By Chanel Weaver | Army Public Health Center
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — A team of scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center recently traveled to Fort Carson to conduct a Joint Service Member Occupational Health Assessment, also known as a JSOHA, of the M777 howitzer — a weapon that is routinely used in military training and combat operations.
The assessment, which was conducted in response to a Congressional directive under the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, collected blast overpressure, impulse noise, and chemical substances exposure data from the firing of the M777 Howitzer.
“With this study, we evaluated the impact that firing the weapon multiple times may have on a military team in the field throughout the course of their career and are making recommendations to reduce or mitigate those factors,” said Dr. Timothy Kluchinsky, director of the Health Hazard Assessment Division at the APHC.
The JSOHA Program provides commanders and other risk managers with a comprehensive assessment of service member exposures to potential occupational hazards inherent to using various weapon systems during training and combat.
“When completed, this study will improve the DOD’s understanding of the impact of blast pressure exposure from weapon systems to the service member’s brain health and better inform policy for risk mitigation, unit readiness and health care decisions,” said Kluchinsky.
With the APHC slated to merge with the Defense Health Agency in the fall, many of the members of the Army team said they enjoyed the opportunity to work in a joint environment to complete the assessment.
“We received a warm welcome from the battery, and it was an honor to work in the training environment and observe the sacrifice our Soldiers make on a daily basis,” said Dr. Coty Maypole—who coordinated the visit.
Maypole’s husband serves as a sergeant major in the Army, so she knows firsthand the significance of keeping service members free from unnecessary harm, especially in training environments.
“I am elated to do my part in ensuring the health of the force as part of the Industrial Hygiene Field Services Division mission,” said Maypole.
Personnel from the NMCPHC shared this sentiment. They said they enjoyed working with the Army team as well.
“The JSOHA is a high-performance group that’s continually developed and represents collaborative services efficiency and continuity,” said Michael Brown, a certified industrial hygienist at NMCPHC. “It continues to be a privilege to be a member of this team and contribute towards the larger goal of protecting the health of our service members.”
Kluchinsky said he also enjoyed working with the team from Bravo Battery at Fort Carson.
“We were really impressed with the helpfulness of the folks at Fort Carson,” said Kluchinsky. “Sometimes it can be difficult to find a team that is willing to allow us to come in and work, but the Soldiersat Bravo Battery allowed us to observe their training and collect all the data we needed to complete the assessment.”
Navy team members agreed that Army personnel exhibited professionalism and poise. “The Bravo Battery’s reception to the JSOHA team was an exceptional display of hospitality,” said Brown. “Their willingness to adapt to our presence during operations is a clear indicator of the understanding and regard from the command levels. As with our previous missions this opportunity produced valuable information while broadening the communication between field operations and applied science.”
The team plans to share the results later this summer and provide a formal JSOHA report containing risk assessments and potential mitigation recommendations to the Bravo Battery commander.
In addition to evaluating weapons systems, Kluchinsky and his team also assess health hazard impacts of other military-unique items including aircraft, boats, tanks, clothing and other military equipment.
Kluchinsky, who also served as an Army TOW (Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wireless-Guided) Missile crewman, Chaparral Missile crewman, Stinger Missile platoon leader, Bradley-Stinger Fighting Vehicle commander, and later as a Medical Service Corps Environmental Science officer, said he enjoys what he does in ensuring military forces are kept safe from occupational health hazards. As the chief of the HHA Division, he leads a team that has the mission of identifying and assessing health hazards associated with materiel system life cycle management and providing recommendations to capability developers, materiel developers and training developers to eliminate or control the health hazards inherent to operating and maintaining materiel systems.
In addition to Kluchinsky and Maypole, other APHC members who served on the team included, Shawn Boos, Daniel Buzminsky, Adam McCann, 1st Lt. Celiann Rivera, Benjamin Sheffield, Abby Webster, Olivia Webster and Robert Williams. ORISE participants who served on the team included Julia Baylosis, Cole Diana, Dr. Joseph Hout and Melissa Webster.
The U.S. Army Public Health Center enhances Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s Public Health Enterprise.