One Army-developed technology relies on nothing more than nature to help ensure that a daily and vital substance is safe and readily available. The aquatic biomonitor, available commercially as the Intelligent Aquatic Biomonitor System (iABS), uses fish and their breathing patterns to detect the presence of potentially toxic substances in water. The iABS employs a team of eight bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), also known as sunfish or bream, to provide 24/7 monitoring of water supplies.
The U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research (USACEHR) is tasked with developing biomonitoring technologies for the many environmental health hazards that military members face on a day-to-day basis. The information collected by USACEHR allows the organization to provide diagnostic and prognostic tools to the military for environmental and occupational health surveillance.
“Fish are one of the greatest model systems for the detection of contaminants in water,” said Tommy Shedd, a Research Biologist who worked on the iABS. “When you think of the potential for human chemical exposure from water, what better indicator of the potential hazard than a living organism like the fish? The fish are a first line of defense as a broadband detector of potential harmful chemical hazards in water because of their integrated rapid response to abnormal contaminants in the water. The fish do not tell you what the problem is, just that there is a water problem that you should investigate further.”
The eight fish are deployed for a three-week tour of duty, while eight others wait on standby to be rotated in. The fish are placed into individual “stalls” separated by a frosted glass pane. Carbon block electrodes are suspended above and below each fish, capturing the electrical signals generated by the muscles in the fish as they breathe (similar to heart-rate patterns on an electrocardiogram). The device monitors ventilation rate, average depth of signal, cough rate, and percent movement, as well as water quality parameters including water pH, temperature, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen, which are known to affect the way a fish breathes. To protect these eight worker fish, the device is designed to withstand any nontoxic events, such as power or water flow failure.
The fish are a first line of defense as a broadband detector of potential harmful chemical hazards in water because of their integrated rapid response to abnormal contaminants in the water.
All of the collected data are then converted to electrical signals, which are amplified, filtered, and transmitted to a laptop computer where they can be analyzed for changes in the environment. If six of the eight fish start behaving abnormally, the device sends out an alert and begins an automated sampling process to screen the water for toxins. If a toxic threat is determined to be present, personnel are called in to mitigate it.
Laboratory tests have shown that the iABS responds within an hour to most chemicals at acutely toxic levels. Within a few hours, the iABS can produce real-time monitoring. Furthermore, the electronic components used in the device are relatively low-cost, and the automated biomonitor alerts personnel only as needed, so continuous observation is unnecessary.
This combination of science and nature was transitioned to commercial development by a team of USACEHR scientists, supported by an Army Science and Technology Objective. The Environmental Sentinel Biomonitor Team was lead by USACEHR Science and Technology Director Dr. William van der Schalie and a team of researchers and biologists. In December 2004, the iABS was awarded an Army Research and Development Award, and in June of 2010 van der Schalie and the team were finalists for the Service to America Medal as a result of their work in aquatic biomonitoring.
The iABS is being used in several large municipalities across the United States to monitor water supplies. The eight small fish thus could save millions of people from using contaminated water sources. In one large city, the bluegills detected a diesel fuel spill in the water source before it reached the water supply. The USACEHR is also looking into other potential tools using the same type of technology. One technology uses cell monolayers to detect toxicity; changes in electrical resistance across the cell layer signal a change in the environment. This allows for a smaller and more transportable device that could be used in the field or in combat to ensure that water is safe and free of contaminants.
- DAVID E. TRADER is a Research Biologist at USACEHR. He holds a B.A. in biology from McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College) and an M.S. in environmental biology from Hood College. Trader is the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Chairman for USACEHR and a member of the American Water Works Association and the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
This is a regular column by Dr. Scott Fish, Army Chief Scientist, on activities in the Army science and technology (S&T) community and their potential impact on Army acquisition programs.
The New Year continues to be a busy time for the Chief Scientist’s office. I took part in the Army Science Board plenary meeting held Jan. 18-20 at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Headquarters at Fort Eustis, VA. The Small Unit Data to Decisions Study was initiated with the full team. That study, and continued work on the Strategic Look at Army S&T Study, prepared for active engagements through the spring with various labs and S&T customers.
On Jan. 27, I gave a luncheon speech to the Advanced Program Management Course at Defense Acquisition University (DAU), hosted by Claude M. Bolton Jr., former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. I spoke to senior acquisition professionals about my experiences in project management and observations on technology transition into programs of record. This could become a regular engagement with DAU.
As part of continuing external engagements related to academia, industry, and government labs, on Feb. 3, I was joined by Jeff Jaczkowski, Deputy Project Manager for the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, on a visit with members of the University of Texas Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Departments, who were working on low-cost sensing and associated intelligent processing and advanced actuation, with potential applications in robotics and human augmentation systems. Drs. Sriram Vishwanath and Luis Sentis were my hosts, and the technical exchange with their students and staff was quite enlightening.
