The Army hates it when soldiers have their hands their pockets. Sometimes, however, your fingers simply get cold.
Gloves might seem like a simple solution. But for a soldier, it’s not always feasible to wear them in combat. Mittens can eliminate dexterity anywhere between 50 and 80 percent. So the Army found a way to heat soldier’s forearms, generate better circulation and keep those digits moving: a forearm heater.
Now, the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is setting its sights on soldiers’ little piggies.
The forearm heating device, called the Personal Heating Dexterity Device, is battery-powered and essentially works by heating up the arm, which warms the blood that flows into the fingers. This device will serve as the basis for research into how that same technology can prevent frostbite in toes.
“Our previous research has shown that warming the forearm increases hand and finger temperatures significantly,” Castellani said in a release. “The result is that Soldiers can have improved hand dexterity.”
Extending that to the lower extremities is next on the docket for the scientists at USARIEM.
“Cold weather operations can significantly decrease a Soldier’s foot and toe temperatures, impacting their gait, reducing their mobility, making them less lethal and putting them at risk for peripheral cold injuries,” Dr. John Castellani, a research physiologist with USARIEM, told Military Times. “Our team is developing a foot warming device over the next 3-5 years to solve this issue.”
Soldiers’ feet are particularly at risk in cold-weather regions as they come into direct contact with snowy or icy conditions with only the protection of boots and socks.
“In response to cold temperatures or heat loss, peripheral blood vessels constrict to divert blood away from our arms and legs and toward internal vital organs,” Maj. Brian Shiozawa, Occupational and Environmental Medicine Command surgeon at the U.S. Joint Munitions Command, said in a release. “The result is an increased risk of frostnip and frostbite. Frostbite causes ice crystal formation within the cells of the exposed extremities or skin that may be irreversible.”
The forearm device, which is in its prototype phase, is slated for field testing this month with Alaska National Guard troops during Arctic Eagle 2022. From there, it will move onto advanced development, and eventually make its way onto the battlefield, scientists noted.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.