Can We Use a Smartphone to Aid Retention in Elite Forces Training?

Research Paper Title

Continuous Measurement of Reconnaissance Marines in Training With Custom Smartphone App and Watch: Observational Cohort Study.

Background

Specialised training for elite US military units is associated with high attrition due to intense psychological and physical demands. The need to graduate more service members without degrading performance standards necessitates the identification of factors to predict success or failure in targeted training interventions.

The aim of this study was to continuously quantify the mental and physical status of trainees of an elite military unit to identify novel predictors of success in training.

Methods

A total of 3 consecutive classes of a specialised training course were provided with an Apple iPhone, Watch, and specially designed mobile app. Baseline personality assessments and continuous daily measures of mental status, physical pain, heart rate, activity, sleep, hydration, and nutrition were collected from the app and Watch data.

Results

A total of 115 trainees enrolled and completed the study (100% male; age: mean 22 years, SD 4 years) and 64 (55.7%) successfully graduated. Most training withdrawals (27/115, 23.5%) occurred by day 7 (mean 5.5 days, SD 3.4 days; range 1-22 days). Extraversion, positive affect personality traits, and daily psychological profiles were associated with course completion; key psychological factors could predict withdrawals 1-2 days in advance (P=.009).

Conclusions

Gathering accurate and continuous mental and physical status data during elite military training is possible with early predictors of withdrawal providing an opportunity for intervention.

Reference

Saxon, L., diPaula, B., Fox, G.R., Ebert, R., Duhaime, J., Nocera, L., Tran, L. & Sobhani, M. (2020) Continuous Measurement of Reconnaissance Marines in Training With Custom Smartphone App and Watch: Observational Cohort Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 8(6), pp.e14116. doi: 10.2196/14116.

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