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New Army camouflage: the end of the digital age?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Since 2004, Army personnel have donned the Universal Camouflage Pattern on standard uniforms; but new research and field reports have found this pattern to be ineffective in combat.

In 2004, the U.S. Army digitized its former camouflage pattern on standard issue uniforms. It was termed “Universal Camouflage Pattern,” or UCP, with the hope that it would serve as a one-print-fits-all for any environment. The theory behind the digital print was not the result of a fashion craze; it started in the late 1970s with two psychology professors at West Point. Neuroscientists divided the human visual system into two parallel circuits. One circuit told us where objects were located, the other what objects were. Officially called the “Dual Texture Gradient,” the idea was that the pixelated pattern would interfere with those circuits and make it difficult to identify objects. More research, based on how our brains processed MRI scans as boxes and rectangles, led camouflage experts to similar conclusions, that this pattern was smart camo. Initially, the Marines adopted the pattern from the Canadians. However, the pattern failed early trials in the U.S. Army, and troops reported that it performed poorly in combat.

In 2009, after a camo detection study, the Army revised the design for ground troops in Afghanistan to the current “MultiCam” pattern as a temporary solution. Currently, four designs from non-government vendors are in a bid to become the next camo pattern. Submissions required that designs include a woodland variant, a desert variant, and a transitional variant for every environment in between. The goal of extensive field tests will be to optimize performance range from 35-400 meters in a woodland environment and 35-500 meters in a transitional and desert environment. Testing of the first pattern, which resembles reptile skin, began in June. Testing of the other patterns could last up to nine months, and production of the new uniforms could begin as early as 2013.

The best of the best

The “Drill Sergeant of the Year” competition is one of the most physically and mentally demanding challenges faced by any soldier in a U.S. Army. To win, soldiers have to rise above the competition.


June 25-29 marked the 2012 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) competition at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Drill sergeants are known as the cornerstone of Army readiness because they set the tone for soldiers’ entire military career. Four active-duty and two U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants endured physical and mental challenges during the five-day competition. They were tested on their knowledge of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and their ability to teach these skills to new soldiers. The competition concluded with questions from a board of senior command sergeants on leadership and training.

The winning active-duty drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Heilman, received the Stephen Ailes Award (named for the 1964-65 Secretary of the Army who was instrumental in originating the first Drill Sergeant School at Fort Leonard Wood, MO). The Army Reserve winner, Staff Sgt. Jared Moss, received the Ralph Haines Jr. Award (named for the 1970-72 commander of the Continental Army Command).

Watch highlights of this year’s competition!

NOFFS: There’s an app for that!

A new app for the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series is now available on the iTunes Store.

The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series (NOFFS) is an important training program for sailors and Navy health professionals, combining sports science and injury prevention information to promote optimal human performance. The exercises in the series have been designed to train sailors for the types of activities they can expect to perform during operational duties. The NOFFS program is currently available as an app for iPhone, with on-the-go reference and training assistance right at your fingertips. The app features pictures, videos, and step-by-step exercise instruction, as well as nutrition tips and information. Download the app for free from the iTunes App Store!

Buyer beware! “Brain games” questioned

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Many commercial “brain exercise” products claim to improve overall cognitive performance, but a large study shows this may not be the case.

A recent American Psychological Association press release focused on the overall effectiveness of brain training programs as explored in a review of research that appeared in the Journal of Developmental Psychology. It turns out that not only are these exercises ineffective for treating cognitive disorders such as ADHD, but their effectiveness on improving brain function and intelligence in healthy adults and children is minimal. In fact, the effects weren’t comprehensive and didn’t last long.

If you’re looking to increase cognitive performance, mindfulness training such as meditation may be a good bet. Although mindfulness meditation is a relatively young field of study, so far studies indicate that regular practice has a positive effect on memory, attention, and mood regulation.

Amputee soldier reporting for duty, Sir!

More amputee soldiers are returning to active duty because of advancements in medicine, facilities, and especially techology.

The rate of amputee soldiers returning to active duty is at an all-time high. In the 1980s only about 2.3% of amputees returned to duty; the rate among Iraq/Afghanistan veterans is 16.5%. A lot of factors have contributed to this increase, but the most influential is unquestionably the advancement in technology. We now have centralized centers for amputee care that provide state-of-the-art custom rehabilitation, the most up-to-date prosthetic devices, and peer therapy. These centers enable wounded active duty members to rehabilitate together—interaction that is crucial for recovery. Rehabilitation is now specifically tailored to meet each Warfighter’s needs, and is geared towards the goals he or she has set for the future.

