Pentagon Turning to Wearables to Boost Morale and Combat Stress

Pentagon using wearables to fight stress and injury
To measure the mental health of troops operating in extreme cold environments, about 1,000 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division in Alaska are wearing Whoop biofeedback devices. (Image: Whoop)

The growing need for soldiers’ coordination, training and health, the increase in asymmetric warfare, and modernization programs in the military, among others, are some of the factors that are fueling the growth of the military wearables market. Wearable devices play an important role in improving the capabilities of the soldier.

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The U.S. military is turning to wearable technology to enhance soldiers’ capabilities and prevent injuries.  In recent months, various Defense Department components have been cautiously applying diverse wearable technologies to gauge soldiers’ stress, monitor for COVID-19 spread, and other health- and performance-related purposes.

The Pentagon’s primary developer of advanced military, medical material products is exploring how it might operationalize wearable Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, prevention devices.

Specifically, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Device Activity’s Warfighter Brain Health Project Management Office is exploring technologies — designed with the intent to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration — that can protect service members from such traumas or at least reduce the severity of them, reports Brandi Vincent in NextGov.

“Identification of medical device technologies with such capabilities are essential to protect the warfighter and is vital to force protection and strength,” officials from that office wrote in a request for information.

In another story, the U.S. Army is conducting several studies designed to use wearable devices — special watches and rings that track heart rate, body temperature, and other physiological data — to evaluate how soldiers respond to stress and physical exertion.

These devices also can be used for cognitive training to help soldiers learn how to cope with stress more effectively, increasing their physical performance, according to the experts from Booz Allen Hamilton, a firm that offers consulting, analysis, and engineering services to the public and private sector organizations.

Army personnel
Image: Picryl

“We know that performance originates in the brain; by knowing that, we, as performers, can either set ourselves up for success or failure simply based on these conscious thoughts,” Lindsay Blaine, cognitive performance coach at Booz Allen Hamilton, said during a webinar focusing on the cognitive training and the mind and body connection.

Jannell MacAulay is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and expert in human performance training. She believes self-awareness is the key to coping in high-stress situations, writes Matthew Cox in Military.com.

“There is some stress that is actually good for us. And so when we get that … anxiousness, our performance will actually go up,” she said.

The U.S. Army is conducting a study to measure the mental health of troops operating in extremely cold environments. As part of the study, about 1,000 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division in Alaska are wearing Whoop biofeedback devices.

Another 530 members of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, are participating in a yearlong human performance study that has them wearing similar devices to track not just physical exertion but also how their heart rate responds to stress.

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According to Michael Baum, branch chief of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center, the Army is hoping that some of the data taken from these biofeedback devices will help the service design more effective training scenarios as part of its synthetic training environment, an effort to create realistic training simulations using gaming technology.

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Cathy Russey () is Online Editor at WT | Wearable Technologies and specialized in writing about the latest medical wearables and enabling technologies on the market. Cathy can be contacted at info(at)wearable-technologies.com.