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Archive for the ‘Guest Post’ Category

Army Researchers Developing Heat Illness Mitigation App

Friday, November 16th, 2018

NATICK, Mass. — There is a delicate balance between training Soldiers rigorously and training them safely.

Warfighters can lose valuable training days due to unit leaders taking overzealous safety precautions, and as a result, they cannot learn and practice the necessary skills to become a ready and lethal force. However, warfighters training rigorously while forgoing safety can lead to disastrous consequences such as heat illness. These consequences can cost the U.S. military valuable training time, money and operational readiness.

Heat illness is a particular concern during warmer months, but that does not mean warfighters have beat the heat as soon as summer has ended. Surprisingly, heat illness can happen year round due to a combination of factors, not just heat and humidity.

“Body heat production from physical activity is the number one factor that causes body core temperature to rise,” said Laurie Blanchard, a biomedical engineer from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM. “Hot environments add to body heat gain, and hot and humid environments and heavy clothing make it more difficult to get rid of body heat. Put them all together, and you have a recipe for heat illness.”

To help solve this problem, Blanchard and other USARIEM researchers have been developing a mobile application that can help unit leaders understand how these factors affect military readiness so they can mitigate risk and optimize training.

The Heat Strain Decision Aid, or HSDA, is a tablet- and computer-based app that can help unit leaders and mission planners quickly determine a Soldier’s risk of heat illness during training or operational scenarios. HSDA’s simulations of heat stress, according to Blanchard, support the safe work time tables found in current Army heat injury prevention doctrine, Technical Bulletin Medical 507, or TB Med 507.

By pressing a few buttons and toggling a few settings, unit leaders can use the science-based guidance on the tablet- and computer-based Heat Strain Decision Aid, or HSDA, to quickly determine a troop’s risk of heat illness during training or operational scenarios. HSDA was developed by U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, researchers based on over 30 years of studies on heat illness, hydration and core body temperature in simulated and realistic training environments. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Mallory Roussel )

“HSDA contains equations that predict how body core temperature changes during and after training and how changes in clothing, activity and environment affect the specific rise and fall of body core temperature,” Blanchard said. “This mission planning tool gives unit leaders objective, science-based guidance that can be found in TB Med 507, the Army’s current heat illness and hydration guidance, in a way that is easy and useful for developing prevention and mitigation strategies against heat illness.”

When unit leaders open HSDA on a tablet or computer, they can adjust warfighters’ activities, clothing, the environmental conditions and the intensity and duration of the exercise simply by pressing a few buttons and toggling a few switches. HSDA does the rest of the work by displaying a chart to the user that estimates how likely troops will experience heat illness during a training or operational scenario.

HSDA even shows leaders when warfighters would be most likely to experience a heat illness during the span of an exercise. For example, a unit leader using HSDA could see that Soldiers would be most likely to experience a heat illness during the first hour of a three-hour loaded ruck march.

“One of the advantages of using HSDA is that unit leaders have a tool that helps them visualize how different mitigation strategies can affect their risks of heat illness,” Blanchard said. “Users can manipulate HSDA’s settings to see how changing uniforms, the length and pace of an exercise and the load carried can increase or decrease heat illness risk.

“Even in those cases where the distance, pace and load cannot be altered, such as for a required training event at a specialty school, HSDA can help users plan effective treatment strategies for expected heat casualties, like providing extra ice sheets, closely watching trainees and planning medical evacuations in advance.”

USARIEM researchers developed the user-friendly software interface for the app warfighters know today. Yet the math behind HSDA has existed long before apps were even invented. According to Blanchard, USARIEM developed HSDA from over 30 years of research on heat illness, hydration and body core temperature. Researchers were able to build and validate the equations within HSDA by conducting hundreds of field studies on thousands of subjects in a variety of environments.

Researchers conducted even more laboratory studies at Natick Soldier Systems Center in the Doriot Climatic Chambers, a unique facility that can simulate an extreme range of global weather conditions, from hot deserts to the chilly Arctic. Blanchard and other researchers measured Soldiers’ body core temperatures as they marched on treadmills while carrying external loads and wearing a wide range of clothing, from Army physical training uniforms (shorts and a t-shirt), to Army Combat Uniforms, to insulating chemical, biological and ballistic protective gear.

This year, USARIEM briefed the HSDA app to the Training and Doctrine Command’s Heat Illness and Prevention Subcommittee. USARIEM received several requests for a copy and is now working with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity to make HSDA available to download.

