Certain biomarkers can be measured quantitatively in an operational setting as shown in Chapter 3, Table 3.1. By monitoring multiple indicators, it may be possible to provide a signature of probable performance degradation. The measurement of these biomarkers in the deployed leader could then provide a mechanism for anticipating potential positive and negative responses to threat and thereby allow mitigation of undesired states. One possibility then would be for extensive data sets of individual performance versus stress curves to be developed for the leaders.
One challenge would be to develop better estimates of an individual’s state (e.g., Is an individual in a rational, decision making mode versus an anger-response mode, or in a state to detect the presence of a threat rapidly versus lacking focus?). Objective assessments of individual states performed in a quantitative and reproducible manner would require individual-based correlates of biomarker measurements with performance capability. The varied experiences of individual Marines suggest that biomarker outputs required for the assessment of logistics leaders may differ from those needed by infantry leaders who may also have a different set of critical markers from those for Marines involved in negotiations with a local council leader.
Stress is coupled to performance in general as a U-shaped function: at very low stress levels and at very high stress levels, performance degrades (see Figure F.1). For example, performance can degrade either because of boredom (very low stress) or because of overload (high stress). The maximum level of stress conducive to high performance varies by individual.3 In studying individual differences, it would be ideal to develop for each unit leader a plot of stress susceptibility versus performance under high-tempo operations. The stresses assessed could include sleep deprivation, fatigue, anxiety, isolation, and fear. Such a set of curves could predict changes in the ability to make decisions and maintain vigilance, situational awareness, and communication skills.
Decision making in conducting enhanced company operations in hybrid engagement, complex environments is carried out in a context of complexity, the time duration of the mission, and geographical distribution. The complexity of decision making is confounded by the conflicting goals of kinetic combat conducted simultaneously with nonkinetic interactions involving noncombatants with a strategic mission to “win the hearts and minds of the population.” The time element can range from tactical issues that last for minutes to long-term strategic issues that may last for weeks and months. The geographic distribution can range from the local issues in a neighborhood of a small village to the large-scale inter-
3 Peter A. Hancock and James L. Szalma. 2008. Performance Under Stress (Human Factors in Defense), Ashgate Publishing, Surrey, U.K.