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Futuristic Flight Technology Gives Vertical Lift Researchers a Boost

First-of-its-kind, low-cost, high fidelity simulator helps researchers evaluate cockpit workload and aviator performance in simulated, high-altitude environments.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory introduced an innovative Blackhawk (UH-60M) helicopter simulator at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 17, 2019 at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The Cockpit Academics Procedural Tool – Enhanced – Visual Capable System is a reconfigurable research platform that allows for swift, mission-responsive research in support of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift and modernization priority. These priorities are part of the Army’s focus on multi-domain operations to counter and defeat near-peer advisories in all domains.

"USAARL is the Army’s aeromedical laboratory focused on the performance and survival of the rotary wing Warfighters to give them decisive overmatch,” said USAARL’s Commander, Col. Mark K. McPherson, about the importance of fielding state-of-the art tools in research. “This high fidelity simulator is the perfect example of how we merge the science of aviation and medicine to optimize human protection and performance, leveraging science against our nation's competitors."

USAARL Commander, Col. Mark McPherson, assists Joshua DuPont, an aerospace engineer at CCDC S3I, with the ribbon cutting that unveiled the Laboratory’s new state-of-the-art aviation research capability, the CAPT-E-VCS.  (Photo credit: Scott Childress)

The Army views vertical lift dominance over enemy forces as critical to increased lethality, survivability and reach. To meet the demands of FVL priorities, the Army is both developing and acquiring next-generation aircraft and unmanned systems to fly, fight and prevail in any environment. The CAPT-E-VCS was developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Combat Capability Development Command’s System Simulation, Software, & Integration Directorate (Redstone Arsenal, Alabama) to evaluate new technologies integral to meeting FVL’s demands. The device pairs a UH‑60 medium lift model helicopter cockpit and academic simulator from SGB Enterprises (Santa Clarita, California) with a 12’ projection dome from Q4 Services, Inc. (Orlando, Florida) and state-of-the-art X-IG image generation software from CATI Training Systems (Ozark, Alabama) to create a singular, customizable research platform for USAARL.

“Now we can evaluate in a digital glass cockpit platform pilot workload as well as the effects of high‑altitude flight environments,” said Dr. Mike Wilson, Research Psychologist at USAARL. “For example, we can couple the laboratory’s reduced oxygen breathing device with a high-fidelity simulation environment and create a more realistic test environment for research. This innovation is a mission responsive, cost‑saving research tool that is critical to moving the Army closer to its FVL goals.”

To learn more about CAPT-E-VCS and its unique capabilities contact USAARL at (334) 255-6883 or usarmy.rucker.medcom-usaarl.list.sic@mail.mil.

About the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory.  The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory’s mission is to deliver scientific solutions that save lives and increase performance of Army aviators, the airborne Soldier, and ground Warriors. USAARL researchers seek to enhance force readiness and effectiveness by preventing or minimizing health hazards created by military systems, doctrine, and tactics. The Laboratory’s unique mix of scientific personnel successfully conduct critical research for solving operationally specific medical problems and provide military developers with information and expertise to enhance the performance and safety of future Army systems.

Acknowledgements.  This effort was supported in part by an appointment to the Postgraduate Research Program at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command.

The San Francisco Model was provided by PLW Modelworks LLC, under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement W81XWH-19-0068 with the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory.

2017 GEMS Near-Peer Mentor (NPM) selected as President of National Honor Society at Enterprise High School - Photo

Competition Breeds Excellence
Posted May 5th, 2019 Story by: Miriam Marrs

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – It is in the spirit of the desire to build and improve leaders and Soldiers that U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) held its Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) and Soldier of the Quarter competition for Fiscal Year 2019, Quarter 2.

The grueling two-day event held at Fort Rucker, AL on 11 to 12 April 2019 drew upon each competitor’s physical and mental prowess by combining land navigation, a 12-mile ruck march, an essay mystery event, and a formal board.

SGT Jonathan Calderon won the NCO of the Quarter and SPC Jason Blum won the Soldier of the Quarter.  Later this year, SGT Calderon and SPC Blum will compete in USAARL’s NCO and Soldier of the Year competition in hopes of representing the laboratory in the Army Futures Command-wide competition.

2017 GEMS Near-Peer Mentor (NPM) selected as President of National Honor Society at Enterprise High School - Photo

USAARL Recognizes 2018 AEOP Alumni Association Award Winners
Posted May 5th, 2019 Story by: Dr Amy Baker; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education administrator, USAARL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – USAARLs GEMS Program is excited to recognize two of the 2018 Army Education Outreach Program’s (AEOP) Alumni Association Awards winners! Ms. Amber Brouillard was selected as the Educator of the Year Award winner, and Ms. Zoe Penko is named the Community Service Award winner. Ms. Brouillard served as a Resource Teacher for the Robotics module during the 2017 USAARL GEMS Program. Ms. Penko was a Near-Peer Mentor for the Nanotechnology module during the 2016 USAARL GEMS Program.

