By Angela Poffenberger
What does the Soldier need? That’s what the Field Assistance in Science and Technology (FAST) team asks, and they go straight to the source for the answer— the Soldier.
FAST team members include U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) officer scientists, NCO medical officers, and U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) personnel. Dale Frazier, FAST Team Coordinator, said the medical officers volunteer their services “to help ensure the survivability of the warfighters.”
The FAST team first deployed in September 2005 to support the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The team helps commanders find solutions to enhance mission capabilities and to improve safety, training, and operations.
When a forward medical unit identifies a Soldier need and writes a Request for Information, the FAST team communicates with USAMRMC for analysis and solution. To bridge or eliminate a capability gap, the FAST team works with various groups, such as product developers, subject-matter experts, and combat developers across the Army.
Working with so many different people and agencies “ensures the correct and most knowledgeable person is contacted for their input or guidance,” said Frazier.
The team also collects feedback on prototype technologies to meet Soldiers’ needs.
Over the years, the Medical Support Systems Project Management Office (MSS PMO) has worked with the FAST team many times, but the most notable collaboration was on the Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statements for the first 16 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) ambulances. The result was four MRAP-variant ambulances and their MRAP medical equipment sets (MES).
“The MRAP MES is a modular, ready-to-go set that impacted the war effort,” said Jaime Lee, Product Manager for MSS PMO.
In addition, MSS PMO and AMEDD’s Directorate of Combat and Doctrine Development worked with the MRAP Joint Program Office to develop and field casualty evacuation kits for six MRAP variants, including the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). More than 1,200 M-ATV CASEVAC (casualty evacuation) kits are now being fielded to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
The most recent collaboration of the FAST team and MSS PMO led to sending troops a device to help stop bleeding. Because hemostatic agents and tourniquets cannot control high junctional hemorrhages (in areas where limbs attach to the torso), the medic’s only option in such cases is to apply pressure, with follow-on surgery if the casualty survives the initial hemorrhage.
In search of a solution, OEF Soldiers asked for a product to provide compression to junctional hemorrhage sites. Based on recommendations from the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care, MSS PMO purchased several combat-ready clamps, known as CRoCs, to send to the FAST team. The use of CRoC has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the committee’s Integrated Product Team, and is now being evaluated by Special Forces and conventional Army units.
The FAST team requested a hands-free litter to allow Soldiers to rescue a wounded comrade while still engaging the enemy. MSS PMO searched the civilian market and found several products with potential.
The Tactical Combat Medical Care team evaluated the material of the litters. Vendors added straps and quick-release buckles to commercial-off-the-shelf litters. Several of these litters were sent to Soldiers for concept exploration and feedback.
Upon the return of the Soldier surveys, MSS PMO, the Directorate of Combat and Doctrine Development, the Tactical Combat Medical Care team, and the Medical Evacuation Proponency will meet to discuss this potential capability gap and to determine a path forward.
To immobilize patients with suspected head, neck, or spinal injuries, the FAST team requested immobilization straps. Securing wounded Soldiers is imperative in preventing further injury during transportation. With all the armor and equipment Soldiers must wear, often the strap can barely secure a wounded Soldier to the spine board. Medics require longer straps to secure larger patients in full-body armor, and MSS PMO has been working with industry to create a prototype from a commercial-off-the-shelf Spider Strap that is larger, has better adhesion points, and is manufactured in the Army’s olive drab color.
An evaluation by combat medics found the Spider Strap to be “faster, easier to use, and well constructed,” so now it is available for medics to use on larger Soldiers.
Continuing Their Work
Since the FAST team first deployed, members of the FAST team have joined Soldiers in OIF on 14 different occasions and in OEF five times.
Elements of the FAST team continue to exist at unit-level commands, with requests routed through the FAST coordinator at USAMRMC. The MSS PMO continues to work on solutions to medical technology gaps, focusing on speed, efficacy, and affordability.
- ANGELA POFFENBERGER is the Technical Writer for the USAMMDA MSS Project Management Office. She holds a B.S. in English from Frostburg State University and an M.A. in English from National University.