COL Lary Chinowsky, my Special Assistant, Mike Perschbacher of Rovnotech, and I met with Jim Lasswell and his team at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, VA, on Feb. 2. We discussed their unmanned vehicle systems and collaboration with the Army and other services in this important area.
On Feb. 7, I gave the keynote address at Ground Day of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems Program Review 2012. I showed a few video clips of Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) work from the past 12 years, which addressed some major success stories in UGV penetration of key mission areas associated with explosive ordnance disposal, route clearance, urban reconnaissance, and checkpoint security.
We need to work together on an updated UGV strategy with industry to get at new business models for robots that can enable wider adoption in a time of fiscal and force structure reductions.
Comments were also made on bringing forward our successful technology demonstration results in autonomous behaviors for ground robots into products that reduce operator burden and enhance utility for missions beyond the current baseline. I noted that we need to work together on an updated UGV strategy with industry to get at new business models for robots that can enable wider adoption in a time of fiscal and force structure reductions. It was a great session, and I’m looking forward to continued dialogue in the months ahead.
On Feb. 14, Dr. John Miller, U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Director, hosted COL Chinowsky and me on a tour of the facility in Adelphi, MD. We had a very good session on cyber security and batteries/switches with ARL and members of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center. We also toured some of the labs and met with the researchers conducting amazing work in nanochemistry and power component development and early performance evaluation.
Finally, I headed to Israel to attend the Namer ground combat vehicle operational test and evaluation senior leader brief and to visit with my Israeli counterparts on their S&T initiatives. The visit was short, but I got a tremendous amount done. This collaboration has greatly increased the U.S. understanding of the Namer and its capabilities, and the data gained from testing will inform and refine our Ground Combat Vehicle requirements. On Feb. 16, I briefed at the U.S. – Israel Memorandum of Understanding meeting, where I gave a Namer assessment update to the delegation.
For the first time, I will be traveling to Afghanistan to visit our troops and meet some of the program managers supporting the operations. I am very excited about this opportunity to go into theater. At the end of February, I will travel to California to attend the 2012 Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies Army-Industry Collaboration Conference, which is focused on our basic and applied research. I also plan to visit universities in California before heading back to the Pentagon.
Previous S&T Notebook Articles:
Events Update (26 January 2012)
Looking to the Future (2 December 2011)
Taking the Pulse (1 November 2011)
Exploring Partnerships with Israel (27 September 2011)
Army Chief Scientist to Make Regular Contributions to USAASC Publications (2 September 2011)
The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command has initiated steps to evaluate a new bioelectric bandage with Prosit technology. Procellera, manufactured by Vomaris, is a bandage dressing that creates electrical impulses. Small silver and zinc dots embedded in cloth create micro-currents in the presence of moisture. The effect is anti-microbial and pain-reducing.
The use of silver on burns has a long history of preventing infections. Vomaris says its bandage dressing provides faster healing, greater pain control, reduced incidence of infection, and decreased scarring. The nature of the cloth conforms well to multiple surfaces of the body, and the bandage dressing’s antimicrobial properties are expected to work against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the device for antimicrobial wound care, which is the primary reason for the Army’s interest in the product. The bandage is currently being used on hard-to-heal wounds, with multiple research studies underway. Anecdotal results are promising, especially with regard to pain control. In some cases, wound pain is reported to be reduced dramatically.
Studies are underway with Ranger units. Recently, during a Ranger road march, a considerable number of Soldiers suffered blisters and were treated with the Procellera bandage. Many Soldiers reported dramatic pain relief and were able to return quickly to the march.
The bandage is unique in creating a healing bioelectrical pathway over the entire wound surface, enhancing the body’s natural healing environment.
The uses of this product are expected to expand. Although more clinical efficacy studies are needed, indications for use are focused on all full- and partial-thickness skin wounds, from simple abrasions and skin tears to traumatic wounds and surgical sites. The battlefield may serve as the best proving ground in which to test this emerging medical device.
For more information, visit www.warriorwoundcare.com.
- DANIEL O. KENNEDY is Chief, Acute Care Division, Program Management Office Medical Devices, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, Fort Detrick, MD. He holds a B.S. in nursing and a certificate in business administration from Saint Louis University, and an M.B.A. from Webster University. Kennedy is Level III certified in program management and is a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.
Uniformed contracting officers (KOs), training at the U.S. Army Contracting Command (AAC) pre-deployment readiness exercise Joint Dawn 2012, benefited from a growing role by civilian contracting professionals.
The exercise, conducted Jan. 19-Feb. 3 at Fort Bliss, TX, is designed to develop the Soldier acquisition skills necessary to meet mission needs in a Joint environment downrange, in a ramp-up to a deployment supporting the U.S. Central Command. Of the more than 250 participants in the exercise, 45 members from throughout the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) worked alongside their counterparts from the U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC) and sister services in roles ranging from leadership positions to mentors and policy experts.
The teaming of civilian and uniformed acquisition personnel to improve this training illustrates the growing importance of integration efforts underway across MICC and ECC units.