Since spring 2018, USARIEM has transitioned a current version of HSDA to the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and to the U.S. Air Force 352nd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, who both specifically requested to use the app to mitigate heat illness during training. Under an international agreement, USARIEM has also developed a version of HSDA for the U.K. Institute of Naval Medicine, who incorporated the app into their training centers as a tool to reduce the incidence of heat injuries.

“Unit readiness is dependent on rigorous military training,” Blanchard said. “However, training without taking safety precautions, especially during warmer months, can lead to heat illness, heat stroke and even death. These injuries can have significant medical costs, can have long-term medical implications and can force lost training days, impacting unit readiness and individual Soldier careers.

“We have been able to design current versions of HSDA for specific military groups at their sites. Transitioning the app to U.S. and international warfare training groups has allowed us to collect valuable feedback that we can incorporate into HSDA to make it a more robust app that all warfighters can use.”

By Mallory Roussel (USARIEM)

FirstSpear Friday Focus – Cold Climate Glove

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Just in time for winter FirstSpear has announced the all new new Cold Climate Glove is now available for purchase.

As with all FirstSpear equipment this is simply not your average winter glove. Built with a keratin leather palm patch, Primaloft Gold insulation, and a waterproof breathable insert. Incredibly warm with excellent dexterity allowing basic trigger control.

Additionally, they removed the insulation from the upper half of the Trigger Finger to increase basic trigger manipulation and make it easier when using a Touch Screen. In fact, Touch Screen sensitive index fingers and adjustable wrist cuffs come standard on this premium cold climate glove from FirstSpear. Available and now shipping in sizes small – 2X.

www.first-spear.com/technical-apparel/handwear/cold-climate-glove-ccg-7370

Cutting Through The Noise: Army, Industry Work Together To Speed Up Signal Detection

Friday, November 16th, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Army Rapid Capabilities Office, or RCO, does things differently. It has to. It’s mandated in its charter and embedded in its culture.

So when it came time for the small acquisition shop to find a way to speed up signal detection, it knew it wouldn’t seek answers using traditional methods.

Instead, the RCO studied commercial models for getting answers quickly and created a “challenge” that gave industry, academia, scientists and other agencies the opportunity to go head-to-head in a competition, with prize money awarded to the top three performers.

The challenge focused on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed up the rate at which electronic warfare officers, or EWOs, could sift through the congestion and noise that comes with signal detection. With an ever-increasing number of signals flooding in from satellites, radars, phones and other devices, the signal detection process is no longer efficient in understanding the vast amount of data presented to EWOs on the battlefield.

Soldiers with the Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence Platoon, Delta Company, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion provide signal intelligence to help the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Saber Junction 18, held in September 2018 in Germany. As more and more signals are captured by satellites, radars and other devices, the signal detection process is no longer efficient in understanding the vast amount of data presented to EWOs on the battlefield. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Josselyn Fuentes)

Within four months of setting up the Army Signal Classification Challenge, the RCO knew mathematically who had the best-performing algorithm.

The challenge also had an unexpected result. By offering an unorthodox method for garnering participation in what would have been a traditional request for information, or RFI, the RCO challenge resulted in the top three prize winners spanning the unconventional by including a federally-funded research and development center, an independent group of Australian scientists and a team from a big business.

“By structuring this as a challenge instead of an RFI, we were able to model what industry does and create something much more hands-on,” said Rob Monto, director of the RCO’s Emerging Technologies Office. “We invited anyone with a possible capability to participate and posted it on Challenge.gov and FBO.gov. This is very similar to the commercial model of posting on Kaggle.com, where data sets are sent out to communities of data scientists who want to compete against one another to determine who has the best solution.”

The RCO’s online challenge offered synthetically generated data based on what could be seen in the electromagnetic spectrum, and challenged participants to prove they had the best artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithm for performing “blind” signal classification quickly and accurately. The challenge was strictly performance-based and open to anyone. Because it was all online and completed in four months, it came with very little cost or burden placed on those participating.

“The response was overwhelming,” Monto said. “We had more than 150 participants from across traditional and nontraditional industry partners, universities, labs and government. As an incentive, we offered $150,000 in prize money.”

Team Platypus from The Aerospace Corp. won first prize in the Army Signal Classification Challenge over the summer of 2018. The team includes (front row, from left) Eugene Grayver, Alexander Utter and Andres Vila; and (back row, from left) Donna Branchevsky, Esteban Valles, Darren Semmen, Sebastian Olsen and Kyle Logue. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy Elisa Haber, The Aerospace Corp)

The RCO announced winners on Aug. 27, 2018. First place and $100,000 went to Team Platypus from The Aerospace Corp., a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally-funded research and development center. Second place, with an award of $30,000, went to TeamAU, made up of a small team of independent Australian data scientists. And third place, with a prize of $20,000, went to THUNDERINGPANDA of Motorola Solutions.

