SOLDIERS’ COGNITIVE AND PHYSICAL SUSTAINABILITY. SUGGESTIONS FOR SOLDIER SELECTION AND MEASURING OPERATIONAL READINESS

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

When in military service, soldiers have to be operationally ready at all times. During missions soldiers are expected to operate on a high level, but also when at the barracks, soldiers constantly train their skills in order to achieve/maintain a higher performance level. With this constant drive of improving performance and being operationally ready, recovery time is under pressure and soldiers are exposed to chronic stress. Not taking (enough) time to recover, and thus lower stress, will eventually impair performance and can result in nonfunctional
overreaching (NFOR) and the overtraining syndrome (OTS).
In chapter 1 a literature study was conducted to investigate what is known about
functional overreaching (FOR), NFOR and OTS in the military and what can be learned from research conducted in the sports domain. The main finding of our review is the awareness problem of the terms FOR, NFOR and the OTS in military literature. This makes us believe that the guidance of soldiers to prevent NFOR and the OTS during military service can be improved. We suggest a structured testing regime consisting of a 1.5 mile run, a psychomotor vigilance test (PVT) and the POMS. When the development of NFOR or the OTS is suspected, the more specific two-bout exercise test can be used to determine NFOR/OTS
and to exclude pathological causes of the performance decrement.
Soldiers are experiencing high stress and strain levels and cognitive operational performance is of lifesaving importance. A second literature review is presented in chapter 2 answering the research question how is cognitive performance is affected during sustained military operations (SUSOPS). Soldiers’ simple cognitive constructs (reaction time, vigilance and working memory) become quickly affected, but show inconsistent results after more than 80 hours of SUSOPS. Complex constructs (like logical reasoning) become impaired within 80
hours of SUSOPS as well and remain impaired during SUSOPS that take longer than 80 hours. Simple cognitive constructs return to baseline values quickly, whereas more time is needed for the more complex constructs to recover.
Date of Award23 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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