Tactical Research Unit on the front line of research

September 8, 2015

A world-first university research unit focusing on the full range of tactical populations has been established at Bond University, that aims to enhance the protection and performance of those on the front line protecting their community and country.

The Tactical Research Unit (TRU) is a network of multi-disciplinary, international experts who will investigate ways to enhance the health and performance of tactical personnel in military, law enforcement, fire-fighting and first responder organisations.

The overarching aim of the group is to optimise the physical and cognitive capabilities and safety of tactical personnel, leading to improvements in the wellbeing and occupational performance of those who serve and ensuring new research findings are shared across the different tactical populations.

Dr Rob Orr and Dr Rod Pope of Bond University will lead the team of researchers, building upon their extensive knowledge of collaborative research, practice, and military service.

In addition to a wide range of ongoing research programs, the unit has a number of new projects in the pipeline including looking at the differences between full-time military personnel and part-time reservists, using metabolic and musculoskeletal fitness as a predictor of injury during police academy training, and investigating the impact of structural fires on hydration in fire-fighters.

Dr Orr said the ultimate goal of the TRU was to give back to those who serve.

"It is very easy to take for granted the hard work and sacrifice that our tactical personnel provide on a daily basis," he said.

"Tactical responders are susceptible to a wide range of specific health and injury issues, for example it has been found that police may be twice as likely as the general population to suffer from cardiovascular disease while military personnel frequently suffer chronic injuries from prolonged heavy load carriage.

"There is a notable gap in research around the health and safety of all tactical personnel as a collective, with a key problem being that much of the research conducted is siloed within each of the different Forces and services.

"Currently, much of the research in this area is conducted in the United States or by internal military researcher organisations, which for various security reasons is not always dispersed among other disciplines who could also benefit."

Dr Orr said the TRU was established as an independent, non-departmental research unit with the aim of coordinating the efforts of researchers worldwide and allowing for the sharing of information to benefit a wider range of tactical responders.

"The TRU is centred on the improvement of health and  human performance in tactical personnel, so essentially what we are studying is 'how not to break people' and how to enhance performance in the line of duty," he said.

"We are working directly with real operators in the military, fire and emergency services, and law enforcement, and our research encompasses the three management levels - strategic, operational and the tactical 'boots on the ground' - to ensure each rank is well represented and solutions are viable across the spectrum of personnel.

"It's so important that we look after those who look after us - what potential and corporate knowledge have we lost through injuries that could easily have been prevented?"

Dr Orr brings over 20 years military experience to the TRU, having served in the Australian Regular Army for over two decades as an infantry soldier, physical training instructor, physiotherapist and human performance officer.

Joining Bond University in 2012, his teaching focuses on maximising human potential while his research looks at the tactical strength and conditioning of military, police, and fire-fighters from initial trainees through to elite specialists.

Dr Pope has worked in the Defence sector as a contract service provider and consultant for over 20 years, spending half of those years at the Australian Army Recruit Training Centre in clinical physiotherapy, rehabilitation, injury prevention and research roles before establishing and leading the Australian Defence Injury Prevention Program at the request of the Defence Health Services Branch.

He has worked closely with military health and safety staff, commanders and senior military Physical Training Instructors to implement systems to monitor and mitigate the risk of injury in military personnel and to optimise physical training practices and performance.

As part of this work and more recently in his role at Bond University, Dr Pope has conducted and supervised wide-ranging research and consultancy projects on preventing injuries and enhancing performance in tactical training and operational contexts.

Joining the TRU as collaborating researchers are military expert Dr Joe Knapik, who is currently serving as an ORISE Knowledge Preservation Fellow at both the US Army Institute of Public Health and Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, police researcher Dr Jay Dawes from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, fire-fighter researcher Dr Katie Sell from Hofsta University and Military Psychologist Captain Scott Gayton.

The group will also work alongside advisors from the Australian Federal Police, New South Wales Police, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, and the Australian Army.

For more information on the TRU, visit https://bond.edu.au/researchers/research-strengths/faculty-research-profiles/health-sciences-medicine/tactical-research-unit