“As we bring Soldiers more and more in contracting operations, it’s essential that we integrate them with our civilian professionals who have grown up in contracting,” said BG Joe Bass, ECC Commanding General. “Because these Soldiers will be asked to be contracting leaders when they go downrange, it’s imperative that we all remain mindful that we’re training future commanders.”
Joint Dawn, in its third year, prepares a growing number of uniformed KOs for deployment. In 2010, 34 KOs were trained at Fort Riley, KS. That number jumped dramatically in 2011 to 115 who trained at Fort Campbell, KY; at the same time, the exercise expanded the use of civilian contracting professionals as mentors. This year’s exercise includes 159 KOs in training.
Robert Ash, a procurement analyst at MICC’s Mission Contracting Office Fort Eustis, VA, who served as a mentor during Joint Dawn, reviewed participants’ contract files for improvement. “This training is vital since many of us have different perspectives. Not only will it provide us a little better understanding, but it can also incorporate that into our training back home. If I can understand [military counterparts] better, I can train them better.”
According to Daryl Hughes, a fellow mentor and contract administrator at the Mission Contracting Office Fort Knox, KY, the operational tempo that trainees experienced during Joint Dawn in developing their basic contracting skills will prove valuable both at war and in garrison.
“The number of requirements is what makes it a little more realistic, particularly if they get to the end of a fiscal year,” said Hughes, who provided guidance in a simulated regional contracting center. “It’s not only helpful during a deployment, but when they come back stateside.”
For some MICC participants, the readiness training provided a more accurate understanding of training needs for Soldiers already integrated at MICC subordinate units.
“Since it’s our responsibility to make sure the 51Cs [contracting NCOs] are properly trained and learning simple acquisitions and some more complex acquisitions, we get to see a realistic combat environment and can help prepare them for their deployment,” said Cathy Bella, the MICC Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting from Fort Sam Houston, TX, who served as a policy adviser. “Without the exercise, we just don’t have that visual picture of what they’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis.”
Joint Dawn also served as a measuring stick for training already underway for Soldiers in the MICC. MAJ Thomas Goerling, who was in charge of leading one of the 16 simulated regional contracting centers, believes the exercise was an excellent opportunity for military members to further build upon their contingency skills and gain some “semblance of critical knowledge” before deploying as a KO.
“A lot of trainees have deployed in their basic branch or in a non-contracting job. While we may have deployment experience and be familiar with the field environment, very few of us have deployed as a contracting officer before,” Goerling said.
Goerling, who supports contracting functions for both contingency contracting teams and a MICC installation KO from Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, agreed that the integration of civilians and other military services creates a more realistic training scenario.
“When overseas, you’re going to be working with these same people. So to have that cross-reference and knowledge working with the other services and civilians is critical,” he said. “Civilians have institutional and historical knowledge; they do contracting as their Army career path, so they generally have more years of experience. And in this particular career field, experience is everything.”.
Joint Dawn 2012 consists of five phases and kicked off at the end of the 2011 exercise. The 904th Contingency Contracting Battalion at Fort Irwin, CA, led the first phase which included an initial planning conference, site visit, and establishment of working groups. It was during this planning phase that officials sought to replicate a more realistic Joint scenario by incorporating previous lessons learned and seeking the involvement of KOs from the U.S. Army Reserve, Army National Guard, the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve, and the U.S. Air Force.
“In the end, we want contracting officers who are confident in their ability to survive on the battlefield, capable of using theater specific tools and authorities, and ready to excel with confidence in a joint contingency environment to support the warfighter.”
In the second phase, the main body of participants arrived for warrior task training to prepare KOs and some civilian employees for the physical rigors and dangers of deployment. This entailed weapons familiarization and qualification, survival training in the event of an attack on an armored vehicle, convoy operations training, and medical skills training for varying degrees of bodily injury.
“You can only replicate so much, but it’s very realistic. Everything we went through [represented] very key skills that could either save your life or save your battle buddy’s life,” said Goerling.
Participants then moved into the classroom for the third phase to gain theater-specific training. Trainees covered such topics as ethics, procurement fraud, media relations, paperless contract files, finance procedures, and policy.
The fourth phase involved the application of learned skills from the classroom in an operational environment. MICC civilian employees and their uniformed counterparts were divided into 16 simulated joint regional contracting centers of approximately 10 KOs each to conduct a full range of contracting actions that are typical in a forward location.
The fifth and final phase involved a post-exercise evaluation that captured lessons learned for future exercises, as well as an awards ceremony.
Although Joint Dawn was compact, uniformed KOs left with a greater assurance in executing their acquisition missions.
“In the end, we want contracting officers who are confident in their ability to survive on the battlefield, capable of using theater specific tools and authorities, and ready to excel with confidence in a joint contingency environment to support the warfighter,” said COL Jeff Morris, Commander of the 412th Contracting Support Brigade, Fort Sam Houston, TX, who ran this year’s readiness exercise.
