Sustaining soldier performance

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MILITARY PSYCHOLOGY, 21:(Suppl. 1)S9–S22, 2009 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 0899-5605 print / 1532-7876 online DOI: 10.1080/08995600802554540

United States Army Science and Technology: Sustaining Soldier Performance
Thomas H. Killion
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology/Chief Scientist

Stephen J. Bury
Camber Corporation

Rene de PontbriandArmy Research Laboratory, Human Research and Engineering Directorate

James Belanich
U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences

Stress is a multidimensional concept, manifesting its effects in multiple domains. Most clearly these effects appear in the physiological, cognitive, and emotional arenas. This article will provide an overview of (a) key factorscontributing to this stress and (b) the range of U.S. Army basic research through advanced technology demonstrations, focusing on reducing these effects and/or otherwise enabling Soldiers to sustain performance under stress. The objective is to provide a context for the discussion of ways to enrich the technological options that can be applied to ameliorate or adapt to stress across the spectrum of missionsthat Soldiers perform.

Today’s Soldier is a truly unique, physically fit, and well-trained individual who, coupled with technological developments for the battlefield, is more capable than Soldiers of America’s past. Soldiers today are expected to be multiskilled, coverCorrespondence should be addressed to Stephen J. Bury, 2511 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Suite 9013, Arlington, VA 22202-3911.E-mail: steve.bury@us.army.mil.

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KILLION, BURY, PONTBRIAND, AND BELANICH

ing missions spanning from major theater warfare, through small-scale contingencies and close-quarters combat, to stability and support operations, including humanitarian missions. The solider is expected to perform at very high physical, perceptual, and cognitive levels in environments rife with change, complexity,and uncertainty. Long deployments in a combat environment and the accompanying family separation place additional emotional burdens upon the psychological well-being of our soldiers. In the past, the Army has carried out substantial research on the nature and mitigation of combat stressors (e.g., Krueger, Harig, & Price, 1995). Recently, there have been several stories in the press about traumaticbrain injury (TBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Army and the Department of Defense are expending additional efforts to better understand these injuries with the goal to prevent these types of injuries and to reset and sustain a Soldier’s psychological well-being. Today, we are working with an emerging set of research tools and concepts, the result of developments in the broaderextreme performance communities, as well as in converging technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive/neuroscience. The invocation of new approaches is made necessary in part by the increasing use of technology on the battlefield and changes to the surrounding human–system environment. One key question our scientists and engineers face daily is how weleverage emerging science and instrumentation to enhance our Soldier and the systems they employ to sustain performance under stress in combat conditions.

UNDERSTANDING THE SOLDIER’S ENVIRONMENT First, we must understand what our Soldiers face today and will face well into the future. We shifted military strategy from a threat-based to a capabilities-based planning strategy. The most importantwarfighting system in the Army arsenal that provides these capabilities is the individual Soldier—the centerpiece for determining success in all operations. The ever changing and complex environment is quickly outstripping the Soldier’s ability to adjust. Soldiers must perform physically and mentally at peak performance in an increasingly demanding environment. With expanding missions, Soldiers...
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