Cooke simulates battlefield blood loss in a laboratory setting by incorporating a negative pressure chamber, similar to that used to study astronauts, which tricks the heart and brain into thinking the body is bleeding.

    “Our preliminary laboratory results are very exciting,” Cooke said. “Regardless of whether the simulated hemorrhage is slow, moderate, or fast, analysis of thermographic images of the forehead demonstrates tight correlations with stroke volume. For field applications, we envision the capability to gauge magnitudes of blood loss experienced by wounded Soldiers, to assist with decision support and triage prioritization.”

    To learn more about TATRC’s medical robotics program, visit http://www.tatrc.org/robotics. A video demonstrating the robotic triage technology is available at http://www.perlresearch.com/robottriage.

    • BARB RUPPERT is a science and technology writer for MRMC’s TATRC. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in education from Virginia Tech.

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  • U.S. Army Researchers Awarded Patent for Microclimate Cooling Technology

    Microclimate cooling (MCC) technologies have been successful in alleviating heat strain in Soldiers confined to vehicles, but cooling limitations and power and weight restrictions make MCC impractical when mobilized on foot.

    Current MCC technologies, such as the Microclimate Cooling System, have been successful in alleviating heat strain in Soldiers confined to vehicles, but cooling limitations and power and weight restrictions make MCC impractical for Soldiers mobilized on foot. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of Program Executive Office Soldier.)

    A solution was needed that increased the efficiency of heat transfer from the human body to the microclimate cooling system. Traditional MCC approaches involve constant skin cooling with liquids at low temperatures and high flow rates. As a result, MCC power, size, and weight requirements are large.

    Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, with the help of engineers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, discovered that over-cooling the skin can slow heat loss, while under-cooling the skin results in greater strain on the heart. Both problems were minimized by allowing skin temperature to fluctuate narrowly using skin temperature itself to automate cooling.

    A patent for body temperature regulation using skin temperature feedback was funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC) and awarded Nov. 23, 2010 (U.S. Patent No. 7,837,723). The new body temperature regulation approach is an MCC methodology for maximizing heat flux, minimizing physiological strain, and conserving battery power. Sensors within an MCC garment signal the need to provide or withdraw cooling based on an optimal skin temperature range determined empirically from laboratory experiments. A series of studies demonstrated that with this approach, heat extraction is optimized (similar to constant cooling), and power consumption is reduced by 40 to 50 percent.

    The application and integration of this MCC method will decrease the size and weight of future MCC systems and make possible effective MCC for Soldiers mobilized on foot.

    • Article courtesy of MRMC

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  • Technology Assessment and Requirements Analysis Team Helps Put Medical Facilities Back on Track

    Jill Lauterborn

    “Today is a blur for me,” said CW3 Terry Dover, fresh from temporary duty. “I walked into my office over there, and I said, ‘Where’s all my stuff? Did I get fired while I was gone?’ ” Fortunately, it was just another office move. Dover’s papers and belongings were boxed in a new office.

    TARA Team Lead CW3 Terry Dover breaks from evaluations to chat with a young patient at Sacred Heart Hospital, Milot, Haiti, in April 2010. Dover was part of a medical response team sent to Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake. (Photo courtesy of CW3 Terry Dover.)

    Dover is used to being on the go. He and colleagues on the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) Technology Assessment and Requirements Analysis (TARA) team have experienced steady growth and inevitable changes over the past few years. Dover is the Project Manager for Clinical Technologies and the TARA Team Lead in the Integrated Clinical Systems Program Management Office.

    A key component of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, USAMMA manages strategic-level medical logistics and provides medical equipment for Active Component, U.S. Army Reserve, and U.S. Army National Guard forces. Comprising a full-time team of 14 and drawing on a corps of expert consultants from the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, the TARA team conducts thorough analyses of medical treatment facilities.

    The team assesses clinical operations; workload requirements; technical operations; and equipment maintenance, use, and life cycle. The team then translates those findings into recommended process improvements and equipment replacement plans. Since 1995, the program has achieved a recognized cost savings of $231 million for the Army Medical Department in service and maintenance contracts, equipment purchases, group buys, and environmental hazard reduction.

    Dover’s team charts an ambitious schedule; it is slated to assess seven Army medical centers and hospitals this year alone. By year’s end, the TARA team will have zigzagged across the country, working in Maryland, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Alaska, and California. In past years, the team has deployed to such far-flung locales as Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Honduras.

    Computed Tomography

    Along the way, the team has made vital changes to outdated doctrine at medical treatment facilities worldwide. Dover cites the increased use of, and reliance on, computed tomography (CT) scans as a prime example.

    Comprising a full-time team of 14 and drawing on a corps of expert consultants from the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, the TARA team conducts thorough analyses of medical treatment facilities.

    “We changed things dramatically when we went into the Gulf War,” said Dover. “The CT became essential [toward assessing] the types of trauma we are seeing now. With a CT, you can see everything to some degree, and you can perform a CT scan in a couple of minutes to know what is broken … where things may be bleeding. That becomes critical when you go into surgery.”