“Every action, every type of contract, every scenario is something that we will likely run into but not necessarily in six days,” Goerling said. “If you’ve seen it before, then you have a better chance of dealing with it when happens for real.”
ANNUAL PRE-DEPLOYMENT EXERCISE ATTRACTS JOINT PARTICIPATION
“The simulations were real; the sounds were real. I left there feeling that I could actually save someone’s life,” said CPT Gina Ferguson, 634th Contingency Contracting Team, Fort Riley, KS, of the training she received during the Joint Dawn 2012 exercise at Fort Bliss, TX, Jan. 19-Feb 3.
Ferguson is among more than 250 military and civilian contracting officers who participated in the U.S. Army Contracting Command (AAC) pre-deployment joint readiness exercise.
The exercise is designed to enhance the ECC’s mission of providing contracting support to Army and other DoD organizations operating OCONUS, said COL Jeff Morris, Commander of the 412th Contracting Support Brigade at Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio, TX, part of the Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC).
Now in its third iteration, Joint Dawn has expanded to include participation by military and civilian contracting officers from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve.
Including the other services more fully exposes participants to how they will operate in a joint contingency environment to support the warfighter, Morris said. “This is a pre-deployment exercise geared toward deployment into the CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] theater of operations working with the CENTCOM Contracting Command,” he explained.
In addition, the exercise includes combat engagement skills training; Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, vehicle rollover egress; tactical combat casualty care; weapon systems familiarization; and virtual battle-space simulation. Other scenarios challenge participants to ensure their technical proficiency to execute their contracting mission. This includes purchase requests and commitments, closeout actions, commander’s critical information requirements; contracting ethics issues; and simulated confrontations with disgruntled customers.
CDR Michael Curran from the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Acquisition and Procurement, added that this was the first time the Navy was invited to participate.
“The Navy and Army have very different cultures,” he said. “This exercise is a great opportunity to train and learn how the Army conducts its contracting business to ensure that the warfighter is getting the best that we can provide.”
Ferguson agreed. “It starts building teamwork here and gives us the confidence we need to go into theater and to work with someone we’re not normally familiar working with,” she said.
- DANIEL P. ELKINS is Deputy Director of Public Affairs for MICC. He has served more than 23 years in support of public affairs for the Army and the Air Force. Elkins holds a B.S. in communications from Louisiana Tech University and an M.A. in communications from St. Mary’s University.
- DAVID SAN MIGUEL is a Writer/Editor for the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL. An award-winning military journalist, he retired from the Army Reserve in 2005. Sam Miguel has attended multiple universities and colleges, including the University of Maryland, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Jacksonville State University, Cochise College, and Emory College.
Technology originally created to track improvised explosive device (IED) networks in Afghanistan and Iraq is finding new purpose in supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with mission overwatch during border patrol missions.
The Product Manager Observe, Detect, and Identify (PdM ODI) assisted Joint Task Force North (JTF-N) with an operation called Big Miguel by providing payloads and operators similar to those used by Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize) during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq. The sensor payload offers electro-optical and laser illumination, which greatly increased situational awareness for U.S. Border Patrol ground agents. Additionally, PdM ODI arranged the contracts that secured a Caravan aircraft as well as the pilots, operators, and mechanics.
In less than a year of support, Big Miguel helped the Border Patrol with more than 200 missions, resulting in the detection of more than 5,500 suspects and 63,000 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $50.5 million. Detection missions involving the Big Miguel platform also helped law enforcement seize multiple weapons, vehicles, and equipment used by criminal smugglers along the Southwest border.
In defining what has made Big Miguel a success, the product manager responsible for the program found that the personnel involved in the missions have been just as important as the quality of the sensor payload. “I attribute a great deal of Big Miguel’s success to the back-end operator,” said LTC(P) Moises M. Gutierrez, PdM ODI. “The mission commander/operator serves as the strength of this program. Flying in the air, talking on the radio while maneuvering that [electro-optical/infrared] ball at the same time is a tremendous skill set, which is not easily found and requires years of experience.”
There are some major differences between the missions that PdM ODI supports in Afghanistan and Iraq and those in Big Miguel. While flying missions in OEF, OIF, and OND, the aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets for which Gutierrez is responsible must push down raw full-motion video, signal intelligence, and communication intelligence that require more command and control and a full set of ground stations to process and disseminate. Border Patrol mission requirements are not the same as those of ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq; however, they do have a requirement for an overwatch mission to most effectively manage risks associated with transnational criminal organizations.
“The payloads and the back-end operating system are the same,” said Gutierrez. “The CONOP [concept of operations] and TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures] are very similar; their relationship with the ground coordination is similar to an analysis system operator in the back of a C-12 talking to the Soldier, just as we have personnel on the Caravan talking to a Border Patrol agent.”
“Lessons learned from OEF/OIF and TF ODIN contributed tremendously to the success of Big Miguel. We applied critical TTPs to each mission as taught and utilized in OEF/OIF and TF ODIN,” said Jim Ledet, who served as ISR Mission Commander for JTF-N Big Miguel FY11. “Air-to-ground talk-on tactics, [“sensor to shooter”] radio communications, and target identification played a significant role in the success of Big Miguel.”
