VCSAF tours AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing

  • Published
  • By Leslie Heck
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David W. Allvin visited several Air Force Research Laboratory facilities April 26 to see how the 711th Human Performance Wing is leveraging data and collaboration to enable, enhance, sustain, and restore Airmen and Guardians throughout their career lifecycle.

“We are laser focused on Accelerating Change because we owe that to our nation and there are few organizations as critical to that mission as AFRL,” Allvin said. “AFRL is nurturing some truly world-class research in a whole range of leap-ahead technologies … autonomy, artificial intelligence, directed energy, and others. But there are few investments as important as the investment we put in our people.”

In his first trip to AFRL as vice chief, Allvin dedicated most of the day into how the 711 HPW’s Airman Systems Directorate and U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine are rewriting the script on how the Air Force optimizes its Airmen to prepare them for the challenges of peer competition.

“To me, this isn’t just about making our Airmen more effective for combat, it’s also about fulfilling our duty to create better citizens. We are blessed with recruiting some of the best America has to offer … I would like to find ourselves in a world where service in our Air Force means unparalleled access to the best this nation has to offer in terms of human performance for our Airmen and their families … and the 711th (HPW) is doing a lot to make that possible.”

The highlight of the visit for Allvin – a self-declared biohacker enthusiast – was the Airman Systems Directorate’s Signature Tracking for Optimized Nutrition and Training, or STRONG, Lab. There, Drs. James Christensen and Adam Strang showcased the lab’s Airman Data Analysis and Performance Tracking System, or ADAPTS, which ingests and aggregates data from “wearables” like a FitBit or Garmin, and applies custom analytics and algorithms to create real-time visualizations with actionable information. ADAPTS enables the STRONG Lab to optimize Airman performance, reduce workload for servicemen and women, and improve decision making for operators, commanders and support, Christensen explained.

The use of wearables to help users track their sleep, daily activity levels, and like proactive health measures is of course nothing new, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought to common consciousness the truly transformative potential of these technologies. “Before wearables became the hype, we were in this space quite a bit,” said
Dr. Rajesh Naik, 711th HPW chief scientist. “We’ve been doing a lot of foundational research going back almost 10 years. But now, we see this explosion in biosciences, due to confluence of AI and microelectronics … it’s caused such a huge inflection in the development of wearable devices.”

The Airman Systems Directorate is currently leading the Air Force’s research in this space and has partnered with the Defense Health Agency to use wearables to provide early detection of COVID-19. The Airman Systems Directorate has already put 9,000 device sets in the hands of all the services, including the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, Air Combat Command, and Air Force Special Operations Command with rollout to 20,000-25,000 users happening soon. 

Departing Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Allvin thanked his hosts – Air Force Materiel Command commander Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., AFRL commander Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, 88th Air Base Wing commander Col. Patrick Miller and 711th HPW acting director, Darrell Phillipson – and encouraged them to continue the fight to optimize the most important weapon system the Air Force has – its Airmen.