WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, the new Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team lead, visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Aug. 27 to tour the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Onboard Oxygen Generating System lab and learn how 711HPW is collaborating with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton (NAMRU-D) to tackle the issue of UPE.
“Much of the wonderful work that’s being done by the Air Force to get after the problems and give solutions to make aviation safer for us and more lethal to the enemy is being done right here,” Vaughan explained. “Over decades, all of the organizations that sit here, to include NAMRU-D, have come to this location to collaborate. You’ve torn down silos to do the necessary work.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the work and not reach out or leverage information already available, but he stated that during this visit, he has learned that all the right things are happening (and more) in regards to UPE work.
“We’re well above the bar and into excellence,” he stated. “The work here is to first understand the situation and mitigate it immediately.”
Then, said Vaughan, a bridge would be built from mid- to long-term goals.
“In the long term, pilots and aviators in general will be the human weapon system and will have the ability to enhance their performance, assess and understand what degrades that performance and then mitigate that.”
Vaughan stated that what is particularly fascinating is the work being done between the System Program Office in AFLCMC, the 711HPW, and some other labs, in the field of sensors.
“There are a whole host of sensors that are in various stages of testing, development and design. There are already some being fielded in the testing environments at Edwards Air Force Base.”
“If you look at what’s going on in the world and with the internet of things – look at how many of us have thermostats on our walls that we can control with a cell phone, or locks on the door that can be remotely locked or unlocked. So if you look at all that is automated with sensors, the human weapon system is also now entering into that phase.”
In the Air Force and in the larger Department of Defense, the safety of the human being is paramount.
“Once we get to the baseline where we can say ‘this is a safe operating environment,’ that human weapon system now has to become more lethal,” he said. “Lethality means readiness, efficiency—when a dollar gets spent on defense, it goes towards good end. And if our operators are concerned about their safety—that degrades from our readiness.”
Vaughan stated that what most impresses him so far is the “phenomenal level of collaboration that goes on. And it’s not forced. There are no checklists that ask if anyone checked with the Navy. The Navy is right there in the team – sharing duties and data.”
“You cannot walk into a lab here without seeing Airmen and Sailors working side by side, whether that’s civilians or uniforms; they are well integrated.”
“We’ll never solve everything, but we will keep striving for better – for excellence – as new obstacles come along.”
“We were honored to host Brig. Gen. Vaughan as he learned about all of the many collaborative efforts happening between 711HPW, AFLCMC, and NAMRU-D in regards to UPEs,” stated Doug Hopkins, 711 HPW chief engineer. “He was able to meet and listen to a lot of the passionate people doing the research and supporting AETC in flight test here to ensure our flight crews have the best equipment and remain as safe as possible while effectively accomplishing their missions.”