For more information on all of the winners, go to the AEOP website using this link: https://www.usaeop.com/alumni-award-winners/.

We are so proud of Amber and Zoe! Their commitment to STEM Education contributed to successful GEMS modules, and positively impacted the lives of many GEMS students!

Congratulations, Amber and Zoe!

Posted October 2nd, 2018 Story by: Amy Baker, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education administrator, USAARL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory recently donated to Geneva County Schools, Geneva, Ala. a combination of 50 laptop and desktop computers and two desktop scanners that rotated out of service at the Laboratory.

The surplus equipment will enhance the capabilities of the GCS technology department, which strives to deliver a technologically rich environment that provides students with all available opportunities to excel in an increasingly technologically driven world.

“These computers will be great assets to our classrooms as many of the current computers are outdated or have limited storage capacity,” said Amber Brouillard, GCS instructional technology specialist. “We are thankful to USAARL and appreciate their willingness to donate these computers and scanners that are no longer needed by their organization.” The computers only require the installation of hard drives to be ready for use.

“Through partnerships like this one, the Laboratory can facilitate the educational and technological needs of local schools, and nurture the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by students in our community,” stated Dr. Lori St. Onge, USAARL research administration manager.

The donation was made through an Educational Partnership Agreement under which government Laboratories are authorized to donate to educational institutions excess research and computer equipment.

USAARL, NICoE determine return-to-duty success
Posted July 17th, 2018 Story by: Catherine Davis, USAARL Public Affairs and Dr. Amanda Kelley, USAARL Research Psychologist

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – Over the past two decades, military operations have resulted in significantly higher rates of traumatic brain injury among Soldiers. The most common are mild forms of TBI, which are more difficult to diagnose.

Many clinical assessments are available to determine the presence and severity of symptoms following TBI, or concussion. However, the Army currently lacks military-specific assessments to help clinicians determine if a Soldier can safely and effectively perform his/her duties following a concussion. To address this gap, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence Intrepid Satellite-III developed the Military Functional Assessment Program to help clinicians determine Soldier readiness to return to duty following mild TBI. The program consists of 10 tasks, adapted from the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks, in which an individual’s performance of the tasks is rated by a non-commissioned officer, physical therapist, mental health specialist, and occupational therapist.

According to NICoE ISIII, testing a Soldier’s performance of military-specific tasks in a realistic setting is necessary to predict return-to-duty readiness. Specifically, military and clinical professionals can better determine a Soldier’s ability to function while under the pressure of realistic environmental stressors that are similar to actual combat scenarios–elements that can significantly impair performance not otherwise captured by traditional clinical assessments.

In order to gain more knowledge about the program, the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory collaborated with NICoE ISIII to evaluate the MFAP and determine whether Soldier performance was related to clinical assessments as well as occupational success at 6- and 12-months following completion of the MFAP.

During the USAARL-NICoE ISIII study, U.S. Army Soldiers, undergoing TBI treatment, completed the MFAP assessment. MFAP assessment data, individual task ratings, overall ratings, and return-to-duty recommendations/ determinations were analyzed by USAARL.

At 6- and 12-months after MFAP completion, the volunteer study participants completed a survey of occupational success and satisfaction. The survey was used to assess each participant’s perceptions of his/her own occupational performance and degree of satisfaction with his/her progress after returning to duty.

The results of the study showed that performance on the MFAP tasks often related to outcomes from clinical assessments. The study results also indicated that overall MFAP scores were related to perception of performance and return-to-duty satisfaction 6- and 12-months following MFAP completion, such that participants who performed well on the MFAP tended to report higher perceptions of performance and satisfaction.

This joint USAARL-NICoE ISIII study suggests that while the MFAP can better determine a Soldier’s ability to function while under the pressure of realistic environmental stressors, the MFAP may also be an effective tool for helping military and clinical professionals predict a Soldier’s perception of occupational performance, and return-to-duty satisfaction and success months after returning to duty.

2017 GEMS Near-Peer Mentor (NPM) selected as President of National Honor Society at Enterprise High School - Photo

USAARL researcher receives Haley Award
Posted July 12th, 2018 Story by: Catherine Davis, USAARL Public Affairs Officer

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – The Army Aviation Medical Association recognizes through the Joseph Haley Writing Award, which began in 1995, the most outstanding contribution to rotary-wing aeromedical literature during the previous year.

