July 2, 2013
By Amy L. Robinson
FORT EUSTIS, Va. (July 2, 2013) -- As U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command continues to design the force of the future, it will also review the standards for all Soldiers -- men and women alike -- to support the future force.
Training and Doctrine Command, known as TRADOC, is currently leading two efforts, part of what is collectively called "Soldier 2020." The first examines the physical demands of specific military occupational specialties, or MOSs, starting with those currently closed to women. The second studies the cultural and institutional effects of integrating women into those previously closed occupations and units.
The first effort, with support from the U.S. Army Medical Command's U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, is a three-year review of the physical standards required for MOSs across the Army -- regardless of gender.
"Not only are these gender-neutral standards, but they're also age-neutral and body-type neutral standards," said Edward Zambraski, chief of USARIEM's Military Performance Division. "In other words, it's purely physical."
Currently in the first phase of the gender-neutral physical standards review, TRADOC will begin by verifying the required tasks for each MOS, starting with branches with closed occupations: the Engineer, Field Artillery, Armor and Infantry branches.
Researchers from USARIEM will then use these task lists to determine the physical demands required to perform each task successfully.
According to Marilyn Sharp, USARIEM's lead investigator for the project, once researchers analyze the physical demands required for a specific task, they will develop a task simulation, or a mock-up, of the real task to measure the effort required to perform the task successfully.
"Let's say it's a task that involved lifting a certain structure a certain distance and placing it someplace," Zambraski said. "We would do the mock-up in our laboratories and take measurements on the subjects to see -- how much strength are they using to do this, how much endurance are they using to do this, how long does it take them to do this -- then we can quantify the task."
The end goal, Zambraski said, is a set of predictive tests -- whether it may be strength, endurance, fine-motor skills or a combination of several tests -- to determine the right match for the right MOS.
"The idea would be to have a series of tests -- relatively simple tests -- that could be applied early on in a Soldiers' career -- perhaps at the beginning or end of basic training -- that would give information as to whether or not the Soldier would be physically capable of performing in that MOS," Zambraski said.
Tom DeFilippo, TRADOC G-3/5/7 senior plans analyst, likened the concept of the predictive tests to a sort of physical version of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, better known as the ASVAB, which would benefit Soldiers, their units and the Army overall.
"Having a more defined requirement -- not just mental, but physical -- will lead to less attrition, lower injury rates and better performance of our Soldiers, which allows them to be more successful when they get to a unit, thereby making the unit more successful," DeFilippo said.
Gen. Robert W. Cone, TRADOC's commanding general, also took some time to discuss the command's efforts regarding standards, success, and TRADOC's efforts in Soldier 2020 during a recent professional development forum.
"I go up and talk to units all the time. I was talking to the 1st Cavalry Division, 101st Airborne Division and 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and Soldiers are OK with this -- as long as we maintain standards," Cone said.
Cone said through a standards-based approach, success will not be defined by numbers, such as having five or 10 percent of women in infantry, but rather it will be defined as the opportunity for women to be able to serve. He cited some of the recently opened MOSs, including Bradley mechanic and Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, crewmember, where Pvt. Alexandra Seccareccio recently set the standard for all Soldiers.
"We had our first woman graduate from (MLRS) school with a 100 percent score -- in everything," Cone said. "And now, the key is getting them to the right units."
Unit success also depends on a number of additional factors, many of which are currently being examined through a gender integration study led by the TRADOC Analysis Center, or TRAC, in the second effort supporting Soldier 2020.
TRAC's study, with support from the Army Research Institute, began in January and will use interviews, focus groups and surveys with leaders and Soldiers to look at the cultural effects of implementing full gender integration.
"We want to hear from the ground up, from the top down and from the middle," said Peter Kerekanich, deputy director for TRAC's gender integration study.
The study will analyze cultural factors -- expectations, customs and social behaviors of the Army associated with integration -- as well as institutional factors, which include Army processes and policies that may be affected or changed because of integration.
Most important, Kerekanich added, is the Soldiers' perspective -- listening to and capturing the challenges they identify and polling them to identify possible solutions to potential Army challenges.
TRAC's study team has already planned initial visits to the Engineer, Field Artillery, Infantry and Armor schools as well as engaging a wide breadth of additional institutions throughout the Army, including Intermediate Level Education, Pre-Command Course and the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. The team is also working toward visiting National Guard and U.S. Army Forces Command units.
In addition to numerous site visits to gather information from the force, TRAC has also reached out to academia, monitored sister service progress and will continue to review other published material on gender integration throughout the study, which is scheduled to end March 2015.
"This is a complex issue," Kerekanich said. "It will require the study team and the Army to go beyond just the service and incorporate findings and data from external sources."
As TRAC continues to gather data from a variety of sources, the team will identify positive, neutral and negative factors, Kerekanich said; however, the end goal is to proactively identify the problems -- and solutions -- before integration begins.
Cone said TRADOC's efforts are off to a good start; however, the studies will take time in order to be successful, and ultimately, improve standards throughout the Army.
"As the TRADOC commander, I can't lower organizational performance -- our hard-earned reputation is combat-ready formations," Cone said. "We can make this a better Army by uniformly imposing these valid standards across the board."