The U.S. Army wants to build a data set of concussions and traumatic brain injury events not yet seen in the medical community. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former Army vice chief of staff, now retired, listed it as a top priority back in 2010.
It's a priority for a simple, yet depressing reason. Soldiers will be out of Afghanistan after 2014 and the number of these events will drop dramatically. After not identifying the need in the first seven years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is rushing to get the sensors on soldiers as fast as possible.
Enter the Rapid Equipping Force, the Army's go-to for deploying equipment and weapons to soldier quickly. With the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the REF's scientists built the next generation of blast effect sensors, the Integrated Blast Effects Sensor Suite (I-BESS). Army officials said these sensors to include a Soldier Body Unit is in the process of being shipped and should arrive in August.
What sets apart the I-BESS from the Army's first blast gauges is the full body concept introduced by I-BESS. The Soldier Body Unit, which 1,000 soldiers will carry, is a 2-pound pack that holds four sensors, two on the back and two on the chest.
The Soldier Body Unit collects a blast's effects on a human body and sends the data to a central collection point in a vehicle, or back on base. In a vehicle, the REF has installed floor- and seat-mounted accelerometers to collect data on the harm a soldier endures when his vehicle is hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
The vehicles installations will take place in Afghanistan and go into Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicles (MATVs) and MaxxPro Dash MRAPs. Forty-two vehicles will receive the I-BESS.
Army leaders don't expect immediate solutions to protect soldiers from TBIs, but they hope the data set will arm doctors with the information they need to further research ways to identify potential TBIs and how to further protect soldiers.
Read more about the I-BESS and how the Army designed it here on Military.com.