Ledet explained that the basic way missions ran was through taskings received before each mission from the supported Border Patrol Sector headquarters, as provided by associated sector intelligence. Known areas of interest are provided to the mission commander before mission launch and are passed to the mission commander during the operation via secure radio communications.
“Lessons learned from OEF/OIF and TF ODIN contributed tremendously to the success of Big Miguel. We applied critical TTPs to each mission as taught and utilized in OEF/OIF and TF ODIN. Air-to-ground talk-on tactics, [“sensor to shooter”] radio communications, and target identification played a significant role in the success of Big Miguel.”
“Once the target has been located and identified, the mission commander provides talk-on assist to ground agents, monitors for potential threats, and situational awareness to ensure ground agents do not walk into ambush scenarios. The mission commander also provides laser pointer to positively identify the location of targeted area,” said Ledet. “If helicopters are available and in the target area, the mission commander will provide command and control of target airspace and will coordinate close-air support with CBP’s Office of Air and Marine helicopters, talking them in on the target area to assist with apprehensions.”
Due to the success of Big Miguel, the PdM ODI office has been asked to continue supporting the border mission with additional capabilities. New to the mission will be the ability to conduct intelligence processing exploitation and dissemination (PED) to gain additional value from the information captured by the Caravan sensors. PED will allow for forensic backtracking and increase JTF-N’s ability to disseminate collected information throughout the various organizations involved in the border protection mission.
- BRANDON POLLACHEK is the Public Affairs Officer for Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. He holds a B.S. in political science from Cazenovia College and has more than 12 years’ experience in writing about military systems.
February is Low Vision Awareness Month, a campaign that was started to raise awareness for macular degeneration and other vision problems. Low vision affects a person’s entire life, interfering with the ability to perform daily activities. The term “low vision” means partial sight or visual impairment that is not correctable with contact lenses or eyeglasses. We often take our sight for granted, but tragedy can strike at any time, even more so on the battlefield.
“That’s why the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command [USAMRMC] has decided to aid injured Soldiers,” said COL Karl Friedl, Director of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC).
Through its vision portfolio, TATRC funded and investigated technologies for noninvasive vision sensory substitution and augmentation to allow wounded warriors to return to more normal social interactions. These outcomes range from being able to navigate without a cane to having improved visual acuity after a variety of injuries.
Over 18 months, the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition developed a prototype called the Anthro-Centric Multisensory Interface for Vision Augmentation and/or Substitution (ACMI-VAS). This system has the potential to give the sense of vision, including peripheral vision. This information may help to improve a blind individual’s situational awareness, according to Robert C. Read, Program Manager for Vision, Diabetes, and Pain Research at TATRC.
One of the first experiments performed in the realm of sensory substitution involved pilots flying and executing aerobatics while blindfolded. The pilots were getting all of their veridical information from an early version of the Tactile Situation Awareness System (TSAS), developed by the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, a subcommand of USAMRMC. With TSAS, these pilots could perform maneuvers in the air successfully without visual input.
“They improved the user control interfaces and developed a method to allow tactual understanding of color. The final portion of this grant will focus on human research participant testing and evaluation, data analysis, drafting a publication detailing the results, and development of the final ACMI-VAS prototype design specification document,” said Dr. Anil Raj, a Research Scientist with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.
The main systems used for these human-centered interfaces are auditory and tactile displays. One of the displays includes a TSAS. The other two tactical displays are the Videotact produced by ForeThought Development LLC and BrainPort electro-tactile tongue displays, produced by Wicab Inc.
The purpose of these technologies is to support vision and balance. Sounds are displayed tactually on the tongue or abdomen to allow individuals to recognize human speech. Speech recognition technology is used to increase the saliency of human speech components against a background of other sounds. In addition to augmenting auditory capabilities, Raj and his team are working to augment visual capabilities using methods such as incorporating three-dimensional models of the environment in real time.
“Even profoundly blind individuals may benefit from the modularity of the system, as they could choose to use specific displays for any given activity.”
The noninvasive nature of the ACMI approach ensures that wounded warriors can benefit from future upgrades as technologies improve, without the risks of further surgeries or infection that implantable devices can present. The proposed complementary interface displays can be tailored to suit individual needs.
“For example, an injury that spared the peripheral vision may only require the higher-resolution displays, whereas a condition like hemianopia [a loss of vision that affects half of the visual field of one eye or both eyes] might only require a low-resolution spatial awareness component,” Raj said.
This proposed technology development will result in a single integrated system prototype capable of providing an alternative mechanism for visual sensing of high-resolution central vision, low-resolution peripheral vision, and stabilization of the imagery despite perturbations of the head.
“Even profoundly blind individuals may benefit from the modularity of the system, as they could choose to use specific displays for any given activity,” said Read.