    The CT’s benefits extend beyond the operating room, as the scans provide important feedback to field combat units. “If we see certain head injuries on a CT, we know the armor is not doing the job,” said Dover. “Or maybe it’s doing the job but missing this part of it. So people are going to go back and say, ‘Look, we know blast injuries are doing this. We are protecting the skull, but we have all these other problems.’ ”

    CT is just one tool in TARA’s growing arsenal. Dover’s overriding mission is to assemble joint teams to better understand how different forces’ facilities might operate.

    “The intent is to pool [experts] from different areas, so when we walk through the doors [of any] facility, that gives us instant credibility,” Dover said. “There are some nuances in how the Army does things, how the Air Force does things, and how the Navy does things, but ultimately, how they treat patients is really the same.”

    Outlining Capabilities

    A TARA assessment can also outline a facility’s capabilities, enabling incoming personnel to get up to speed quickly. During winter 2009, the team traveled to Soto Cano Air Base in Comayagua, Honduras, to evaluate the medical element at Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B) before a new logistics chief arrived. What the team found was a facility in need of logistical guidance.

    JTF-B is wholly dependent on generators for its power. The hot and humid climate, with rain half the year, is hard on equipment. Base personnel must send the equipment stateside for maintenance. If a crisis occurs, humanitarian or otherwise, staff must pull field equipment from the clinic.

    The TARA team was able to assess the equipment and put together a replacement schedule, ensuring that critical medical equipment used in delivering health care to our deployed members is the best it can be and within safety and regulatory management controls.

    In just one week, Dover and 10 team members combed through JTF-B, evaluating the facility’s nursing and operations, equipment and laboratory, diagnostic imaging, and image archive and transfer system. The resulting report included an inventory of more than 150 items, from operating tables to battery chargers, listing manufacturers, model numbers, and life expectancy for each piece of equipment. TARA also streamlined the equipment replacement process and made recommendations in other areas, from staffing to training to record-keeping, all with an eye to improving operations, safety, and quality of care.

    U.S. Air Force Maj Andrea Ryan, the incoming JTF-B Logistics Chief, reported to the base four months after the assessment and praised what Dover’s team was able to achieve in its short time at the facility.

    “Chief Dover has been nothing short of amazing,” said Ryan. “The TARA team was able to assess the equipment and put together a replacement schedule, ensuring that critical medical equipment used in delivering health care to our deployed members is the best it can be and within safety and regulatory management controls. [That] support for field operations is more than any medical logistics officer could ask for.”

    For more information on the TARA program, visit http://www.usamma.army.mil/tara.cfm.

    • JILL LAUTERBORN is a writer for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. She has nearly two decades of editing and writing experience.

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  • Natural Disaster, Manmade Solutions

    Jill Lauterborn

    After the earthquake, Hospital Sacré Coeur went from a 73-bed to a 600-bed facility. Months after the earthquake, patient care still overflowed into soft-sided aluminum tents on the hospital grounds. (Photo courtesy of the CRUDEM Foundation.)

    In the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010, 7.0-magnitude earthquake near Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Project HOPE (http://www.projecthope.org/) sent doctors, nurses, technicians, and medical supplies to Haiti aboard USNS Comfort. Leading the medical response team was COL Fred Gerber (U.S. Army, Ret.), Project HOPE Country Director for Iraq and Special Projects.

    Gerber turned his attention to three timeworn hospitals: the 70-bed Adventist in Diquini, Port-Au-Prince; the 130-bed Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles, a town about 60 miles from Port-Au-Prince; and the 73-bed Sacred Heart (Hospital Sacré Coeur) in Milot, a town 12 miles south of Cap Haitien. All were overwhelmed, with their caseloads tripling in a matter of days, taxing their sanitation and electrical capacities. Each also faced dire shortages of medicine, oxygen, and potable water.

    Where others might see futility, Gerber saw opportunity, drawing on more than 30 years as a medical planner and operator for the U.S. Army Medical Department. “It was a perfect opportunity to do a health facilities assessment to identify the gaps,” he explained. “I did it in the military with the Health Facilities Planning Agency [HFPA]. They would put teams together—mechanical and electrical engineers, architects, health facilities planners, … nurse critical assessors, and medical equipment repairmen and technicians from USAMMA [U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency]—so that’s what we did.”

    Gerber put together a six-member assessment team, including himself as lead, a health and facility planner, an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, and a structural engineer.

    CW3 Terry Dover, USAMMA Technology Assessment and Requirements Analysis (TARA) Team Lead, filled the sixth slot as the team’s biomedical equipment specialist.“I went as a Project HOPE member, using my TARA and HFPA background … and applying it to what we knew,” he said.

    Rebuilding Medical Infrastructure

    The team wasted no time, assessing Albert Schweitzer on April 7, Sacred Heart on April 9, and Adventist on April 11, 2010, and inspecting each facility from top to bottom. Dover inventoried all usable medical equipment, as well as defunct gear to determine whether it was repairable. Gerber combined Dover’s assessment with those of the other members to provide each facility with both short-term fixes and broad, long-term solutions.

    It is important we keep our heads and continue to make plans and progress in the face of all these other obstacles, and I think that’s the greatest contribution these guys made.

    “We looked at several hospitals, [but] really laid out a plan to rebuild the entire medical infrastructure,” Dover said.

