As the tip of the spear in the Army’s effort to prepare soldiers to fight a great power conflict, the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team (CFT) is working on multiple fronts to make sure that tomorrow’s soldier will be more than a match for any adversary that they may encounter, however advanced that adversary may be.
Amid the attention to the billion dollar search for the Army’s Next-Generation Squad Weapons, however, is an equally, if not more important effort to connect the individual soldier to the Integrated Tactical Network (ITN). Through the ITN and cutting edge hardware like the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), soldiers have access to data displayed in an augmented reality environment that increases not only their lethality, but their survivability as well; targeting information and navigational waypoints, and other C4ISR data, to name some examples.
But all of that data coming in means that military planners need to be concerned with another fundamental consideration which may determine whether these capabilities are effective in the field at all.
At this year’s AUSA conference, we heard from Brigadier General Tony Potts, Program Executive Officer, PEO Soldier.
“Everything the Soldier Lethality CFT does is not solely focused on materiel solutions. There are the human performance training aspects as well.” That’s because network systems can deliver so much data to a soldier who’s using devices like IVAS that it can overpower the human brain’s capacity to process that information.
“We worry about human cognition, we worry about…sensory saturation in all these things,” Brig. Gen. Potts continued.
In line with that, PEO Soldier gets at what we need to prepare the next generation warfighter to manage. With the terabytes of data that are going to be available to them, how do we make sure that warfighters are optimally utilizing the data that is being made available to them?
One set of practical solutions that the military is using to strengthen warfighters’ cognitive performance is Holistic Human Performance training, which includes technology that trainees can use daily to enhance their working memory, attention, visual information processing speed, and executive functions, all of which will be important if they are to make full use of the data that will be made available to them in the field.
In fact, as research and cognitive training solutions have advanced, elite military organizations like U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) are adopting them for their training and assessment purposes.
And so, as Army programs like PEO Soldier work to improve soldier lethality, it may be reasonable to look to these kinds of solutions to prepare soldiers for this new, data-heavy battlefield. With luck, training soldiers in this manner will help each of them make full use of the massive amounts of data that the military’s multidomain operations can bring to bear. And ultimately, make him or her more lethal, and more likely to return safe home.