Raj added that use of the ACMI software framework ensures that integration of improvements in any of the major technologies, including sensing devices such as a camera and interfaces—potentially even implantable ones—will occur quickly, speeding up evaluation of incremental changes and their deployment to the users.
- TIFFANY HOLLOWAY is the Deputy Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Auburn University Montgomery and an M.A. in public relations from Webster University.
Hemorrhage is the leading cause of death in civilian and military trauma. Fortunately, there is hope, in the form of tranexamic acid (TXA), a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine. Through the United States’ Joint Theater Trauma System, which is an organized approach to providing improved trauma care across the continuum of levels of care, especially in the battlefield environment, TXA was recognized after years of observations.
There was level 1 evidence in the Clinical Randomization of an Anti-fibrinolytic in Significant Haemorrhage 2 (CRASH-2) trial for the use of TXA, including a purported survival benefit in civilian trauma patients. However, the existing study performed on TXA was in a civilian population; the study took place in third-world countries where modern-day transfusion techniques were not applied nor did the patients receive any units of blood.
“This study prompted a spirited debate,” said COL Todd Rasmussen, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and Chief of the San Antonio Military Vascular Surgery Service.
Military surgeons, civilian surgeons, and academics met for months at various conferences, and the consensus was to not use TXA.
“Even though we, as the United States’ combat casualty care system, decided not to use TXA, there was evidence that it was working and that it was safe. There was some discomfort. We were torn between using it and not using it. That’s what happens in science. We needed to see whether or not TXA was clearly applicable.
“So we decided to do a retrospective cohort study,” said Rasmussen. “The British were using TXA and were interested in seeing how well it was working, and we in the United States had an interest because at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the British were treating select U.S. troops with TXA as part of their resuscitation strategy.”
“The benefit of the retrospective cohort study is that it targets the exact population that wasn’t available in the CRASH-2 trial study,” said Dr. Kenji Inaba, Assistant Professor of Surgery and Medical Director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the University of Southern California.
The retrospective cohort study was performed on patients who had been treated at Camp Bastion. Using the Joint Theater Trauma Registries of the two countries, two consecutive years of clinical data was reviewed, focusing on patients receiving at least one unit of blood within 24 hours of a combat-related injury. This included information on U.S. troops treated at the United Kingdom (U.K.) facility, said Rasmussen.
“Retrospective study methodology is by no means perfect, and further investigation is and will be performed to determine the extent of effectiveness of TXA. However, this study was implemented in a fairly expeditious manner, and as a result, the effects of saving lives can start now rather than years later.”
The study compared several endpoints, including survival, between patients who received TXA and those who did not. Of approximately 1,000 patients, nearly 300 were U.S. troops.
“This study was the first international collaboration of its kind and required the U.S. IRB [Institutional Review Board] approval, as well as approval from the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense Research Ethics Committees. We sent select U.S. researchers to the U.K. Joint Medical Command Research Pillar to work with U.K. researchers using their trauma registry. Subsequently, the U.K. sent surgical researchers to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research to work with the U.S. Joint Theater Trauma Registry,” said Rasmussen.
The result of this groundbreaking international military collaboration is a study referred to as the MATTERs, for Military Application of Tranexamic Acid in Trauma Emergency Resuscitation Study. This study concludes that the use of TXA as part of a blood component resuscitation after wartime injury provides a survival advantage, most notably in patients receiving larger amounts of blood. Preliminary results from the MATTERs study show few, if any, serious complications identified with the use of TXA, although Rasmussen was quick to add that “prospective study of the use of TXA is needed to more fully define its safety profile.”
“Retrospective study methodology is by no means perfect, and further investigation is and will be performed to determine the extent of effectiveness of TXA. However, this study was implemented in a fairly expeditious manner, and as a result, the effects of saving lives can start now rather than years later,” he said.
“Any product that is demonstrated to decrease bleeding with improved outcomes at an acceptable cost and with an acceptable risk profile will potentially benefit injured patients—both military and civilian,” Inaba said.
[Editor’s Note: The Joint Theater Trauma System Clinical Practical Guideline has been updated based on the findings of the MATTERs study to support the use of TXA in theater.]
- TIFFANY HOLLOWAY is the Deputy Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Auburn University Montgomery and an M.A. in public relations from Webster University.
Crawl, Walk, Run: That simple phrase is the common refrain heard in U.S. Army training facilities throughout the world. This approach forces new Soldiers to focus on the basics before moving onto more advanced techniques. In Afghanistan, that same training principle is being applied at the recently opened Afghan National Army (ANA) Armor Branch School.
In March, the ANA will take possession of the first 58 of 352 Mobile Strike Force Vehicles (MSFV) to enhance their quick reaction and Mobile Strike Force (MSF) capabilities. These vehicles represent the first kandak, or battalion, size element of armored vehicles for the ANA. This capability will be critical when U.S. forces begin their drawdown.
Nonetheless, before the MSFVs can be put into the fight, the drivers must be trained to operate, use, and maintain the vehicles. Those training sessions began in December 2011 with the first Train the Instructor class (T2I).