    Tim Traynor, CRUDEM Foundation volunteer and Facility Director at Sacred Heart, was particularly impressed by the team’s assessment of his hospital’s electrical system, which had exposed wires that would short out and catch fire during surgeries.

    “[The lack of] reliable electricity in Haiti is the bane of progress,” Traynor explained. “The timing was perfect, because [our systems] were under the greatest amount of physical strain and stress, and there were opportunities to take measurements and make observations unique to such stress.”

    Researchers are developing the remote system’s capability to detect internal bleeding. Shown here is a negative pressure chamber used to simulate battlefield blood loss in a laboratory setting. The test subject’s legs and lower torso are slid into the tube, which is then sealed and activated to draw blood away from the upper body. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of MRMC.)

    The team gave Traynor a plan to rewire the entire electrical system and soon acquired all necessary wire, panels, and other parts.

    The plan also addressed other problem areas, including patient capacity, air filtration, and adequate roofing. The assessment was respectfully candid about infrastructure realities in the beleaguered island nation, stating in part, “Some of what appear to be problems become less significant as the evaluators become more familiar and accepting with the realities and expectations of the Haitian people.”

    “The core value of the document lies in the fact it was integrated from multiple disciplines,” Traynor said. “Things were not taken in a vacuum; they were looked at in the greatest overall picture. I was very surprised at the quality. For a group that basically went in and was very intuitive, they walked out with a picture that took me probably two and a half years to put together in my mind. They did it in a couple weeks, and that’s impressive, very impressive.”

    Trying Times

    January 2011 marked a year since the earthquake. Even before it struck, life in Haiti was below standard. The hospitals were rationing power, and the quake further taxed their electrical systems. Now the country is reeling from political upheaval while fighting a deadly cholera outbreak. Sacred Heart alone treated more than 1,000 cholera patients in November and December 2010. While funds have been pledged to assist, they have been slow to arrive.

    Traynor stands in the gap at Sacred Heart and remains unperturbed. “It is important we keep our heads and continue to make plans and progress in the face of all these other obstacles, and I think that’s the greatest contribution these guys made. They were in a chaotic environment, they did perform a very valuable function, and they’ve all said whatever they can do to help, they’d like to continue. [They deserve] a lot of gratitude for that.”

    • JILL LAUTERBORN is a writer for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. She has nearly two decades of editing and writing experience.

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  • No Digging Required—Providers Access Digital Medical Record System for Injured Soldier

    Bill Snethen

    One inch ended MAJ Andy Ingalsbe’s service in theater. In September 2009, a sniper’s round struck him in the back, an inch below his Kevlar vest. The reservist and his civil affairs team had just completed a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.

    MAJ Andy Ingalsbe led several humanitarian missions throughout Southwest Asia, including digging wells, repairing schools, and handing out supplies, before he was shot by a sniper in Afghanistan in 2009. (U.S. Army photo.)

    The well-placed projectile did extensive damage. The bullet cracked two vertebrae, destroyed Ingalsbe’s right kidney, and wrecked his liver and digestive tract. Unable to brace himself for the fall, Ingalsbe also injured his neck when his head slammed against the ground.

    Surgical teams treated him at Forward Operating Base Sharana and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. They also digitally documented Ingalsbe’s care in computer systems fielded and supported by the Army’s Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care program. His digital medical history helped physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, piece together his traumatic story.

    “I arrived at Walter Reed five days after my injury, but I regained consciousness on the 18th day,” Ingalsbe said. “The doctors told me about my injuries, and I required a lot of replumbing. Surgeons in Afghanistan removed a kidney and my right colon. The entire time I lived at Walter Reed, the doctors never asked me about any of my prior treatments. They had all of the information in my digital records. One doctor said that I looked better medically in person than what was documented in my chart.”

    Voluntary Tour Cut Short

    Ingalsbe was devastated by the timing of the injury. For 25 years, he had trained for combat as a military policeman. In 2005, he came out of retirement voluntarily to serve on the battlefield in civil affairs.

    From 2005 to 2006, Ingalsbe led more than 80 missions throughout Iraq. His teams dug wells, repaired schools, and handed out food. However, the humanitarian experience came with a price. An improvised explosive device damaged his hearing. Ingalsbe remained committed to the mission. At the end of his tour, he retired for a second time.

    MAJ Andy Ingalsbe inspects a water pumping station while deployed to Iraq with the 401st Civil Affairs Battalion. (U.S. Army photo.)

    In 2008, he returned to active duty and deployed in the same capacity, this time for one year in Afghanistan. While in theater, he decided to extend for a second year. Two days before he was set to begin another yearlong tour, the sniper’s bullet ended Ingalsbe’s service in theater.

    Ingalsbe recuperated at Walter Reed for eight months. Digital medical history from the battlefield and home enabled MAJ Jane Dickler, Nurse Case Manager with the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed, to keep a close watch on Ingalsbe and others.

    “I review the electronic records and treatment plan to make sure my patients receive the medical attention they require,” Dickler said. “Since the medical staff captures patient data electronically, it eliminates the need to hunt for paper forms. It also significantly reduces the possibility of losing patient information. My team also reviews appointment schedules so that patients are where they need to be at the correct times.”

