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17th MDG, 312th TS create 1st Human Performance Team for DOD fire academy

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Abbey Rieves
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- Fire burned throughout the day as approximately 18 fire protection training courses operated at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy.

A 312th Training Squadron student hauled a 185-pound dummy through the heat of the morning.

Suddenly, the student buckled and passed out from heat exhaustion and training was halted.

These tactical athletes underwent rigorous training, encompassing various biopsychosocial scenarios: heat, claustrophobia, strength, and physical conditioning.

But due to the nature and pace of the training curriculum, students who miss training hours can be moved backwards into the class behind them.  This stigma causes the joint service members in training to avoid seeking medical attention for injuries, often until the injury is worse.

“If you have someone who has never really done any physical activity, except Basic Military Training, they might not have either the strength or proper form to do a 185-pound dummy drag, without injuring themselves,” explained Capt. Danielle Langness, 17th Medical Group physical therapist. 

Langness realized this issue and began treating students on-site at the fire academy. In March, she assembled the Human Performance Team, which is the first of its kind for military firefighters throughout the Department of Defense.

“The Human Performance Team consists of a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a physical therapist, a physical medicine technician, and a sports psychologist,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Herr, 17th Medical Group physical medicine technician. “They spend time at the fire academy providing tailored physical and mental exercises, ensuring they are fully prepared for training.”

This innovative solution evaluates students through a series of tests in areas such as endurance, strength, flexibility, and mental wellness, before the start of their training.

“We see the students before they get into the training environment to fix the mechanics and strength deficits to allow them to be successful going forward,” said Langness. “We also determine if there are any biopsychosocial factors that could impact them.”

By gathering baseline scores and looking at functional movements, the Human Performance Team strives to be proactive versus reactive. 

These evaluations for risk of injury are documented and used for future reference and prevention.

“We are here to ensure the students successfully complete their 68 days of training,” said Langness. “The Human Performance Team makes sure we are setting them up for success.”

U.S. Air Force Capt. Danielle Langness, 17th Medical Group physical therapist, assesses a student's functional movements on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 30, 2021. Students of the 312th Training Squadron were evaluated in physical and mental aspects before starting their technical training at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Abbey Rieves)

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