US Army paratroopers will be fitted with data-collecting wearables for six months, as part of a project to measure stress levels and examine the resiliency of soldiers operating in Arctic environments.
Up to 1,000 paratroopers of the so-called "Spartan Brigade" – the nickname for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division based in Alaska – will wear technology provided by human performance and fitness company WHOOP.
Using physiological data from the WHOOP wearables, the project looks to uncover insights that will create a blueprint for how soldiers train, fight, and manage stress in the most extreme military conditions.
The WHOOP Strap 3.0 hardware will measure daily strain, recovery rates, sleep quality, and more as part of a six-month study in collaboration with the University of Queensland.
The health monitor is built to withstand the rigors of military use with a waterproof, unobtrusive design plus five-day battery life with on-the-go charging.
The research project will analyse personalised data, such as heart rate variability, resting heart rate, cardiovascular strain, and respiratory rate, which will be used to create a biometric baseline for the Spartan Brigade grounded in overall resilience, stress, and sleep quality.
Unlike blind studies, the participating paratroopers will have immediate access to their own data, as well as techniques to maximize recovery, and can make decisions using this feedback to optimise their personal performance.
It is hoped that the project will provide more insight about individual physiology and the impacts of training in an extreme environment, so that soldiers will be better equipped to manage stress and ultimately, have higher readiness.
All leaders from the squad level, NCOs and above, will have access to their paratroopers' data, so they can adjust training and operational plans to maximise the health and readiness of their teams.
the Spartan Command Sergeant Major Alex Kupratty, said: "Imagine as a squad leader that you have a paratrooper that has had an abnormally low recovery for several days.
"Maybe your platoon has been in the field for weeks, or the paratrooper just returned from an Army school. Now, you have the data to better help them recover, or to adjust your training to match the team's needs."
Kristen Holmes, VP of Performance Science at WHOOP and principle investigator on the study, said: "Previous research has typically focused on investigating stress in laboratory settings using standardised stress tasks.
"We are carrying this study out in the field to better understand how personal, psychological and situational factors can impact a soldier while training during extreme Arctic conditions.
"We are proud to support our troops in an innovative way and this data could be a critical tool for the military to improve soldier resiliency at a time when mental health issues, and suicide rates are higher than ever."