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New York Air National Guard pararescue jumpers test wearable medical technology for Air Force researchers

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Muncy | New York National Guard | Oct. 6, 2015

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y .- Air Force pararescue jumpers may soon turn to BATMAN for help in dealing with casualties, thanks to medical technology to be used by Airmen of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing.

BATMAN, short for “Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided kNowledge” is a system of wearable computer technology that includes sensors that allow a pararescue Airman, also known as a guardian angel, to monitor blood pressure, heart rate and pulse of several casualties simultaneously.

Members of the 106th Rescue Wing tested the medical system during a two-day exercise held at Francis. S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base recently.

BATMAN constitutes an entire system with many different capabilities for different missions being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The goal, according to the Air Force, is to develop wearable technologies which help special operations Airmen do their jobs better.

Components of the system being tested include wrist-mounted smart phones which allow Airmen to monitor systems, lights embedded into gloves, smaller spotlights for air traffic controllers, and heads-up displays in helmet goggles.

The systems the 106th Rescue Wing tested are designed to help pararescue Airmen treat more casualties more efficiently.

“This is a unique tool that can allow us to monitor up to 5 patients at once on a single electronic device,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Rush, an Air Force flight surgeon with the 106th Rescue Wing. “This increases our capabilities and effectiveness in a mass-casualty incident.”

“So [BATMAN] is a point of injury, mass-casualty, collection-tool that allows guardian angels to monitor multiple patients simultaneously as well as wirelessly,” said Dr. Gregory Burnett, an evaluator with the research lab. “It allows them to have better trauma care as well as better survivability for any [casualties] that they may treat during a mission.”

The wrist-computer mount is compatible with multiple mobile devices that are capable of running software developed to help leaders monitor the health of their troops by streaming heart rates, blood-oxygen levels and other vital signs collected from body sensors.

“Overall I had a good experience with it,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald Raymond, who trained with the system. “I would like to spend more time training with it, but my initial impression was that it was a good piece of equipment to use.”

The researchers asked the 103rd Rescue Squadron members to test out the system because they have real world experience,” explained 1st Lt. Max Gabreski, an Air Force Research Laboratorystaffer.

“We’re having them run through some of our stuff to tell us what they like and don’t like,” he added.

While Gabreski was at the base to work, he also shares a unique connection with 106th Rescue Wing.

“It’s great to be back at this base,” Gabreski said. “It was named after my grandfather and I came here as a kid without ever being able to see this side of it. Now, being able to come back and work here is a really awesome experience.”

Col. Francis S. Gabreski was the top-ranking American fighter pilot in World War II, shooting down 28 German planes. He then went on to become a jet ace in the Korean War and finished his career in 1967 after commanding the 52nd Fighter Wing at the base which was named for him.

“BATMAN is a program that helps find innovative technologies for our operators,” ranging from those in the kill chain such as joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) to those in the life chain such as pararescue jumpers (PJs), Lt. Anthony Eastin, a behavioral scientist with the program team, said during a recent interview.

The advanced technology program, established in 2003 after a fratricide in Afghanistan, has led to a whole series of new technologies being used by Airmen on the battlefield. The wrist-mount was added to the BATMAN kit after the AFRL spoke with rescue and battlefield Airmen, who preferred using smart phones rather than small, chest-mounted laptops.