    Ingalsbe underwent a second surgery in March 2010. To repair the damage in his neck, a neurosurgeon inserted two titanium discs and a metal plate to hold them in place. Three months after the operation, Ingalsbe transferred to the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Arkansas (CBWTU-AR). Ingalsbe continues his rehabilitation at outpatient facilities in his hometown of West Plains, MO.

    “Patients such as Ingalsbe are able to receive medical care in their own communities,” said MAJ Barbara Schulz, Nurse Case Manager with the CBWTU-AR, who manages Ingalsbe’s care. “When Ingalsbe receives physical therapy at his local hospital or meets with his family physician, we receive documentation from the civilian providers. Ultimately, all of the records we collect will go to the Department of Veterans Affairs, allowing future providers to view his complete medical history.”

    Continuing the Paper Trail

    Ingalsbe still collects paper copies of every form from his appointments, although digital medical records have replaced paper forms. Since he was shot, the paper folder has been replaced by a plastic binder. He also has CD-ROMs and DVDs with the results of his radiology exams.

    One doctor said that I looked better medically in person than what was documented in my chart.

    “The military is much different today than when I began my career 30 years ago,” Ingalsbe said. “For most of my career, service members kept paper copies of their medical records to protect against a clinic misplacing months or years of medical information. Today, digital notes build upon older records like e-mail messages. I don’t have a medical background, but the digital records are pretty easy to follow.”

    Periodically, Ingalsbe returns to Walter Reed for follow-up appointments, and he looks forward to the day when he receives medical clearance from both surgeries. When that happens, he will retire from the military for a third and final time. When the time comes for a medical review board to determine his future medical benefits, the board will be well-informed, Ingalsbe notes.

    “Between my paper copies and the digital records in the military’s computer system, I have my medical history covered,” he said. “The medical board will have a complete medical picture of my military service.

    “I have a lot of good memories from my military career. As a permanent reminder of my deployment to Afghanistan, I have a 12-inch scar on my abdomen and the sniper’s round mounted on my wall with my Purple Heart.”

    • BILL SNETHEN provides Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care Program public relations support. He holds a B.A. in communications from William Paterson University. Snethen has more than 15 years of public relations experience.

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  • Scenarios Prep Reservists for Medical Records Task in Iraq

    Bill Snethen and Ray Steen

    Dr. Greg Jolissaint, Medical Director and Chief of MC4’s Clinical Operations Office, teaches CPT Harry McKee Sr., Patient Administration Officer with the 256th CSH, to use the MC4 system during a pre-deployment training exercise at Fort Lewis, WA. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of MC4.)

    Triaging mass casualties, tracking lab results, and reestablishing network connectivity are routine tasks in deployed treatment facilities. Each activity requires immense coordination. Active-duty medical units train daily, fine-tuning their efforts as a team. U.S. Army Reservists prepare in small groups one weekend every month leading up to their deployment date.

    Helping to prepare Reservists for deployment to theater is the 191st Training Support Brigade (TSB), which readies 37 reserve medical units every year for the hardships and learning curves of theater. Field training exercises offer essential hands-on experience with the same equipment Reservists will use in the combat zone.

    Unlike active-duty personnel, Reservists typically have little time to master the computer system Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4), which they use on the battlefield to record, track, and share medical information. The flow of medical information supports operations on the ground, allows for greater situational awareness, and helps service members receive complete electronic medical histories.

    In November, members of the 256th Combat Support Hospital (CSH), a Reserve unit, trained together for the first time at Fort Lewis, WA. Using MC4 systems, 200 Reservists readied for their split-based mission during a four-day field exercise, which helped the 256th CSH prepare for and avoid pitfalls downrange. Planned simulations showcased the need for more out-of-classroom training.

    Re-creating the Battlefield

    “We replicate everything a medical unit will see in theater,” said LTC Paris Um, Deputy Exercise Director for the 191st TSB. “This is a good environment for unit commanders to see how the personnel respond to real-world situations. We set up units for success when they go downrange.”

    The exercise, like the battlefield, operated 24-7. Ambulances delivered mass casualties with severe burns and shrapnel wounds. Actors portrayed Iraqi citizens seeking medical attention. The Reservists captured all patient data in MC4 systems, which remained operational during an unscheduled communications outage.

    1LT Christopher Jarvis, a nurse with the 256th CSH, uses the MC4 system to capture data electronically on a mass casualty victim during pre-deployment training at Fort Lewis, WA. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of MC4.)

    “We’re dealing with real-world conditions and problems,” said SGT Timothy Klaus, supporting the 256th CSH Signal Office. “We’ll be doing the same level of support when we deploy. If we arrived in theater without this experience, the hospital could be dead in the water.”

    According to the Learning Pyramid developed by National Training Laboratories, people retain new information more effectively through active learning. The model illustrates that hands-on experience results in 75 percent training retention versus 30 percent typically achieved by classroom demonstration. The MC4 program refocused its training curriculum in 2010, placing greater emphasis on field exercises for deploying units. In 2010, MC4 supported 22 exercises worldwide.

    Many members of the 191st TSB augmented MC4-led instruction, drawing upon their individual experiences with MC4 in theater.

