Human Factors

Fascinating article on how the Air Force is using the latest in sports medicine – advanced body mechanics and physiology sensors – to help hone the training of their new generation of Air Force special operations troops. the elite Pararescue troops that rescue downed aircrew and the Combat Air Controllers who bring air support in for other Special Operations units.

The technlogy is indeed whiz-bang-y:

For efficiency’s sake, the military would love empirical tests that can help focus on only the most promising candidates. Similarly, if there is a helpful gene that can be identified through a blood test, the military would very much like to know about it—and how to activate it with training. For example, the squadron at Lackland this year is collecting blood to measure hormone levels during training and will periodically check changes in the levels during the airmens’ career.

…but it’s gratifying to see that it doesn’t have all the answers:

Still, the human element rises amid the algorithms, tablets, and sensors. The staff see patterns that are harder for an algorithm to quantify, reminders that there is more than just numbers, physics, and chemistry at work. For instance, staff find that trainees who have faced challenges early in their personal lives not only do better, they also tend to assist and elevate teammates who are struggling.
“Our data show that, beyond a certain level, increases in physical fitness don’t necessarily correspond to increased success,” says Colonel Parks Hughes, commander of the Special Warfare Training Wing. “There’s a level of grit, if you will, required to get through the preparation that we put individuals through.”
All the brain-wave readings and sensors can detect a recruit’s level of effort, but there’s no way to quantify a trainee’s character and sense of self. These are critical variables, but they’re not the kind of things that can be measured with an electrode stuck to someone’s forehead.

The whole thing makes a quick but interesting read.

3 thoughts on “Human Factors

  1. Especially at the Special Ops level, science and technology can play a role. However, I feel that you can test someone physically and they look perfect. And, they fail assessment. The mind is, in general, the weak link. And, most military training allows for Drop on Request for trainees by design. It can be pretty seductive after being awake and moving for days, while cold wet and hungry, to throw in the towel.
    But, a group of people that refuses to quit in adversity can do amazing things.

  2. shakingmyhead;

    Your assessment is spot on. My roommate while I was in Okinawa, was in ARRS. He was 5’5” tall and weighed about 150 lbs. but tough as nails. He had a great sense of humor and he just didn’t know the meaning of the word quit. He told me that he never even thought of quitting during the training. Not sure that I totally believed him, but that was the persona that he had. I always was jealous of him, because even though he was an Airman First Class, the Air Force’s equivalent of a Corporal, that patch on his uniform and the way he carried himself, commanded instant respect from senior level enlisted and officers alike.

  3. Of all the bad asses I’ve known, and I’ve known a few, the toughest were not the biggest; some of them were actually physically small guys (TMOJimmy GBNF).

    Whether is was “meanness” or “grit”, whatever you want to call it, the thing that set them apart was contained between their ears. Knowing and understand that is valuable.

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