Soldier System

Soldier as a System

Elizabeth N. Richardson
Senior Test Officer, Integrated Soldier Systems Branch, Warfighter Directorate


Simulated injured Soldier carry.

Under some tactical conditions, a Soldier might be his or her own Army.

ATC’s test personnel understand military structure and tactics and have a passion for protecting our military personnel.

ATC is dedicated to Soldier performance testing.

Individual protective equipment is critical to the survival of our military personnel. It is their personal line of defense against fragment, bullet and other impact threats to vital body areas. Items that are carried and used to enhance vision and communication and increase lethality are part of what we call the Soldier as a System. All of these items must be tested in realistic wartime scenarios to ensure military personnel can perform their mission with the best equipment.

The Integrated Soldier Systems Branch, known as ISSB, has been at the forefront of Soldier equipment developmental testing for more than 35 years. Soldiers perform essential missions in highly stressful environments while wearing, carrying and using enhanced tactical protective and performance equipment. Nothing is more critical to the design success of individual equipment than the early participation of military personnel in testing.

The ATC Soldier individual and protective equipment core commodity test mission is supported partially at the Soldier Systems Test Facility, which is equipped with an urban terrain tactical maneuver facility, outdoor and indoor firing ranges, above-ground tunnel complex and obstacle course. These resources provide an excellent small-scale tactical environment for Soldier equipment integration testing. ATC supports approximately 8 to 10 Soldier-involved tests per year. Larger-scale tests are often required to meet statistical goals and are conducted at U.S. military installations nationwide with troops in tactical training environments.

ISSB tests integrated head, torso and extremity protection systems and other individual clothing and equipment such as combat eyewear, foot and hand wear, hearing protection, communication equipment, night vision, weapon sights and all aspects of combat clothing.

Since 2013, ISSB has supported Soldier performance and user assessment testing of the Soldier Protection System, including the Modular Scalable Vest, Ballistic Combat Shirt, Integrated Head Protection System, Integrated Soldier Sensor Suite, and Transition Combat Eye Protection. Depending on scope, 40 to 100 military personnel participate in developmental testing of these components.

Soldier assessments consist of individual anthropometric measurements, timed don/doff trials, obstacle course maneuvers, tactical equipment compatibility trials, vehicle ingress/egress, range of motion measurements and functional movement screening. Tactical field events include weapons live fire, foot marches, land navigation and urban terrain engagements. Throughout all testing, the Soldiers complete surveys to provide their subjective opinions about comfort, compatibility and performance of the systems. They also complete electronic surveys at the end of all testing, and After Action Reviews are held to expand and augment data findings from the field. The surveys and reviews address critical system design and performance requirements and aid in the selection and fielding of life-saving equipment for military personnel. ATC specializes in test technology that provides scientific, comprehensive data on Soldier as a System performance in a dynamic environment.