The Army is assessing seven combat-arms jobs to determine physical performance requirements and to set standards, and to help 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 from Sept. 9-13.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine from Natick, Mass., are conducting the study to assess the physical demands of engineer soldiers.

The institute’s 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, institute project leader. “How can I simulate when someone has to take a 100-pound (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 occupational specialty during an earlier phase of the study.

Engineer-specific tasks

Fort Hood was chosen to assess engineer-specific tasks such as preparing obstacle with the H-6 40-pound cratering charge, operating a modular-pack mine system and the carrying of an Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System.

In August, the institute conducted focus groups with Ironhorse soldiers in the seven combat arms jobs to validate and provide descriptions of various tasks.

As a result of engineer soldiers’ feedback, some tasks may be added and others removed, Zambraski said.

When conducting and measuring the tasks, soldiers trained in each occupation were used as a baseline, and compared to soldiers not of that field, but 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 (jobs),” said Marilyn Sharp, one of the institute’s research physiologists and the principle investigators 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 trained, Sharp said.

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 Staff Sgt. Joshua Rubach, a combat engineer the brigade’s 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 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).”

Non-engineer soldiers spent more time training on tasks, but executed them well, Rubach said. 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,” Rubach said.

The assessment can potentially help the Army get the right people in the right job, reduce soldier injuries and develop job-specific physical training, Sharp said.

“It’s an opportunity to make (the occupational specialty) stronger and safer,” he said. “It’s an incredible opportunity and the Army will benefit tremendously from it.”

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