In order to return to active duty, a wounded warrior needs to obtain a final disposition of “fit for duty” from the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). To do this, he or she must demonstrate a level of function with a prosthesis that exceeds basic movement skills, such as engaging in a high-impact activity typical for an active adult or athlete - i.e., box jumps or sprints. Despite the vast advances in prostheses, rehabilitation therapists mention that it’s the warrior’s drive and motivation that returns him or her to work.

Warrior Games 2012—Do you have what it takes?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Physical Fitness
Wounded warriors are being exposed to more and more adaptive programs; the Warrior Games is among the most competitive. Here is a summary of this year’s event.

The 3rd annual Warrior Games took place at the beginning of May in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The United States Olympic Committee developed this “friendly” competition among the Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Special Operations service men and women to promote sports programs for wounded, ill, and injured active and retired service members. If you think that these games are strictly to boost morale among wounded warriors, or to inspire the audience as they witness the amazing spirit among these military men and women, the highlights from this year’s event may change your opinion. These athletes train for months just to qualify for the Warrior Games, and many aspire to compete in the Paralympics. They devote hours every day to training for the games. Many of the competitors train together at Warrior Transition Units or other military facilities, and U.S. Olympic trainers and coaches are often on hand. You think you have what it takes to compete with the big dogs and win gold? Watch this video and decide!

FDA Warns Companies about DMAA Safety

Marketers and distributors of products containing DMAA warned by FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements containing 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) due to lack of safety evidence provided before marketing. The FDA states that information about the safety of DMAA as a dietary supplement ingredient has not been identified. For more information, see the FDA News Release and HPRC’s latest on Dietary Supplement Products Containing DMAA.

Leveraging mindfulness as a performance-optimization tool

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Practicing mindfulness can improve performance by reducing stress and increasing well-being.

PsychCentral’s March 2012 "Ask the Therapist" article addresses how mindfulness relates to military performance—especially important now that the military has been incorporating mindfulness tactics for enhancing Warfighter mental and physical resilience. Of particular note is a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology that demonstrated significant improvements in PTSD symptoms, depression, etc. in veterans after completing a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The article also noted other studies that showed long-term stress-reduction, well-being, and positive experiences. Simply put, acknowledging emotional pain helps you overcome it. You are then able to focus and communicate with loved ones more effectively.

If you’d like to learn more about meditation and mindfulness, check out the Mind Tactics section of the HPRC website, which contains many resources related to meditation and mindfulness, as well as resources related to mental fitness, mental toughness, and resilience.

Senator Durbin urges FDA to investigate energy drinks

Senator Dick Durbin has asked the FDA to investigate the caffeine content and other ingredients in energy drinks due to serious concerns about their safety.

HPRC has written about energy drinks and their possible adverse health effects; these drinks continue to be in the news following the death of a teenage girl due to caffeine toxicity from drinking two Monster energy drinks. Senator Dick Durbin has now urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate energy drinks, specifically to regulate caffeine in these drinks (caffeine content in colas is already regulated) and determine whether other ingredients contained in them are safe. Read the press release and Senator Durbin’s letter to FDA.

HPRC at the 2012 Warrior Resilience Conference

This year’s Warrior Resilience Conference focused on the family and social aspects of Total Force Fitness.

The 2012 Warrior Resilience Conference in March highlighted the importance of the “social domain” to Total Force Fitness. The social domain was defined as relationships in the unit, and family (immediate and extended family and friends). “Family fitness” was defined as the family’s use of physical, psychological, and spiritual resources to prepare, adapt, and grow in challenging times.

The conference was geared towards the line and focused on teaching skills and strategies that participants can instantly apply in their units and families and to bolster individual resilience. The conference highlighted skills that Warfighters and family members are already “bringing to the fight,” how to use them in new ways, and how to add new ones from a holistic perspective. Skills from military programs such as FOCUS, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, and Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) were taught in breakout sessions along with information on family physical fitness and nutritional strategies.

HPRC is following up with many of the presenters to see if we can provide their information on the HPRC website, so keep an eye on our Family and Relationships section.

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