Giving Soldiers What They Need: The FAST Team and MSS PMO Collaboration
"What does the Soldier need?"
That's what the Field Assistance in Science and Technology, or FAST, team asked, and they went straight to the source: the Soldier.
FAST team members include Army Medical Department officer scientists, noncommissioned medical officers, and U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command personnel.
Dale Frazier, the FAST team coordinator, said the medical officers volunteered their services "to help ensure the survivability of the Warfighters."
The team assisted commanders in finding solutions to enhance mission capabilities and to improve safety, training, and operations.
When a forward medical unit identified a Warfighter need and wrote a Request for Information, the FAST team began communicating with the USAMRMC for analysis and solution. To bridge or eliminate a capability gap, the FAST team worked with various groups, such as product developers, subject matter experts, and combat developers across the U.S. Army.
Working with so many different people and agencies "ensures the correct and most knowledgeable person is contacted for their input or guidance," said Frazier.
The team also coordinated, deployed, and collected feedback on prototype technologies to meet Soldiers' needs.
Over the years, the Medical Support Systems Project Management Office has worked with the FAST team many times, but the most notable collaboration was on the Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statements for the first 16 mine-resistant ambush-protected, or MRAP, ambulances. It ultimately led to four MRAP-variant ambulances and their MRAP medical equipment sets.
"The MRAP MES is a modular, ready-to-go set that impacted the war effort," said Jaime Lee, product manager for MSS PMO.
In addition, MSS PMO and the Directorate of Combat and Doctrine Development worked with the MRAP Joint Program Office to develop and field casualty evacuation kits for six MRAP variants, including the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle. Over 1,200 M-ATV CASEVAC kits are now being fielded to Operation Enduring Freedom.
Combat Ready Clamp
The most recent FAST team'MSS PMO collaboration led to sending troops a device to help stop bleeding. Because hemostatic agents and tourniquets cannot control high junctional hemorrhages, the medic's only option is to apply pressure with follow-on surgery if the casualty survives the initial hemorrhage.
With the hope of finding a solution, OEF Soldiers asked for a product to provide compression to junctional hemorrhage sites. Based on recommendations from the Tactical Combat Casualty Care Committee, MSS PMO purchased several Combat Ready Clamps to send to the FAST team. The use of CRoC has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the TCCC Integrated Product Team, and is now being evaluated by Special Forces and Army units.
The FAST team requested a hands-free litter to allow Soldiers to rescue a wounded comrade while still engaging the enemy. MSS PMO searched the civilian market and found several products with potential.
The Tactical Combat Medical Care team evaluated the material of the litters, and vendors added straps and quick-release buckles to the existing commercial-off-the-shelf litters. Several of these litters were sent to Soldiers for concept exploration and feedback.
Upon the return of the Soldier surveys, MSS PMO, DCDD, TCMC, and the Medical Evacuation Proponency will meet to discuss this potential capability gap and to determine a path forward.
To immobilize patients with suspected head, neck, or spinal injuries, the FAST team requested immobilization straps. Securing wounded Soldiers is imperative in preventing further injury during transportation. With all the armor and equipment Soldiers must wear, often the strap can barely secure a wounded Soldier to the spine board. Medics require longer straps to secure larger patients in full-body armor, and MSS PMO has been working with industry to create a prototype from a commercial-off-the-shelf Spider Strap that has a larger strap, better adhesion points, and is manufactured in the Army's olive drab color.
An evaluation by combat medics found the Spider Strap to be "faster, easier to use, and well constructed," so now the Spider Strap is available for medics to use on larger Soldiers.
Continuing the FAST Team's Work
The FAST team first deployed in September 2005 to support the Research, Development, and Engineering Command in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since then, members of the FAST team joined Soldiers in OIF on 14 different occasions, and in OEF 5 times (with an early return when troops were withdrawn).
Elements of the FAST team continue to exist at unit-level commands with requests through the FAST coordinator at USAMRMC. The MSS PMO continues to work through solutions to medical technology gaps, focusing on speed, efficacy, and affordability.