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Improving Combat Lethality, Performance

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Experts from the military, academia and industry — representing about 60 different organizations in all — met earlier this month to discuss new ways human performance could be tweaked to increase the lethality of close combat formations.

The Human Performance workshop, organized by the Defense Department's Close Combat Lethality Task Force, was set up to "develop recommendations on potential programs that address the challenges of physical preparedness in close-combat formations and the increasing cognitive demands of modern combat," said workshop coordinator Army Col. Joey Polanco.

A Marine does pullups.
Fitness Training
Marine Corps Cpl. Evan Barr, a field radio operator with the 1st Transport Support Battalion, works out at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 2, 2019. All Marines are required to take part in daily unit-level physical fitness training, but they are also highly encouraged to train on their own to achieve optimal physical fitness.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Emmanuel Necoechea
VIRIN: 190102-M-EN121-1015C

Human performance is just one dial that can be tweaked to enhance the lethality of a close combat formation, Polanco said. Other variables that can be adjusted include manpower policy, training, equipment and weapons, science and technology, and research and development.

As seen through a green light, soldiers train during an exercise at night.
Battle Training
As seen through a night-vision device, soldiers and members of NATO forces perform close quarters battle training at Camp Shelby, Miss., March 5, 2018, to support Emerald Warrior. During the exercise, U.S. Special Operations Command forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict.
Photo By: Airman 1st Class Kristen Heller
VIRIN: 180305-F-TE598-0398C

The CCLTF aims to look at all of those things as part of an effort to make sure that after a close-combat interaction, it will be American ground troops who make it back to base in one piece, while enemy forces are left licking their wounds.

Polanco said during the workshop, experts considered multiple aspects of a soldier's performance, not just physical strength. Additional domains, such as the cognitive and social, involve looking for ways to help soldiers make decisions faster in a combat environment or recover more quickly from traumatic events so they can return to their units.

Two soldiers confer over a map
Map Study
Army Warrant Officer Lamont Wesson, right, assigned to 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dan Page, assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, study maps at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Jan. 19, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan
VIRIN: 190119-Z-OU450-0173

During the workshop, attendees teamed up to identify requirement gaps in human performance, and postulate potential solutions. Below are some examples of what they discussed:

  • Within the physical domain, one team said the U.S. military needs "the ability to provide nutrition targeted at improving close-combat formations through education and quality food in garrison, training, and operations." That team said dining facility and food acquisition policies are not currently targeted toward performance nutrition. They recommended, among other things, policy updates that would allow the purchase of supplemental nutrition products for use in the field training and deployed environments.

A sports bar wrapped in military-themed packaging.
Performance Bar
The Performance Readiness Bar is a calcium- and vitamin D-fortified snack bar developed under the research guidance of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s Military Nutrition Division. The new snack was prompted by military health researchers’ realization that basic trainees are doubly vulnerable to bone injury.
Photo By: Mallory Roussel, Army
VIRIN: 180131-A-N1234-007C
A service member uses a salad bar.
Dining Options
A dining facility customer prepares a salad with the new "pure bar" options at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Sept. 11, 2018. The pure bar is part of the of the Defense Department’s “Go for Green” initiative. It is an upgrade to the traditional salad bar and includes beans, grains, and fresh and roasted vegetable options.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Kenney
VIRIN: 180913-F-SD165-1045C
A soldier eats outdoors in the cold.
Training Fuel
An Army Reservist with Alpha Company, 392nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, eats breakfast during a field training exercise in support of the 200th Military Police Command at Fort Meade, Md., Jan. 8, 2019.
Photo By: Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret
VIRIN: 190108-A-TI382-096C

  • Within the cognitive domain, another team identified a requirement to optimize "squad decision-making at the time of need during complex, dynamic operations." That team said for now, squad-level technologies don't incorporate the kinds of artificial intelligence-related capabilities that would enabling warfighter/AI teaming. They recommended more research and training to develop a suite of tools that will enable development of teams consisting of humans, AI and autonomous assets.

Across the DOD, in the academic world, and in professional athletics, experts are working on these types of issues independently of one another — sometimes unaware that elsewhere, another researcher is attacking the same problems but for possibly different reasons.

The CCLTF, Polanco said, is "trying to raise awareness of all the different stakeholders in this community of interest and trying to help them connect so that we have more cross-talking and more collaboration occurring."

A soldier aims a rifle.
Downrange Aim
Army Sgt. Javier Preciado, with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, aims his carbine downrange during a squad live fire exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 24, 2019.
Photo By: Army Spc. Jonathan Wallace
VIRIN: 190124-A-JS748-008

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