At the Aerospace Medical Association’s 89th Annual Scientific Meeting, Charles Weisenbach, biomechanical engineer at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, received the 2018 Joseph Haley Writing Award for the manuscript titled “Patient litter system response in a full-scale CH-46 crash test.” Weisenbach’s co-authors are Tyler Rooks, Troy Bowman, Vince Fralish, and Joe McEntire.

Weisenbach’s paper describes how simulated patients bound to litter systems are affected during a full scale CH-46 crash. The test assessed patient and litter system response during a simulated severe but survivable crash event. The results suggest that a traditional litter system may not effectively restrain patients during a dynamic crash event and improvements to litter systems are needed to provide supine patients with levels of protection equivalent to that of seated occupants.

“Joseph Haley dedicated his life to researching aircrew survivability, and it is an honor to be recognized with this award,” said Weisenbach. “We hope the findings from our work will help in the future development of improved crashworthy litter systems.”

Dr. John Crowley, Joseph Haley Writing Award committee chairman, explained that the award committee is made up of experienced Army flight surgeons. The committee selects the awardee from a list of around 10 finalists that are identified from the results of a worldwide literature search for rotary-wing aviation medicine articles. The finalists’ articles are read by all committee members and ranked based on scientific content, relevance, and overall appeal.

Weisenbach is a Laulima Government Solutions, LLC employee working in USAARL’s Injury Biomechanics Division. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in interdisciplinary science with a concentration in biomechanics. Weisenbach has been a part of several projects at USAARL, but his main focus is in head and face protection research.

The award winning paper can be read in Military Medicine, volume 182, March/April supplement, pages 287-294.

2017 GEMS Near-Peer Mentor (NPM) selected as President of National Honor Society at Enterprise High School - Photo

SAC campers learn about chemical reactions by making sherbet, a fizzy, effervescent candy.

Fort Rucker SAC campers integral to GEMS mentor training success
Posted July 10th, 2018 Story by: Jessica Cumbee, USAARL GEMS Program Coordinator and Catherine Davis, USAARL Public Affairs

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – This summer, the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program and the Fort Rucker Child and Youth Services School Age Center partnered to provide SAC campers an incredible science, technology, engineering, and mathematics experience.

USAARL’s involvement in STEM education, a result of U.S. Executive Order 12821 – Improving Mathematics and Science Education in Support of the National Education Goals, supports the advancement of STEM-related initiatives and disciplines to achieve national education goals. Some of USAARL’s STEM education enrichment activities include STEM fun with Fort Rucker Child Development Center students, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education program, and the GEMS program and Camp Invention, both sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program.

But USAARL is not the only organization at Fort Rucker aiming to enrich the STEM education of local students. The Fort Rucker CYS is also incorporating STEM activities into their year-round and summer camp lesson plans for children of all ages.

During summer 2018, the Fort Rucker SAC is offering “Summer of Discovery” camps featuring activities about dinosaurs and fossils, the rainforest and jungle, forensics and the human body, and the solar system and space. The camps include a variety of STEM experiments and field trips, like visits to USAARL GEMS and the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, that reinforce these themes. The field trips to USAARL GEMS coincided with the GEMS staff training week to give the SAC campers the chance to engage in fun, hands-on STEM experiments and provide the GEMS mentors a valuable teaching opportunity.

“When I asked past mentors how to improve staff training, the mentors consistently expressed a desire to teach children some of the GEMS experiments before the first session of GEMS actually started,” said Dr. Loraine St. Onge, GEMS Laboratory Champion. “Knowing the Fort Rucker CYS’ greater emphasis on STEM programming and our need to provide GEMS staff a real-world practice teaching experience, the SAC and USAARL teamed up to enhance the educational experiences of both the SAC campers and GEMS mentors.”

The USAARL GEMS mentors led SAC 2nd through 6th grade campers through experiments that will be taught during this summer’s four GEMS modules. Planetary GEMS mentors taught the campers about density and pressure. Neuroscience GEMS mentors led activities that taught SAC campers how germs spread, how visual impairments influence motor coordination, and how the body’s reflexes work. At Biochemistry GEMS, the campers made snow, sherbet, and elephant toothpaste to learn about chemical reactions. And at Nanotechnology GEMS, campers learned about magnetic ferrofluid, how scents permeate plastic materials, and the hydrophobic properties of magic sand.

“The GEMS program has allowed our youth to continue an interest in math and science during our summer program while incorporating exciting experiments that were engaging and fun,” said Therese Thurman, School Age Center supervisory program specialist. “The activities covered by GEMS coincided with what we have planned into our summer camps such as forensics/human body and space/solar system.”