    “I deployed as a medic with the 41st Brigade Combat Team in 2009,” said SGT Richard Ramirez, 191st TSB. “When I talk with users, I stress the importance of electronically charting patient data right away. The digital notes benefit the patients, the medical teams, and the higher command.”

    Because of their experience with the MC4 system, the 191st TSB could critique every aspect of the treatment facility’s implementation of MC4. They stressed the importance of accurately tracking patients throughout the facility, prioritizing the patient flow, and digitally monitoring and restocking supply shelves.

    “The on-site training has been golden,” said LTC Diane Adloff, who will command one of the treatment facilities for the 256th CSH in Iraq. “It gives us time to practice for the realities of the battlefield. Everyone needs to understand our requirements the moment we hit the ground.”

    • BILL SNETHEN provides MC4 Program public relations support. He holds a B.A. in communications from William Paterson University. Snethen has more than 15 years of public relations experience.
    • RAY STEEN is the MC4 Public Affairs Officer. He holds a B.S. in public relations and corporate media communications from James Madison University. Steen has more than 14 years of integrated marketing communications experience.

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  • Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Shapes Future Contracting Professionals

    Marnita Harris and Allison Laera

    To retain a high-quality workforce, Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) leaders are committed not only to the warfighter, but also to providing a career path that will develop expertise as well as an exciting professional and personal challenge. PEO STRI’s intern program provides a strong start toward building a career within the Contracting and Acquisition Career Program 14.

    PEO STRI’s intern program provides a strong start toward building a career within the Contracting and Acquisition Career Program 14. Shown here are interns selected for the first class of the PEO STRI Acquisition Academy in 2008, along with Intern Coordinator Emilce Hessler (back row, second from right) and Acquisition Academy Dean Jean Burmester (back row, first from right). (U.S. Army photo by Doug Schaub.)

    A Vision

    In 2007, Kim Denver, then PEO STRI Acquisition Director and Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting (PARC), had a vision to establish an intern program within the Acquisition Center. “The purpose of establishing a robust intern program was to address the disparity between the high demand for and low supply of qualified contracting personnel based on the significant vacancies in contracting across DOD,” she said. “The most effective approach to address the issue was to develop an intern program to hire new employees and develop them into seasoned contracting professionals.”

    In 2009, Joseph A. Giunta Jr. was appointed as the PARC for the PEO STRI Acquisition Center. He is involved with the progress of the intern program.

    Giunta selects one intern per week to attend the program executive officer’s staff meeting. These meetings, in which senior leadership discusses current issues and future planning, are a valuable experience for the interns to watch leaders make decisions, discuss programs, and work together.

    “The quality of the interns we are bringing into the PEO STRI Acquisition Center workforce today is outstanding,” said Giunta. “The PEO’s investment in the Acquisition Academy and other initiatives focused on recruiting and selections have proved to be a great success, and I am extremely confident and excited about the future of our young contracting workforce.”

    Program Environment

    Emilce Hessler, Senior Procurement Analyst, provides a stable training environment that promotes growth and career advancement. Hessler has supplied a structured schedule for interns to receive Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification, yearly rotations among the various divisions, and 30-day rotations for experience in the Office of Small Business Programs and the Acquisition Center’s Policy Division.

    The interns gain valuable knowledge through this structured environment while working on the job, rotating positions, completing required training, and doing special projects. Hessler provides a sounding board for interns, gives advice when needed, and is available to provide any assistance that interns need during their first three years of government employment. “It’s been extremely rewarding to be a part of an individual’s professional development and to witness personal growth,” she said.

    The PEO’s investment in the Acquisition Academy and other initiatives focused on recruiting and selections have proved to be a great success, and I am extremely confident and excited about the future of our young contracting workforce.

    Specialized Training

    Interns are provided with an opportunity to further their professional careers within a structured environment. Specialized training in the program is accomplished through the Acquisition Academy, on-the-job training, rotational cross-training, and continuous learning.

    Interns attend the Acquisition Academy for 11 weeks before entering the workforce. They receive valuable information preparing them to succeed as federal employees, including Army organizations, installations, ranks, and structure. This training program is composed of various career fields to include engineer, budget analyst, program analyst, acquisition contract specialist, logistics management specialist, and project director intern. Subject matter experts provide daily training to the interns on topics such as the basics of contract types, financial regulations, market research, source selection criteria, performance-based logistics, small business requirements, risk management, and legal reviews.

    After successful completion of the academy, interns enter the workforce and are assigned to a senior contract specialist for mentorship, to help the interns become more self-confident and competent in their careers.

    Lovisa Parks, Senior Contract Specialist at PEO STRI, stated, “You are only as good as the organization you work for and the people who you share your values and corporate culture with. I chose to help junior contract specialists because eventually we will be working side by side, and I may even eventually end up working for them. Mentorship will only enrich your life and add value to your organization as a whole.”

    Interns such as Iain Skeete gain valuable knowledge through the structured Acquisition Academy environment while working on the job, rotating positions, completing required training, and doing special projects. (U.S. Army photo by Emilce Hessler.)

