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WASHINGTON The Army realized in the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that in addition to conventional warfare, Soldiers were asked to perform a lot of nontraditional functions, some of which they were often ill-equipped to do.
These included negotiating with tribal leaders and helping develop infrastructure and services for local populations, said Col. Thomas Meyer, chief of the Human Dimension Task Force at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
In 2006, Gen. William Wallace, who was the commander of TRADOC, realized that since more was being asked of Soldiers, they must improve performance, Meyer said.
Wallace concluded that tanks, trucks and guns were not the primary reason for battlefield success. Rather, it was the Soldiers on the ground," Meyer said.
TRADOC responded by adding the "Human Dimension" to its six other dimensions of study: Mission Command, Movement and Maneuver, Protection, Fires, Intelligence and Sustainment. Since then, human performance has moved toward the forefront of Army research.
The goals of Human Dimension research are to create a more resilient, knowledgeable and adaptive force through improved selection, talent management and training, Meyer said.
Because those goals are so broad, TRADOC enlisted the assistance of business and industry, academia and science since each of these sectors had already been doing a lot of human performance studies. Army research labs, G-1 personnel and Army medicine were also consulted and information was shared across the services.
Researchers used cognitive, performance and psychological studies and surveys to better place Soldiers in MOSs where they'd have a better chance of succeeding.
Placement is critically important, Meyer said. He provided an example of a 68W, or combat medic, whose training is extensive: 13 months. To succeed, that person should have the right mix of knowledge and skills.
Also, the chemistry of the brain and personality factors could determine who succeeds and who doesn't.
The ultimate test, Meyer said, might be when they experience their first casualty on the battlefield. Some individuals cant function in that traumatic environment.
Through research into how the mind and body works, we are learning more about those individual characteristics that will enable us to better place that person, he said, resulting in lower rates of attrition.
In addition to better placement, Human Dimension is looking at ways to deliver improved training methods that are also more cost effective.
Some individuals respond better to different learning methods, Meyer said. So the Army is adding virtual training, online courses and simulations, so Soldiers learn at their own pace and get quick feedback.
A traditional method of training involves creating a mockup of a village in a particular country, hiring actors to play the parts of locals and then sending Soldiers on orders to remote training centers. All of this costs time and money, he said.
Now, a lot of this type of training can be run through simulations, he said, adding that a visit to a training center might still take place, but by the time the Soldier arrives, he or she would have already become familiar with the training through virtual means.
Human Dimension is working on ways to optimize Soldiers physical and cognitive abilities and increase their resilience to hardships. TRADOC is including Families and Army civilians in its scope of study.
TRADOCs studies, while relevant for the Army today, are focused on looking ahead to 2020 and even 2030 and beyond.
And as America and its Army face an uncertain fiscal future, investing in the Soldier is paramount, Meyer said.