FORT HOOD, Texas - The Army is assessing seven combat-arms jobs to determine physical performance requirements and to set standards, and help to select the best qualified soldiers regardless of gender.
Thirty-four male and female soldiers assigned to the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division volunteered to conduct common warrior and engineer-specific tasks during the physical performance stage of the Army’s Physical Demands Study, here, Sept. 9 to 13.
US Army Training and Doctrine Command, in conjunction with the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine from Natick, Massachusetts, are conducting the study to assess the physical demands of engineer soldiers.
USARIEM researchers and scientists used specialized medical equipment to analyze and record the physiological demands required to perform the tasks over a five-day period.
Prior to performing a task, soldiers were equipped with a heart monitor and instrumentation to record breathing, heart rate, oxygen use and metabolism.
The measurements will be used to develop future evaluations for soldier tasks.
“The next step … is to come up with simulations,” said Dr. Edward Zambraski, USARIEM project leader. “How can I simulate when someone has to take a 100-lb [artillery] shell and put it on a rack? We’ll try to develop a simpler test, a simulation, where we can mimic the physical demands associated with the tasks that soldier has to do.”
TRADOC’s Branch Proponent Schools identified the physically demanding tasks required of each MOS during an earlier phase of the study.
Fort Hood was chosen to assess engineer-specific tasks such as preparing obstacle with the H6 40-pound cratering charge, operating a modular-pack mine system and the carrying of an Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System.
In Aug., USARIEM conducted focus groups with Ironhorse soldiers in the seven combat arms MOSs to validate and provide descriptions of various tasks.
As a result of engineer soldiers’ feedback, some tasks may be added and others removed, said Zambraski.
When conducting and measuring the tasks, MOS-trained soldiers were used as a baseline, and compared to non-MOS soldiers trained to conduct the same tasks.
“You want people that have been trained to perform those tasks and the best people to choose are the people who are assigned to those MOSs,” said Marilyn Sharp, a USARIEM research physiologist and the principle investigator for the project.
If a soldier is not experienced in doing the task, they aren’t going to do it as efficiently or effectively as one who is MOS-trained, Sharp added.
In preparation for the study, soldiers trained for weeks prior to the assessment.
“[All soldiers] became familiar with the common tasks, [which] wasn’t all that hard for them to pick up,” said Chester, Ill., native, Staff Sgt. Joshua Rubach, a combat engineer assigned to Company C, 1st “Centurion” Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the Ironhorse Brigade, who was responsible for the training of the soldiers who volunteered. “It was just getting used to the weight limits of the [Bradley Fighting Vehicle] barrel and the feeder [assembly].”
Rubach said non-engineer soldiers spent more time training on tasks such as moving to an obstacle while carrying an APOBS, but executed the tasks well.
Rubach added that although some tasks may have been more difficult than others, the soldiers seemed in good spirits.
“I think [the soldiers] are a little ecstatic on being a part of something bigger for the Army,” said Rubach.
Sharp explained that the assessment can potentially help the Army get the right people in the right job, reduce soldier injuries and develop MOS-specific physical training.
“It’s an opportunity to make [the] MOS stronger and safer,” Sharp said. “It’s an incredible opportunity and the Army will benefit tremendously from it.”