    On-the-job training offers interns the opportunity to learn different skill sets. It also allows them to develop their own time management system that best facilitates multitasking on-the-job. Interns attend meetings with contractors, integrated product teams, and other contract specialists. Senior contract specialists also advise interns on answering questions from Integrated Product Teams or contractors. Interns are delegated new tasks as their knowledge base grows. Interns learn how to use the Standard Procurement System while learning how to choose which contract vehicle to use. They also learn contract administration, file management, and contract modifications, and are trained in how to document the file, interpret and implement laws and regulations, and use the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

    At monthly meetings, guest speakers elaborate on topics such as the Government Purchase Card Program, Procurement Administration Lead Time Memo, policy updates, and temporary duty tips. Interns also present topics to the group to gain presentation experience.

    While performing the duties of a business advisor, the interns are coached in determining the best solution and developing a decision.

    The program lays the foundation for networking opportunities as well. The interns are in direct contact with senior leadership, guest speakers, and other interns, which helps to build future relationships within their new career fields. Successful completion of the management training program leads to a full-performance federal acquisition career with the potential to move into mid- or high-level management positions.

    Voices of Experience

    “Beginning my Army career in the Acquisition Academy, I was able to meet and learn from program and budget analysts, engineers, and fellow contract specialists,” said Susan Abascal, a contract specialist intern. “By making these connections early on, I am now able to find support from these colleagues throughout my rotations.”

    On-the-job training offers interns the opportunity to learn different skill sets. It also allows them to develop their own time management system that best facilitates multitasking on-the-job.

    Michelle D. Williams, a recent intern graduate, said her experience from the intern program was gratifying and humbling, considering how her work influences the warfighter. “Learning how to do what we do by being exposed to different divisions and departments through on-the-job training, courses, and mentoring has contributed to my professional development immensely. I am confident this growth will continue and follow me throughout my career. The simulation, training, and instrumentation area of acquisition directly affects the warfighter, because without the proper training, products, and services—along with the maintenance and sustainment of these products and services being put on contract [on time] and efficiently—our Soldiers would not receive proper training, which can negatively impact their service to our homeland.”

    • MARNITA HARRIS is a PEO STRI Contract Specialist. She holds a B.S. in business management and an M.B.A. from Indiana Wesleyan University. Harris is certified Level III in contracting.
    • ALLISON LAERA is a PEO STRI Contract Specialist. She holds a B.S.B.A. in management information systems and an M.B.A. from the University of Central Florida. Laera is certified Level I in contracting.

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  • Flying the CH-47F Chinook Helicopter: A Contracting Officer’s Journey

    Jean Hodges

    When I started out in contracting, doing construction for the Kansas Army National Guard in the late 1980s, not a week went by that I wasn’t out at the job site climbing ladders, examining pipes, or doing aircraft hangar walk-throughs. But for many of us in contracting today, our phones, computers, and videoconferences wall us into our offices and chain us to our desks, as we try to keep up with an ever-growing workload. Touching what we procure has become a treat, and when it comes to systems, actually operating one is even more of a rarity.

    Jean Hodges sat in a Common Aviation Architecture System simulator, seen here, procured by Program Executive Office Aviation to experience the sights, sounds, and feeling of piloting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. (U.S. Army photo by Nick Vann Valkenburgh.)

    I recently had the opportunity to sit in a helicopter simulator that my office procured. I felt the rumble of the cockpit seat and experienced the thrill that those CH-47 Chinook pilots whom I support experience every day.

    From California to Afghanistan

    My “co-pilot,” Dennis Booth, CH-47F Transportable Flight Proficiency Simulator Device Manager, guided me expertly through the simulator’s displays, stick and thrust controls, pedals, and flight modes as I took off from Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, CA, cruised over the hills, and dodged the skyscrapers of San Diego—maneuvers made possible with projectors and mirrors right here at Program Executive Office Aviation in Huntsville, AL.

    Just as I was wondering what happens if the Chinook’s computer goes down, Dennis demonstrated the manual and fail-safe displays and controls familiar to me from Hollywood re-creations. At this point, Dennis suggested that I land “somewhere.” I opted against the water landing Chinooks can make for my first try, and since we headed inland, I decided instead on an uneven grassy hillside. Pushing downward on the thrust with my left hand while pulling back on the stick with my right, I was able to reduce my speed and altitude without losing alignment with the quickly approaching ground, as shown on the three different glowing displays in front of me.

    Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

    When Dennis asked if I wanted to go to Afghanistan, of course I couldn’t pass that up. Two minutes later, against the natural forces of time and space, we were on the runway in Jalalabad, powering up to accompany three other Chinooks on our mock mission. Were it not for a moment of panic when Dennis left his co-pilot seat to adjust the computer, I think I could have executed another perfect takeoff. But, alas, I pitched right, then overcompensated—straight into the holographic hangar. With red flashing before my eyes, my death was instantaneous.

    Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

    Dennis, still behind me at the “real” helm, suddenly created a thunderstorm at my 2 o’clock. It doubled and then tripled in size, the lightning fierce and the black clouds truly ominous. As if that weren’t bad enough, Dennis and his computer took us from noon to midnight in a split second. I could see the lights of two of my brethren, but not the third.