“Having a specific problem that can be worked on by industry, academia and private citizens is a great way to establish and build a community of innovators for this technology area,” said Dr. Andres Vila, an engineering specialist at The Aerospace Corp. and a member of Team Platypus. “This challenge, which extended for approximately three months, was the right balance of having time to formulate a unique and robust solution but also not so long that the team lost urgency to find that award-winning approach.”

The challenge proved a better way to assess industry’s capabilities, instead of using a more traditional RFI and white paper approach, Vila said, calling it “spot on.”

“The challenge arrived at a great time as we were just kicking off this research and the Army had a well-formed problem set and, most importantly, data,” Vila said. “This competition gave us the chance to take our latest innovations and prototypes and apply them to this new customer-curated, hard problem. These types of customer-sponsored competitions provide very focused challenges that give us the confidence that we are using the best technology available to meet their mission needs.”

THE PROBLEM SET

The idea for the challenge stemmed from the RCO’s partnership with the Project Manager for Electronic Warfare and Cyber, within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, which recently delivered new electronic warfare prototype systems in response to an operational needs statement from U.S. Army Europe. Soldiers are using the equipment to implement electronic protection for their own formations, to detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum and to disrupt adversaries through electronic attack effects.

However, in enhancing the signal footprint for EWOs, the prototype systems also brought more data to an already complex electromagnetic spectrum. Through the challenge, the RCO wanted to determine if artificial intelligence and machine learning, or AI/ML, could assist them in digesting that data and sorting through what is and isn’t important.

“We knew industry was already making leaps and bounds in applying AI/ML for image recognition and video recognition, but found that there was very little work being done in this specific area of signal detection,” Monto said. “What we discovered in a very short period of time is that AI/ML could in fact be applied to a data set that could translate to being integrated into an electronic warfare system on the battlefield.”

The idea is to create this application as a layering effect, where artificial intelligence and machine learning does one subset of signal classification for the EWOs, then layers other applications that are more encompassing onto that to give the EWOs a wider range of what they can identify, said Monto.

While the EWOs would remain as the lead for identifying signals of interest and analyzing their impact, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning could help them quickly and accurately detect patterns, identify signals of significance, filter out unwanted signal noise and paint a picture of the electromagnetic spectrum.

THE CHALLENGE

The RCO’s Army Signal Classification Challenge began April 30 and closed Aug. 13. After opening registration online, competitors were given access to the training data set, consisting of over 4.3 million instances across 24 different modulations, which included a noise class. (The noise class represents “white” noise to replicate the real-life environment that signals would be detected in, rather than a pristine lab environment.) The effort sought solutions that could perform “blind” signal classification quickly and accurately. Blind signal classification requires little to no prior knowledge about the signal being detected in that specific instance. Instead, the solution would automatically classify the modulation, or change of a radio frequency waveform, as a first step toward signal classification.

The challenge gave participants 90 days to develop their models and to work with the training data sets. That was followed by two test data sets of varying complexity that were the basis for judging submissions. The first data set was released 67 days after the challenge launch, with a solution submission window of 15 days. A second, more complex test data set was released 84 days after the challenge launch, with a shorter submission window of only seven days.

Participants’ scores were based on a combined weighted score for both test data sets. Competitors could see how well they were performing against their peers through a participant leader board that showed scores in real time.

For first-place winners Team Platypus — which participated in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Software Defined Radio Hackfest 2017 and whose name references platypuses’ ability to detect electrical fields with their bills — the challenge lined up perfectly with its core research in artificial intelligence and advanced signal processing.

“We really enjoyed the challenge process, which included the hard problem curation, providing training data and a specific scoring algorithm,” Vila said. “To do this with the highest level of confidence, we had to use a multipronged approach. We built statistics and metrics inspired by communication principles, and we also developed deep learning classifiers that work directly on the raw data. We ended up using several state-of-the-art AI techniques to achieve the winning submission.”

Their technology includes an algorithm trained to identify what kind of signal is present in the midst of a congested radio frequency environment, much like Soldiers would find in an urban core or battlefield where both friendly and enemy radio communications are being detected.

WHAT’S NEXT?