“The initial Train the Instructor course was a huge success. It developed confidence, built relationships, and enabled us to fully understand the challenges associated with conducting training across multiple languages and cultures,” said MAJ Patrick McFall, the Forward-Deployed Representative from Product Manager Armored Security Vehicle (PM ASV). “The success of this training regime is directly attributed to the hard work and determination of the entire team.”
The MSF, managed by PM ASV, falls under the leadership of Project Manager Joint Combat Support Systems (PM JCSS) within the Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support.
The U.S. Army’s Maneuver Support Center of Excellence (MSCoE) plays a critical role by leading the T2I effort, which is a combined effort of MSCoE, the French Armor Branch School, the ANA Armor Branch School, PM ASV, and Textron Marine and Land Systems. PM ASV has been actively working with the Combined Security Training Command-Afghanistan to provide a complete fielding, training, and long-term sustainment program for the five newly organized ANA kandaks.
“The initial Train the Instructor course was a huge success. It developed confidence, built relationships, and enabled us to fully understand the challenges associated with conducting training across multiple languages and cultures.”
The inaugural class was attended by 71 Afghan instructors, who will form the initial training force for the ANA Armor Branch School. “The final event of the training was a live-fire exercise designed to test the knowledge acquired by the ANA instructors and to promote confidence within their ranks,” said COL William Boruff, PM JCSS.
“As the ANA instructors initially approached the vehicle with ammunition in their arms, their faces were apprehensive. They didn’t know what to expect. As they entered the turret, loaded the rounds, and fired the weapon systems, you could see their confidence build with each engagement,” said McFall.
The MSFV being fielded to the ANA is an updated version of the ASV, a platform that has more than four decades of proven performance. The modifications on the MSFV allow for additional protection while still using commercial-off-the-shelf parts. The MSFV family consists of three variants, each designed to meet a specific combat role and enhance the ANA MSF capability. The variants include an Armored Personnel Carrier with Gunner’s Protective Kit, an Armored Personnel Carrier with Turret, and an Armored Ambulance.
“The MSFV provides each MSF kandak, with a rapidly deployable, highly mobile armored capability that can quickly maneuver in an all-terrain environment, while concurrently providing the ANA with sufficient firepower to conduct a wide variety of operational missions over an extended range and distance,” said CPT Joseph Denning, in the PM ASV office.
- BILL GOOD is the Operations Officer for PM ASV. He holds an M.A. in public relations and organizational communication from Wayne State University.
The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (DASA) for Strategy and Performance Planning has outlined a five-year strategic plan designed to ensure continued success for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASAALT).
The document is organized primarily around key principles such as equipping and sustaining the Army for the 21st century, ensuring effective life-cycle management, transforming the acquisition workforce, developing policy, and enhancing efficiency, said Lee Thompson, DASA for Strategy and Performance Planning.
The rationale for the plan, which details specific goals and priorities through 2017, is aligned with the Army Campaign Plan 2012 and is grounded in articulating and navigating a path forward for continued ASAALT success with the ultimate objective of best serving Soldiers.
“It is all about the Soldier,” said COL Patricia Matlock, who directs strategy for the DASA. “It’s a living document designed to inform the ASAALT community of the vision, mission, and way forward for the organization.”
The ASAALT Strategic Plan represents a cumulative 18-month effort, drawing upon input from an integrated process team of subject-matter experts as well as guidance from other ASAALT DASAs and senior leaders.
“It is essential that the ASAALT community, from the PEOs [program executive offices] to the DASAs, link with the Army Campaign Plan as well as those themes derived from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics,” Thompson said.
Each of the five goals highlighted in the plan relates to specific objectives and supporting tasks. “All of the goals can be measured and have their own respective metrics,” Matlock said.
The five overarching goals are:
- Equip the Army for the 21st century, focused on the acquisition community’s mandate to design, develop, procure, field, and sustain warfighting equipment, thus providing Soldiers with the most advanced technology available.
- Ensure effective life-cycle management, the effective management of weapon systems across the acquisition, logistics, and technology community throughout the life of the system.
- Transform the Acquisition Workforce Enterprise, focused on enhancing and managing a framework to increase the size and improve the skills of the enterprise.
- Develop ASAALT policy and oversee execution, focused on activities that support the development, implementation, oversight, and evaluation of key acquisition, contracting, industrial base, security assistance, and export control policies.
- Support and enhance the efficiency of ASAALT, focused on implementing AL&T business process initiatives to improve organizational efficiencies and information management; and on enhancing AL&T strategic communications to foster key stakeholders’ advocacy at all levels.
The plan is flexible and can be updated as strategies and conditions evolve over time, Matlock and Thompson said.
The document is organized primarily around key principles such as equipping and sustaining the Army for the 21st century, ensuring effective life-cycle management, transforming the acquisition workforce, developing policy, and enhancing efficiency.