    As my allotted time ended (because Dennis was scheduled to be the co-pilot for another lucky adventurer) we emerged back into the comfort and safety of the simulator cockpit. I first thought of the skill, bravery, and pride of real pilots who fly every day. My second thought was, Wow! I buy not only these simulators that are part of pilots’ training, but also the actual helicopters they use to carry cargo and save Soldiers’ lives.

    I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.

    ‘Nothing More Important’

    By afternoon, I was back to the four walls of a conference room, listening to a debate about identifying and obtaining parts and kits and waiting anxiously for that little nugget of contracting information that makes those meetings worthwhile.

    Lo and behold, my ears perked up when someone mentioned “CAAS.” Before today, my brain would have immediately interpreted this as “Contract Administration and Audit Services.” Now, when someone says CAAS, I imagine myself in that cockpit, following the instructions from the Common Aviation Architecture System to safely take off, fly, and land a CH-47F helicopter, albeit simulated.

    And when I review a Statement of Work or negotiate a contract for the CAAS component, I have a point of reference that brings to life the words and numbers in front of me. At that moment, I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.

    • JEAN HODGES is the Director for Program Executive Office Aviation’s CH-47 Contracts. She holds a B.A. in psychology, human development, and crime and delinquency from the University of Kansas, an M.A. in contract management from Webster University, and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Hodges is certified Level III in contracting and Level I in program management and in business, cost, and finance. She is a Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship graduate and a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.

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  • DACM Corner: In Search of Contingency Contracting Officers and NCOs

    LTG William N. Phillips

    As I look at how to achieve growth and rebalancing across the acquisition workforce, it is clear to me that there are very talented, highly motivated people in our Army who would be great assets to our acquisition, logistics, and technology mission, if only they knew more about it. So I want to devote this column to an acquisition career field that is particularly rewarding and especially in need of more Soldiers: contingency contracting officer and contingency contracting NCO.

    Contingency contracting officers have the vital job of providing forward contracting support to ongoing war zone and humanitarian missions worldwide. Our Army is making a concerted effort to expand its ranks of contingency contracting officers and noncommissioned officers in Military Occupational Specialty 51C, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Contracting NCO.

    These are not desk jobs—far from it. Contingency contracting is a front-line mission. Last year, the Army conducted 108 contingency contracting missions in 39 countries, providing combat support in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as humanitarian relief in Haiti and Pakistan. It’s the contingency contracting officer’s job to make those operations happen.

    Contingency contracting teams consist of two officers and two enlisted personnel placed inside a civilian contracting office on an installation. You may be contracting for commodities, construction, or services. Whatever you are tasked with purchasing, you are providing essential support to our warfighters.

    As is true throughout the AL&T Workforce, we’re looking for demonstrated excellence and the potential for future excellence as we grow our contingency contracting workforce. We need candidates with experience across the full range of Army activities to include logistics, combat arms, finance, and other areas.

    For MOS 51C specifically, where the Army is looking to add about 100 NCOs each year, we need promotable sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class with less than 10 years of service. Those with less than 13 years’ service may receive waivers. If you’re a younger Soldier with some college who has shown leadership, take a look at the 51C website, http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/nco/nco_prereq.cfm, for information on how to put together an application packet.

    Selected candidates will add to their education through acquisition and contracting courses. They gain a broad spectrum of knowledge in the materiel acquisition process—including relevant laws, regulations, policies, procedures, organizations, and Army doctrine. In addition, they learn new skills in providing contracting support to joint forces across the full spectrum of military and disaster relief operations. These highly valued skills include mastery of the PD2 software tool as well as contingency contracting techniques and procedures.

    Contingency contracting training is available at the Mission Ready Airmen Course in San Antonio, TX, and at the Army Acquisition Basic Course at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

    Within a year of joining the field, you could find yourself supporting counterinsurgency and humanitarian relief efforts. Activities you are likely to support include helping local populations stand up businesses, rebuilding their economies, and establishing employment for large numbers of people. In the current conflict(s), this is how our Army intends to prevail: by helping people who would otherwise be our enemy find productive and satisfying work, rather than planting improvised explosive devices.

    Taking care of our Army acquisition workforce continues to be my Number One priority. Getting cutting-edge capability into the hands of Soldiers, when and where they need it, requires a robust, well-balanced acquisition workforce. Contingency contracting is an essential part of this mission. Join us!


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  • Acquisition Education and Training Corner: March 2011 Update