By structuring this effort as a challenge and not going through the traditional RFI process, the RCO proved it could take an industry model and move fast. For its efforts, it is substantially closer to identifying a potential solution that could be applied to battlefield electronic warfare capabilities in the very near future. It also showed the RCO could harness the promise of artificial intelligence and machine learning by applying it to a specific problem. The amount of interest and quality of performance, including from nontraditional organizations, was remarkable.

Now the RCO is quickly moving forward to the next step, with two possible options. First, the RCO could initiate a second, more intense challenge and open it up to only the top performers in the first challenge. Or, the RCO could begin to immediately move the algorithms into the hands of Soldiers through software enhancements to their existing electronic warfare equipment. This would enable the Soldiers to give immediate feedback and enable the Army to incrementally build capability.

Over the next several months, the RCO will begin to advance what was learned from the challenge, potentially prototyping the leading artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms into Army electronic warfare systems.

For more information on the Army RCO, go to rapidcapabilitiesoffice.army.mil.

By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, Army Rapid Capabilities

NANCY JONES-BONBREST is a public communications specialist for the Army RCO and has written extensively about Army modernization and acquisition for several years, including multiple training and testing events. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

This article will be published in the January – March 2019 issue of Army AL&T.

Baker Mayfield is Dangerous with Wild Things Knuckle Roaster FR

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Cleveland’s candidate for NFL’s ‘Rookie of the Week’ told press he “woke up feeling pretty dangerous” for Sunday’s game against the Falcons. Maybe it had something to do with the Wild Things Knuckle Roaster he wore for the Veterans Day game?

Mayfield may have had an unfair advantage – Wild Things Knuckle Roasters carry an NSN, come in MultiCam, and are even FR. Despite the cold temps, Mayfield’s hot hands led the Browns to a 28-16 victory.

Find out more about Wild Things Knuckle Roaster FR here: www.wildthingsgear.com/products/knuckle-roaster-fr

Widget Wednesday:  Improve Operational Effectiveness with the SPM-622 Data Log Function

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

The SPM-622 Squad Power Manager Data Log capability allows small units to measure how much battery power they are actually using, so they can optimize their logistics, resupply, and mission loads – and reduce their Battery Burden.

The Data Log function of the SPM records:

• What devices are plugged into which ports of the SPM

• The voltage, average current and maximum current at each port in use

• The state of charge and temperature of any connected battery / batteries

• A real-time-stamp that includes the date and time of the entry

• Any errors or user alerts

The data log is stored in such a way that it does not disappear if power is lost, and the storage capacity is large enough to keep weeks-worth of usage data. Finally, data logging occurs automatically, but the standard settings can be overridden in order to capture specific or unique data of interest. Once collected, the data log can then be uploaded to a computer and displayed and analyzed using typical tools such as Excel, etc.

To access the data log function of the SPM-622, the operator uses the four buttons along the bottom edge of the SPM-622. From the main screen, press the right arrow Button once to enter the main menu. Once at that screen the operator will see the following display:

Selecting the data log option from the menu selection allows the User to view how much data has already been captured, or to change the data capture intervals. Pressing ‘Erase Log’ will delete all data in the log file.

If power usage data for a particular mission is desired, the User should clear the SPM’s data log before departure and then download the data after the mission is completed. As an example of the benefit of analyzing such data; a SOF unit deployed in a non-permissive environment was able to reduce the battery weight of their mission loads by over 30% – and still maintain full operational capability of their critical electronic equipment.

If you need further assistance, refer to the SPM-622 User Guide or contact Support@Protonex.com. Visit www.PTXnomad.com for further info about the wide range of applications and equipment supported by the SPM-622 Squad Power Manager.

Brigantes Presents – High Angle Solution – Yeti Fusion Dry 1700+

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Getting good quality sleep in any environment is exceptionally important.  The standard issue sleeping bags tend to fall well short of what can be achieved and are normally much heavier and bulkier than what is available of the shelf.

Yeti produces sleeping bags that sit right at the top of the pile and you can’t really get much better than the Yeti Fusion Dry 1700+ for operating in the frozen north.

