At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, US Navy researchers are at home
The result was the NAMRU Dayton Medical Research Unit.
Some 150 people work at the command, although the number of contractors fluctuates.
“The vast majority are civilians and brilliant scientists,” Dalitsch said.
Together they study human performance – helping aviators and others perform at their peak in stressful and varied environments, from aircraft cockpits to aircraft carriers to submarines.
They study toxins and co-stressors and the “combined effect” of the two, exploring, for example, what happens when a sailor is exposed to both jet fuel and loud noises at the same time. Will such an environment aggravate hearing loss more quickly?
A recent NAMRU customer: the US Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard had a problem with laser pointers aimed at planes, Dalitsch said. When such lasers hit cockpit glass, they can dazzle and temporarily blind pilots.
“The Coast Guard was getting lasered on real-world search and rescue missions and had to wave their hands in the middle of an attempt to save a life,” he said.
NAMRU, in response, developed goggles that cut the wavelength of most common lasers – while still allowing color vision “to be able to see the instruments on the (aircraft’s) instrument panel”, said he declared.
These goggles are now used by the Coast Guard fleet and go through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval process.
Although the Navy is not new to Wright-Patterson, the service’s presence there may surprise even those familiar with the base.
“Oh, people are surprised all the time. I tell people I feel like an aircraft carrier out of water here,” joked Dalitsch.
Friends of the mission say it’s the partnership on common issues with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) that makes it truly special.
AFRL and NAMRU are neighbors and kindred spirits in Area B of Wright-Patterson, home to various research missions.
Corey Hart, air and space biomedical impact manager with the AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing, said these benefits go beyond shared research assets, such as the ” Kraken”, the GL-6000 disorientation research device that creates realistic motion simulations. .
“These assets are great, but what we really appreciate is the shared expertise, and that covers a very broad area,” Hart said.
The Navy has leading experts in sensor validation work — work on sensors to help pilots in harsh environments — and other areas.
And we make sure that the research is not duplicated, to be efficient with taxpayers’ money, he said.
“We have a strong partner to lean on to find solutions,” Hart said.
This isn’t the first time Dalitsch has visited an Air Force base. He headed the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board, which happens to be at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. “This isn’t the first time the Navy has sent me away from the ocean.”
NAMRU has regular customers including the FAA, Office of Naval Research, Defense Health Agency and NASA.
Like the AFRL, NAMRU and its predecessor units have worked with NASA since it was NACA in the 1950s, the captain said. This history of cooperation goes back to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. And NAMRU and AFRL researchers are now working with NASA’s Artemis program.
Says Dalitsch: “That’s why we get loyal customers, because our product is pretty good.”
NAMRU staff has more than doubled since 2011. Research expenditure has nearly tripled. And the unit’s “scientific output” has increased almost sevenfold, the commander said.
“I walk around and I’m surrounded by people with so many degrees,” he said. “I’m just touched by the brilliant ideas and the work they do here.”