    Upcoming Training Opportunities

    • We have many educational and leadership opportunities available in the near term. Our updated Acquisition Education, Training, and Experience Catalog provides in-depth information on all training and developmental opportunities. Please view the catalog on the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) at http://asc.army.mil/career/pubs/aete/default.cfm for information on all training opportunities available to acquisition civilian and military workforce members. Eligible and interested applicants may apply for all of our programs by using the Army Acquisition Professional Development System tab within the Career Acquisition Management Portal/Career Acquisition Personnel and Position Management Information System (CAMP/CAPPMIS) at https://rda.altess.army.mil/camp.
    • The School of Choice (SOC) announcement is currently open and runs through May 2. SOC is a highly competitive, 18- to 24-month full-time degree-granting program that provides civilian Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce members GS-11 through 15, or broad/pay band equivalent within a Demonstration Project or the National Security Personnel System, an opportunity to keep their current acquisition position while completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree during duty hours. For more information, visit the SOC website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/soc/default.cfm.
    • The Naval Postgraduate School-Master of Science in Program Management (NPS-MSPM) (Distance Learning) announcement opened March 17 and runs through May 17. NPS-MSPM is an eight quarter, 24-month part-time master’s degree program. The program requires students to take two courses per quarter over a 24-month period. For more information, visit the NPS-MSPM website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/npsmspm/default.cfm.
    • The announcement for the next offering of the Congressional Operations Seminar will be open April 7 through May 6. The Congressional Operations Seminar is a five-day seminar on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, that will provide civilian AL&T Workforce members a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities within the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, and Senate as they relate to the performance management of the defense acquisition system and policy. For more information, visit the Congressional Operations Seminar website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/ConOps/default.cfm.
    • The announcement for our Acquisition Tuition Assistance Program (ATAP) will be open July 15 through Aug. 31. ATAP is designed for civilian AL&T Workforce members who wish to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree or fulfill the certification of U.S. Army Acquisition Corps membership business-hour requirements. For more information, visit the ATAP website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/atap/default.cfm.

    Defense Acquisition University Highlights

    • FY12 Defense Acquisition University (DAU) class schedule: Open registration for FY12 classes begins May 18. Students may apply through the Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS) Internet Training Application System (AITAS) at https://www.atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas.
    • New Student Information System (SIS): DAU has successfully procured a commercial-off-the-shelf SIS to replace the current, distinct DAU registration systems for the four services. The system, named PORTICO, is Web-based and will interface with current DAU and DOD systems, ATRRS, and CAMP/CAPPMIS. Army workforce members will be able to authenticate via a DOD common access card. PORTICO will standardize functionality and capability available for all services. It will allow more transparency and up-to-date status to students when applying for DAU courses. The initial operating capability date is targeted for June 2013.
    • Shortfall in Level II Contracting Classes: There are six commercial vendors and four universities that offer CON 215, 217, and 218 equivalent classes. For more information on equivalencies, please visit DAU’s website at http://icatalog.dau.mil/appg.aspx. Please e-mail the program execution point of contact at usaascweb-ac@conus.army.mil if you are unable to obtain CON 215, 217, and/or 218 this fiscal year and would like to use Section 852 funds to pay for an equivalent provider. USAASC plans to offer this to individuals who need those courses and are unable to get an FY11 reservation.
    • Shortfall in Level II Business, Cost, and Financial Management (BCFM) courses: The Army is placing only first-priority students into available BCFM classes. DAU is well aware of the backlog and is working to expand classroom size for current and additional course offerings. The demand is due to a surge of BCFM certification requirements, which is a temporary issue. For experienced BCFM personnel, fulfillment of the course is recommended. Fulfillment information may be found at http://icatalog.dau.mil/DAUFulfillmentPgm.aspx.
    • New Program Management Tools (PMT) 257 course: PMT Part II will replace the current PMT 256 course, effective third quarter of FY11. PMT 250 and 256 will remain valid predecessor courses until Oct. 1, 2012. For more information on the course, see the I-Catalog link at http://icatalog.dau.mil/onlinecatalog/courses.aspx?crs_id=1735.
    • PMT 257 is a five-day online course, and class start times are regionalized. The course will cover earned value management, scheduling, and risk topics. Students will have two weeks to complete approximately four to six hours of pre-course work before the course begins. This is extremely important; failure to do so will make the first day of the course tedious.
    • The course includes an individual, open-book final exam. Students must obtain 80 percent (with no remediation) to pass the course. These offerings are available for registration now in AITAS at https://www.atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas/.
    • Please note that the course begins at 8 a.m. in the time zone in which it is being offered. Unless a student specifically requests the course, Pacific Time Zone students should not apply to the Eastern Time Zone offerings, and vice versa.
    • DAU will host its annual Acquisition Community Symposium on April 12, 2011, at its Fort Belvoir campus. High-level officials from both government and industry will address the theme, “Making Every Dollar Count—Improving Acquisition Outcomes,” at this one-day event. The conference opens with a keynote by Dr. Ashton B. Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD(AT&L)), followed by an Acquisition Executive Panel moderated by Frank Kendall III, Principal Deputy USD(AT&L), to focus on the services’ achievement of Carter’s Sept. 14, 2010, memorandum to acquisition professionals, which provided guidance on obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending.
    • The agenda also includes a presentation by Christine Fox, Director, Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office; a congressional-level perspective from Peter Levine of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and an industry panel perspective on attaining a new direction in acquisition leadership and management moderated by Stan Soloway.
    • Through a series of speakers and panels, the symposium will examine issues including target affordability and control cost growth and incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry. Additionally, breakout sessions will address implementation of USD(AT&L)’s affordability initiatives, and one session will cover the DAU Alumni Association Research Paper Competition winners (Hirsch Prize). The symposium will conclude with dinner and a speech by former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who currently is co-chair of the Commission on Wartime Contracting.
    • Presentations honoring the winner of the 2011 Alumni Association’s Acker Award, induction of new DAU Hall of Fame members, and presentation of Hirsch competition winners will wrap up the event. For more information, visit https://www.dauaa.org/Symposium2011/20Registration11.asp.
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