Fusion Dry 1700+ is an ultra warm (comfort -23 Degrees Celcius) heavy weight rugged down sleeping bag constructed for extreme use in rough arctic or mountainous conditions. The outer casing is made from extra durable shell fabric that has enhanced water repelling function as well as being highly breathable. The down filling is Yetis trademark dry down with a coating that makes the individual down fibres water repellent and quicker drying – without compromising the insulation power. The Fusion Dry 1700+ has an internal collar and freezing puff to hold the hot air inside the bag where you need it and both H- and S-Box construction with a triple layered integrated foot box for extra protection of the extremities. The Fusion Dry 1700 is made with one purpose in mind: provide a durable and ultra warm bag for the most extreme adventure. Yes

For more information get in touch by email on international@brigantes.com or for UK customers warrior@brigantes.com.

www.brigantes.com

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Mask Clearing and Replacing  

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

When you are first learning how to dive. You learn basic skills in the pool before you move to open water. One of the most basic is clearing your mask. There are a couple of reasons you will have to clear your mask. It isn’t sitting right on our face, and it is leaking a little. You are diving with a group of people, and you get kicked in the face, and your mask gets knocked off. This is a skill you should always practice, especially if you have not dove in a long time. No matter how often you dive being good at the basic skills will always pay off.

This is one of the most basic skills to have, but it is also one of the most important. Let’s say you are doing a 3-hour night dive. About 15mins into it your mask starts leaking. You have to clear it every couple minutes. So you decide to change out your mask. This could be a quick thing, or if you have never practiced this, it isn’t going to help at all.

Leaking mask 

After you have inhaled slightly press the top part of your mask to your forehead while blowing slowly through your nose. Tilt your head back slightly looking up while exhaling through your nose. Start to exhale thru your nose slowly. Watch for bubbles if you close to your target. The water will slowly start to leave. You don’t have to do this fast.

Flooded mask

This is just as easy as clearing a partially flooded mask. Let say you are diving in a group and someone kicks you in the face knocking your mask off. First put your mask back on, make sure that you have a good seal and there isn’t anything in its way, like part of your dive hood. Then using the same method above to clear it. Take your time. If you go to fast you will push out more air then water. So go slow and don’t waste your air. If you are really deep when you do this, there will be more pressure, making it a little harder to push the water out. Sometimes it is better to leave the mask strap off and just let the water pressure and your hand hold the mask to your face. Once you have some air in your mask then you should put your mask strap on.

If you are only able to dive a couple of times a year. Then you need to get in the water and practice your basic skills, and this is one that will help a lot. There is nothing worse than being on a night dive, and your mask won’t stop leaking, and you can’t see anything. The best way to perfect this skill is to practice it over and over again in a controlled environment like a swimming pool. The primary keys for being able to clear a flooded mask is to relax. This is the reason you had to do all those flutter kicks on the side of the pool with your mask full of water. Lastly, if you have to do a 3-hour dive and you go thru all these steps, and nothing works, well you at least get a good story out of it.

FirstSpear Friday Focus – Brawler FR Shirt

Friday, November 9th, 2018

All new from FS, meet the Brawler FR Shirt.

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Typically most FR garments are stiff and uncomfortable with a blocky fit due to the nature of the fabrics used. The Brawler on the other hand uses 6.5oz Tencate Twill that is durable yet extremely light and comfortable . Material make up is a 65% FR Lenzing / 25% Para-Aramid / 10% Nylon blend that offers excellent Flame Retardant characteristics and assists in defeating or mitigating heat transfer to your skin.

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The Brawler features a zipper front opening, reinforced with webbing sewn buttons. The protective collar can be fastened up around your Neckie or left open, multi positional cuffs, and a security strap to keep the sleeves rolled up. To make the most of hot weather versatility, the Brawler has breathable mesh in the bottom and back of the front pockets, arm pits, and across the entire back yoke.

As with all FS products, there’s a very interesting story behind the name:

In late 1966 through early 1967 US Marines in I Corps Tactical Zone South Vietnam began aggressive patrolling to enforce and establish the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Vietnam’s. Commanders at the strategic level during that time believed that the war would devolve into a static scenario just as the Korean Conflict had previously. Unit Commanders were encouraged to “patrol aggressively” and “define the DMZ” in favor of South Vietnam. To maintain communications security, radio brevity pro words were assigned to articulate specific combat contacts without divulging great detail. For the Marines of I Corps at that time a “Scrap” was a Small Unit Contact generally Unit on Unit and confined to Small Arms, a “Brawl” was a full engagement involving Combined Arms and Support. The patrolling actions and border battles at that time increasingly contributed to large scale operations that became known collectively as the Battle of Con Thien.

First Spear has elected to the name our heavier weight FR Garment the “Brawler” and our light weigh FR Garment the “Scrap”, initial editions of these will be released in FS Sand which is a close to USMC Coyote as we could get in this base material.

Made in the USA with USA Materials. Available now.

www.first-spear.com/technical-apparel/outerwear/brawler