Also, while the document is intended primarily for ASAALT, it is written to support and fortify key efforts across the entire Army, such as the sustainment and life-cycle work of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, the logistics work of the Army G-4, and the programmatic efforts of the Army G-8.
“We want to be a collaborative organization and ensure that our enterprise meets its full potential,” Matlock said.
Moving forward, DASAs across the ASAALT organization will conduct quarterly reviews to assess their progress in implementing the strategic plan and achieving stated goals and objectives. The next step in strategic planning is to align the core tenets of the individual PEO strategic plans with those of ASAALT, Thompson said.
“We need to cross-reference our ASAALT plans, both DASAs and PEOs, with the Army Campaign,” he explained.
- KRIS OSBORN is a Highly Qualified Expert for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Office of Strategic Communications. He holds a B.A. in English and political science from Kenyon College and an M.A. in comparative literature from Columbia University.
The ‘Bosses’ of NIE: Army Acquisition Officers Are Key to Success of Network Integration Evaluations
In the months since the Army concluded its second Network Integration Evaluation, NIE 12.1, in November 2011, hundreds of Soldiers, engineers, developers, and program managers have remained at Fort Bliss, TX, and White Sands Missile Range, NM, to complete vehicle integration design work, de-install 12.1 platforms, integrate the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical test platform, and participate in new equipment and field training exercises, all in preparation for NIE 12.2.
NIE 12.2, taking place in April and May, is the third installment in a series of semiannual evaluations designed to integrate and rapidly advance the Army’s tactical network. In the first two evaluations, the Army brought together the test, acquisition, and doctrine communities to test and evaluate the network in a completely integrated fashion, demonstrating the Army’s holistic focus on integrating network components simultaneously in one operational venue.
Decisive to the NIEs’ success are a group of Army officers gathered from across the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASAALT), who are known as the “Trail Bosses.” They coordinate across members of the TRIAD, which manages the NIEs—the Brigade Modernization Command, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, and ASAALT’s System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate—and across the full spectrum of functional disciplines supporting the NIEs. They are well-versed in networked operations and operational vignettes, data collection, and hardware and software troubleshooting.
The Trail Bosses are field-grade Army acquisition officers whose traditional roles and scope of work have been transformed to support the NIEs. Each Trail Boss and respective team serves as SoSI’s primary interface among multiple product management offices, integrated product teams, industry representatives, and the six battalions in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD). In NIE 12.1, the six Trail Bosses managed teams of 8 to 10 people, with interface to another 20.
The 3,800 Soldiers of 2/1 AD provide invaluable feedback to the acquisition community about the systems undergoing test and evaluation, ultimately leading to better capabilities getting into the hands of deployed troops faster and more often.
Trail Bosses are the conduit between their assigned 2/1 AD battalion and a workforce of engineers, logisticians, testers and evaluators, and industry partners to ensure flawless execution of the evaluations. Their daily activities can include anything from training Soldiers and supporting field service representatives (FSRs) to advising leadership on the status of schedules, physical integration, training, preparation, and execution of activities associated with each exercise.
“Our battalion Trail Bosses are assistant product managers who provide a critical interface with their supported battalion to plan, receive, train, employ, maintain, and troubleshoot systems nominated to participate in the NIEs,” said LTC Erik Webb, 2/1 AD Trail Boss.
Webb develops and leads the six battalion-level Trail Boss teams: military, engineering, logistics, test, information assurance, resource management, and combat development personnel.
“Their task goes beyond the management of cost, performance, and schedule of a single product,” said Webb. “They are also responsible for the end-to-end integration of hardware and software systems in their supported units. This includes providing subject-matter expertise to assist the unit in the proper operation and employment of systems that have limited time for collective training and familiarization by the unit.”
Working hand in hand with their assigned battalions during the NIE, Trail Bosses work seven days a week to ensure that the units have everything needed to prepare for and execute an NIE, including equipment delivery and installation, training, test instrumentation, integration and checkout, and logistics support. They are responsible for the management of planning, synchronizing, and integrating the systems under test and evaluation into units participating in the NIEs. In NIE 12.1, two systems underwent formal testing, while an additional 46 were simultaneously evaluated—a significant jump from the six Systems Under Test and 25 Systems Under Evaluation in the first NIE. More than 43 systems will be part of NIE 12.2.
“Being a battalion Trail Boss involves building relationships with all stakeholders and gaining an understanding of the technical and operational capabilities of the systems, and the units’ vehicle platforms,” said MAJ John McGee, NIE 12.1 Integration and Aerial Tier Trail Boss.
These relationships are pivotal because for the first time, industry has been allowed to participate in the NIEs as part of the Army’s new agile acquisition process. The Trail Bosses help bridge any gaps between industry representatives, engineers, and FSRs—who may or may not be accustomed to working within the framework of the Army—and the Soldiers they are supporting. The NIE Trail Bosses have become experts on how to accomplish their missions, enable effective communication, and carry out successful NIEs in support of the Army’s overarching network modernization effort.
- System of Systems Integration Directorate Staff