HomeNewsArticle Display

Battlefield Airmen use science to beat the heat

An Air Force-invented cooling sleeve for a water bladder and cooling inserts for a specially-designed undershirt are two ways that Dr. Reginald O'Hara and his research team at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine hope to help Battlefield Airmen and other special operations forces avoid heat-related illness while in hot, humid conditions. (Courtesy photo)

An Air Force-invented cooling sleeve for a water bladder and cooling inserts for a specially designed undershirt are two ways that Dr. Reginald O'Hara and his research team at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine hope to help battlefield Airmen and other special operations forces avoid heat-related illness while in hot, humid conditions. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- Of all the threats facing battlefield Airmen and other special operations forces, heat doesn't typically come to mind; however, heat-related illness is a critical factor for personnel operating in extreme temperatures.

Dr. Reginald O'Hara and his exercise physiology research team at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory's 711th Human Performance Wing, are working to reduce that heat stress.

"Military personnel exposed to excessive heat for an extended period of time may experience reductions in both physical and cognitive performance," O'Hara said. "Those reductions could severely limit their ability to carry out their duties during intense ground and flight operations."

Essentially, if battlefield Airmen are working at decreased capacity, the risk of mission failure increases.

Though there are many effective ways to mitigate high temperatures, most are not realistic solutions for the battlefield. For example, most devices are heavy and bulky, adding too much weight for troops to practically carry. What's more, many require a power source or a means of "re-cooling," which might not always be available, and they are often too noisy to safely use in the field.

Working under a cooperative research and development agreement with Gawi Healthcare LLC, the USAFSAM team has developed an alternative -- a small, lightweight, passive cooling technology. Under the three-year technology transfer collaboration with Gawi, which had acquired the assets of Arctic Ease, USAFSAM hopes to develop and commercialize a variety of hydrogel cooling technologies.

O'Hara and his fellow researchers have started testing two variations of the technology to date. One is an Air Force-invented cooling sleeve or wrap for the water bladder that battlefield Airmen and other special ops forces carry, and one is cooling inserts for a specially designed undershirt.

"The devices act through a form of conduction," O'Hara said, "transferring heat from the water in the hydration pack bladder or the Airman to the hydrogel.

The team conducted field-based testing of the sleeve to see if it would maintain or even reduce the temperature of the water during extended exposure to high heat and humidity, making it more palatable and thereby encouraging Airmen to drink more and stay hydrated.

"The sleeve was tested during 60-minute marches in 90-degree F temperatures and 40-percent humidity, and it successfully demonstrated a 20-degree drop in drinking water temperature," O'Hara said. "Subjects drank up to 2 liters more cooled water when compared to non-cooled water."

Additional test plans include incorporation of quick-dissolve amino acid supplements to enhance hydration, energy and performance during training.

Testing of the shirt inserts had similarly positive results, according to O'Hara. Subjects wearing the special undershirt with cooling inserts experienced lower core body temperatures and significantly lower peak body temperatures after a 70-minute weighted vest treadmill walking test than subjects in the standard undershirt with no inserts.

"During sustained operations, even a few degrees can make a tremendous difference," O'Hara said. "If these cooling devices can lead battlefield Airmen and other special ops forces to drink more or help keep them from over-heating, the risk of heat stress and other heat-related illnesses goes down. And that means their focus can be on accomplishing the mission."

(Editor's Note: USAFSAM's partnership with Gawi Healthcare LLC is one of the 711 HPW's many cooperative research and development agreements. A CRADA is a legal agreement between a federal laboratory and one or more nonfederal parties, such as private industry or academia. The end objective of a CRADA is to advance science and technology that not only meets Air Force mission requirements but also has viability in other potential commercial applications. In fiscal year 2015, the 711th HPW had 76 active CRADAs.)

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Ohio @AirNatlGuard, @178thWing and @179AW sent Disaster Relief Beddown Sets to Puerto Rico to aid earthquake relief… https://t.co/thmLxnZqJC
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Airfield Pavement Evaluation (APE) team ensures mission-ready airfields. See… https://t.co/82900N49g9
.@GenDaveGoldfein addressed attendees @CNASdc. He was asked how to reconcile USAF's needs “of the future over the p… https://t.co/JitRS7rQwU
RT @USAfricaCommand: MALAWI: Air Forces Africa helps develop Malawian Air Force ---- “The force development program is helping us lay the f…
RT @KadenaAirBase: #ICYMI, #TeamKadena executed its first Exercise #WestPacRumrunner with joint partners focused on improved interoperabili…
RT @AirForceCE: At @March_ARB, emergency management technicians ensure our Airmen from the @163ATKW stay tactically ready. During a recent…
Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams respond to a simulated unexploded ordnance discovery and complete tasks to safely… https://t.co/k6dsZSes1V
RT @AFWERX: Take a look at all current and upcoming #AFWERXChallenges you can be a part of: https://t.co/lquAvSmyxG https://t.co/VM5ykfWIjh
It's lit. 🔥 Firefighters from 36th CES, @AndersenAFBGuam and 28 of their counterparts from Yap, Palau, Chuuk, Saip… https://t.co/SC2BR0a9C7
RT @TeamFairchild: #TeamFairchild’s 97th Air Refueling Squadron successfully completed their first mission as our newest squadron! This mis…
#MilitaryWorkingDogs have a strict diet that corresponds with their constant training regimen, but sometimes treats… https://t.co/0PWQtw7rwE
RT @thejointstaff: Meet #SEAC4 Ramon "CZ" Colon-Lopez and learn more about his role as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman and the…
RT @AirForceCE: Welcome to the Lock Shop! 🔐 Securing everything from assets to machinery, the shop plays an integral role in the larger Ai…
Have no Fear: MilTax is here! Military OneSource offers free tax prep for active duty service members and their fa… https://t.co/8TGP8ro32o
RT @AFWERX: The @usairforce just officially announced the #SparkTank2020 selectees! Congratulations to all the teams who will be presenting…
RT @USAmbNATO: I am very proud of our 🇺🇸 @usairforce airmen from the 57th Rescue Squadron who have been in 🇮🇹 #Italy training personnel rec…
RT @DVIDSHub: The #A10 Thunderbolt II is a slow yet maneuverable aircraft capable of taking and throwing hits that would render other aircr…
RT @AETCommand: There are few missions requiring years to plan/prep, only to be accomplished in less than 6 seconds. Courtesy @AirmanMagaz
Combat rescue helicopter pilots and crew undergo intensive underwater-egress training to prepare for worst-case sce… https://t.co/Z9z1kHAmay