“It was really fun, I liked the science,” said Grayson Parrish, 6 years old. “My favorite was the sour sherbet experiment.”

St. Onge continued, “Giving students a taste of STEM in a fun and unique setting, not only creates excitement among the campers but hopefully nurture’s their continued interest in STEM throughout the school year.”

This extracurricular opportunity showcased to the SAC students a variety of STEM topics, and also allowed the GEMS staff essential practice teaching children in preparation for the GEMS program.

For more information about SAC summer camps visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/categories/cys-services.

To learn more about the USAARL STEM education enrichment activities visit http://www.usaarl.army.mil/pages/about/stem/.

2017 GEMS Near-Peer Mentor (NPM) selected as President of National Honor Society at Enterprise High School - Photo

U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command commander’s forum attendees in front of USAARL’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Fort Rucker, Ala. on Apr. 5. U.S. Army photo by Scott Childress.

USAARL hosts forum for USAMRMC senior leaders
Posted May 1st, 2018 Story by: Catherine Davis, USAARL Public Affairs Officer

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory hosted the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command commander’s forum Apr. 3-5.

Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, USAMRMC and Fort Detrick commander, explained that the forum was an opportunity for laboratory commanders and their staff to learn about other laboratories and their importance within the command. Holcomb emphasized that during the forum the leaders discussed the future of the Army and Army medicine, networked with each other, and gained knowledge through professional development.

This meeting allowed the commanders to interact face-to-face and focus on hot issues that affect the command as well as the U.S. Army, instead of the monthly video teleconference where the commander from each USAMRMC subcommand laboratory gives a five-minute briefing about his or her organization.

On the last day of the forum, the group toured USAARL, the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, and the School of Army Aviation Medicine flight medic course facility.

“The USAARL team had a unique opportunity to present our research efforts to the senior leaders of USAMRMC,” said Col. J. Craig Taylor, USAARL commander. “The tour presented a great opportunity for this diverse group of leaders to understand the unique contributions that USAARL makes across the spectrum, from basic to applied research to final testing before fielding.”

As Taylor explained, the engagement between USAARL researchers and command leaders and staff during the tour deepened the understanding of the strategic connections between research efforts to fielding capabilities on the battlefield in support of Army priorities.

2017 GEMS Near-Peer Mentor (NPM) selected as President of National Honor Society at Enterprise High School - Photo

Col. J. Craig Taylor, USAARL commander, and Dr. Katie Feltman, USAARL research psychologist, presented USAARL’s efforts in operator state monitoring and intervention for future vertical lift and next generation combat vehicles at AUSA Innovator’s Corner on Mar. 26. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Seth Swartz.

USAARL presents at AUSA Innovator's Corner
Posted May 1st, 2018 Story by: Catherine Davis, USAARL Public Affairs Officer

FORT RUCKER, Ala. – The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory presented to military and industry leaders at the 2018 Association of the United States Army Global Force Symposium and Exposition Innovator’s Corner in Huntsville, Ala., Mar. 26-27.

AUSA Global Force is a military exhibition and professional development event held exclusively for members of the Army and affiliate scientists, vendors, and contractors. The symposium provided informative and relevant presentations on the state of the Army, panel discussions and seminars on pertinent military topics, and a variety of networking events available to all who attended.

The Innovator’s Corner displayed innovative, cutting-edge science and technology projects developed by or in partnership with Army laboratories, giving conference participants an opportunity to interface with senior Army leaders and learn about the capabilities and priorities of represented organizations. The Innovator’s Corner provided a forum to discuss critical technical challenges facing Army scientists and engineers and methods for overcoming these challenges.

On the first day of the Innovator’s Corner, Col. J. Craig Taylor, USAARL commander, provided an overview of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s research efforts.

Following his keynote address, Taylor and Dr. Katie Feltman, USAARL research psychologist, presented USAARL’s efforts in operator state monitoring and intervention for future vertical lift and next generation combat vehicles. Taylor and Feltman discussed how future technology and operational environments will alter the workload experienced by the operator, provided an overview of the available methods of real-time monitoring and types of interventions, such as adaptive automation and non-invasive brain stimulation, and spoke about the role USAARL will have in further assessing the use of these methods in operational settings.

“AUSA Innovator's Corner was a great opportunity for USAARL to showcase the Laboratory's capabilities and contributions to research, development, test, and evaluation,” said Feltman. “It was also an opportunity to learn from U.S. Army leaders about the future of Army science and technology.”

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This Web site provides an introduction to the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) and contains official Government information. Its use is intended for members of the general public, news media and U.S Army beneficiaries. Please address questions or concerns about this website to the USAARL Public Affairs Office via email or by telephone at 334-255-6883