Center Works to Optimize Warfighters’ Performance

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2011 — A new high-inten­si­ty work­out regime promis­es to build strength and endurance. Ads tout dietary sup­ple­ments as for­mu­la for get­ting stronger, smarter and even less-stressed-out. A “how to” book presents a sure-fire way to bounce back from phys­i­cal or emo­tion­al set­backs.

Defense Department's Human Resource Performance Center
Army Sgt. Ryan Kennedy and Army Spc. Dou­glas Pet­ty pull secu­ri­ty duty and dis­cuss pos­si­ble ene­my loca­tions in Kata­lai vil­lage, Khost province, Afghanistan, June 15, 2011. The Defense Department’s Human Resource Per­for­mance Cen­ter is explor­ing ways to max­i­mize warfight­ers’ per­for­mance, make them less sus­cep­ti­ble to ill­ness and injury and more phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly resilient.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

With the wealth of ever-chang­ing and often-con­flict­ing infor­ma­tion on the Inter­net and on the street, what are warfight­ers to believe about the best way to improve their per­for­mance, par­tic­u­lar­ly in com­bat?

Get­ting to the bot­tom of that, and putting word out to the troops whose lives and mis­sions depend on their abil­i­ty to per­form in demand­ing and often extreme con­di­tions, is the mis­sion of the Defense Department’s Human Per­for­mance Resource Cen­ter, Dr. Stephen Frost, the center’s direc­tor, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

DOD stood up the cen­ter in Sep­tem­ber 2009 under the aus­pices of the Uni­formed Ser­vices Uni­ver­si­ty of the Health Sci­ences to gath­er and devel­op sol­id sci­ence for warfight­ers, their lead­ers and their health care providers.

Part research arm, part infor­ma­tion clear­ing­house and edu­ca­tion cen­ter, the cen­ter pro­vides a sin­gle DOD focal point for human per­for­mance opti­miza­tion, encour­ag­ing bet­ter coor­di­na­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion among the ser­vices and with oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies, Frost explained.

The staff seeks out sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly proven data to post on its web­site and answers warfight­ers’ ques­tions sub­mit­ted through an online link. When it iden­ti­fies an infor­ma­tion gap, it reach­es out to experts with­in the mil­i­tary and civil­ian pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­ni­ties to research the issue or eval­u­ate research already con­duct­ed.

To date, the cen­ter has issued a White Paper on the pros and cons of a high-inten­si­ty phys­i­cal train­ing pro­gram pop­u­lar with many mil­i­tary mem­bers. Its find­ings, in a nut­shell: It may be great if you’re already fit, but could be too phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing if you’re not.

The staff also eval­u­at­ed the pru­dence of tak­ing spe­cif­ic dietary sup­ple­ments in extreme tem­per­a­tures or alti­tudes after some deployed ser­vice mem­bers expe­ri­enced liv­er and kid­ney prob­lems, Frost said. The results, post­ed on the center’s web­site, showed that high-pro­tein sup­ple­ments such as cre­a­tine can be extreme­ly dan­ger­ous, espe­cial­ly when users aren’t prop­er­ly hydrat­ed, he report­ed.

“One of our mis­sions is to pro­vide the warfight­er infor­ma­tion that is evi­dence-based [and] sci­en­tif­ic so that they can make deci­sions about things like dietary sup­ple­ments in a bet­ter way than just ‘Googling’ on the Inter­net and get­ting com­mer­cial­ized infor­ma­tion,” Frost said.

The cen­ter plans to look into pos­si­ble ways to mit­i­gate prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with the sick­le cell trait. Anoth­er project on the center’s radar screen, to be con­duct­ed with NASA and the Defense Cen­ters of Excel­lence for Psy­cho­log­i­cal Health and Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury, will look into the issue of sleep, par­tic­u­lar­ly sleep depri­va­tion.

“That’s a big prob­lem through the ser­vices,” Frost said. “We know that mis­sions some­times require warfight­ers to remain vig­i­lant for long peri­ods of time. So the big ques­tion is: How much sleep do you real­ly need? And are there ways of enhanc­ing your abil­i­ty if you don’t have enough sleep? Are there ways of catch­ing up on your sleep? There are a lot of ques­tions around sleep that apply around the ser­vices, and NASA is inter­est­ed, too.”

“Opti­mal per­for­mance” involves much more than strength, endurance and over­all phys­i­cal fit­ness, Frost explained. It includes all the men­tal, emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal fac­tors that impact a warfight­ers’ abil­i­ty to per­form effec­tive­ly in demand­ing con­di­tions and extreme envi­ron­ments, to stay healthy and injury-free and recov­er from any injuries and ill­ness­es. This involves every­thing from what goes into their mouths to what kind of exer­cise rou­tine they fol­low to behav­ioral issues such as drug, alco­hol and tobac­co use.

But equal­ly impor­tant are what Frost calls “mind tac­tics” — a warfighter’s men­tal tough­ness and resilience.

“In the past, the empha­sis has always been on the phys­i­cal part, and we have become pret­ty good at man­ag­ing the phys­i­cal resilience and phys­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties of our warfight­ers” he said. “But only recent­ly have we come to rec­og­nize that the mind and body go togeth­er. So unless you have that same opti­mal capa­bil­i­ty for your men­tal per­for­mance, then your phys­i­cal per­for­mance can’t be opti­mal, either.”

For this rea­son, the Human Per­for­mance Resource Cen­ter address­es fam­i­ly and social issues that can impact per­for­mance.

“We rec­og­nize that if a warfight­er is wor­ried about his fam­i­ly, he is not going to be in his opti­mal con­di­tion,” Frost said. “If he does­n’t have the social sup­port sys­tems he needs when he comes home from deploy­ments, or if he is going to be deployed, he is not going to be in his opti­mal men­tal con­di­tion.”

Ulti­mate­ly, Frost hopes the mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ty will come to rec­og­nize the Human Per­for­mance Resource Cen­ter as the place to go for unvar­nished, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly proven infor­ma­tion about fac­tors that affect warfight­er per­for­mance.

“If we can get the Human Per­for­mance Resource Cen­ter to tru­ly become the go-to place for our warfight­ers, our health care providers, the line lead­er­ship and researchers so they aren’t sim­ply Googling for infor­ma­tion, I think we can go a long way toward enhanc­ing the coor­di­na­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion among the ser­vices and DOD around human per­for­mance,” Frost said. “I think that will be a won­der­ful goal.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →