Better-fitting equipment, faster treatment for soldiers

Third Sergeant Rashid Mustaffa, 22, training with battle ropes at the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance in Selarang Camp during a media preview on Tuesday.
Third Sergeant Rashid Mustaffa, 22, training with battle ropes at the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance in Selarang Camp during a media preview on Tuesday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

New centre to boost performance will also focus on mental strength, and tailored fitness regimes and diets

The soldier will now be the focus when it comes to designing the equipment he uses. Ill-fitting equipment may become a thing of the past, as will soldiers having to travel to a specialist for rehabilitation treatment.

These two areas - designing better soldier systems and injury management - are among four focus areas at the new Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP), which will look at individual soldiers and their specific needs.

The centre, based in Selarang Camp in Loyang, was officially opened yesterday. It will also focus on mental strength and tailored fitness regimes and diets.

One of the centre's first achievements is a next-generation load-bearing system for soldiers to carry military gear such as water bottles and ammunition. It is expected to be in usein the first quarter of 2019.

The system has a new hip belt, which can be customised for size and worn separately from a soldier's vest.

This helps to distribute some of the weight carried to reduce strain on a soldier's shoulders.

It will gradually replace the current integrated load-bearing vests, which have been used since 2009.

The CESP's head, Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Yee Kok Meng, said human factors engineering was being used for the first time, and being factored into the load-bearing system's design phase. Human factors engineering applies principles, data and methods from research in ergonomics to designing devices and systems for human use.

SLTC Yee said trials were conducted with active units to get their feedback for refinements to be made.

The new load-bearing system is the first to be designed with the help of the Load Effects Assessment Programme, which was acquired two months ago. The programme helps to evaluate the impact of equipment on a soldier when he is put through an obstacle course, including movement and heat analysis.

Dr Angela Tan, 37, a human factors engineering specialist at the CESP, said: "Before CESP... the focus was more on the systems and performance. Now, we will put the soldier at the centre of our equipment and make sure that the things that the army procures for our soldiers fit them."

Dr Tan, who has a PhD in human factors engineering and is the president-elect of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Singapore, believes there is a "great runway" for human factors engineering in the army, because of the need to constantly source and evaluate new equipment.

On injury management, Lieutenant-Colonel (Dr) Gorny Alexander, 37, head of soldier development at the CESP, said that with the centre's work, injured soldiers can be treated earlier and in the best way possible.

This is important as training time available for full-time national service is limited, added LTC (Dr) Gorny, who graduated from the National University of Singapore's medicine faculty and has two master's degrees - one in sports and exercise medicine, and the other in public health.

Rehabilitation is also set to become more convenient, he said.

The soldier might not have to go to a hospital or external clinic for his rehabilitation care. Physiotherapists and doctors will go to ground-level units instead, and unit commanders will also be trained to provide the right level of care, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline 'Better-fitting equipment, faster treatment for soldiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe