Sleep is ammunition for the brain. All Soldiers need to be physically and psychologically strong and resilient. This is especially true of those Soldiers who operate at the “tip of the spear” as members of small teams in far-forward environments where the OPTEMPO is high, the margin for error is small, and the ability to access support functions (e.g., air support, evacuations, reinforcements) is lacking. The necessity for Soldier performance during nocturnal operations introduces an additional challenges for maintaining Soldier lethality. Ironically, although sleep is critical for sustaining military performance and effectiveness under such conditions, sleep loss is all but inevitable under such conditions. Sleep is also armor for the brain. Research shows that the more sleep that military personnel obtain, the better they perform and the less vulnerable they are to development of mental disorders like PTSD and depression. An emerging body of research also suggests that good sleep is linked to the body's ability to prevent and overcome infectious disease, further underscoring its importance to overall health.
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As research at WRAIR progresses to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19 infection, it is also important to recognize the significant behavioral health toll brought upon by this crisis. WRAIR is working in concert with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command as part of the whole of United States government response to overcome the disease. This impact can be felt in a wide range of diverse groups: medical care providers on the front lines, struggling to cope with the influx of new cases; leaders trying to maintain morale and productivity in now-geographically disparate teams; workers struggling to adapt to the new realities of teleworking from home or individuals concerned about the health and safety of themselves and their families amidst the outbreak. Building on decades of experience in the field of sleep and performance, psychiatry, neuroscience and more, WRAIR scientists developed a range of checklists and other resources to help support behavioral health and well-being.
The bonds we build between co-workers, family and friends are critical to high-performing teams. Yet working closely with others conflicts with the central tenet of preventing the COVID-19 pandemic: the concept of “social distancing.” Steps like keeping connected, looking out for others, using more than email or more can help preserve mental health as we take steps like social distancing, regularly washing hands for twenty seconds and getting a full night’s sleep to stay safe from COVID-19.
WRAIR researchers are playing a key role in the ongoing COVID-19 response, building upon the Institute’s ability to rapidly respond to outbreaks on an accelerated timeline to develop diagnostics, vaccines and treatments. Since the beginning of the outbreak, WRAIR and U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command personnel have been working to advance research efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat this latest threat to global health and force readiness.
The high-quality, mentally tough Soldiers the Army requires must be able to operate in small, highly effective teams in far-forward environments, often without access to air support, evacuation and other capabilities. They must be able to remain lethal for extended periods of time otherwise they risk becoming a liability to themselves and their teammates. One of the most critical components of a maximized human performance is sleep—but fighting cannot reasonably be expected to stop to accommodate a full night’s sleep. The 2B-Alert app makes rapid, personalized recommendations around their sleep habits to support the far-forward Soldier and minimize the danger of sleep loss to themselves and their teammates.
On December 13th, the WRAIR hosted an event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MRSN, an infection control resource to military treatment facilities across the entire Military Health System. A global threat, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Military Infectious Diseases Threat Prioritization Panel have named MDR bacteria one of the most consequential infectious disease threats. The MRSN has significant clinical and research impacts, by helping to inform infection control and treatment practices in hospitals as well as providing bacterial samples to test novel antibacterial products.
The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) hosted a World AIDS Day event Tuesday, Nov. 26, highlighting advances in DoD-led HIV research and celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Army-led RV144 HIV vaccine study. WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program headed the RV144 “Thai study,” the first-ever – and only to-date – clinical trial to demonstrate an HIV vaccine regimen was safe and modestly effective in preventing HIV infection. The RV144 trial represented a massive undertaking for the Army and serves as a model of international and interagency collaboration.
Each summer, over 500 middle and high school students from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area participate in the hands-on science programs Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. GEMS aims to galvanize students’ interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields; promote diversity in STEM careers and curb the summer slide, defined by Scholastic as the loss of significant knowledge in reading and math over summer break and a subsequent skill loss each year. The GEMS program is one of a range of science education and professional development programs offered at WRAIR, including undergraduate and post-graduate (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral) research fellowships, to help develop the next generation of American scientists.
The Military Health System’s Bug Week campaign seeks to answer these questions and educate military personnel and their families around the world about the bugs they encounter. In an exhibit titled “Mosquito Wranglers: A Bug’s Eye View of Medical Research,” three representatives from WRAIR participated in the event, showcasing live examples of the mosquitoes, specimens from an extensive catalogue of disease vectors as well as products developed, tested or utilized at WRAIR for mosquito trapping or prevention. Bug Week continues through August 2 on www.health.mil/bugs and the @MilitaryHealth and @TRICARE accounts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as WRAIR’s own accounts.
On April 26, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research hosted the fourth annual Magill Malaria Forum, entitled “Overcoming Challenges at the Front Lines of Malaria.” The event included remarks by clinicians, researchers and product users followed by a panel discussion to review the current state of malaria research with a special focus on military medical research around the world.