United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Operators and vehicle Commanders are specially trained United States military Warfighters that have the demanding task of operating or working onboard Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs). Their missions encounter significant mental demands resulting from fatigue, highly stressful situations, and interactions with Government Furnished Equipment (GFE). Excessive mental demands can be the primary factor leading to compromised vehicle communication, missed improvised explosive device (IED) detection, and increased incidents of vehicle roll-over. Research has demonstrated the consequences of mental overloading including increased errors, performance decrements, distraction, cognitive tunneling and inadequate time to appropriately process information. The objectives of this thesis were to evaluate the extent to which task-related factors impact the mental workload of Warfighters and to evaluate the consistency among the three categories of mental workload metrics. The 14 participants studied in this research were Marine Corps personnel who had heavy vehicle driving experience. Physiological, subjective and performance measures were collected during a four-segment course that progressed in difficulty and analyzed across all participants to assess changes in mental workload. It was found that task-related factors impacted the mental workload of Warfighters. The subjective metric was able to capture changes in workload more accurately than biosignals. Due to technical problems with the biosignal data, comparison of consistency across metrics was inconclusive. The subjective workload ratings were significantly different between course segments and experience levels. The experiment resulted in workload ratings that increased by as much as 94% between segments and were 18% higher among novice drivers. This study showed that mental workload fluctuates while driving in a stressful situation, despite training and experience, and consequently, detection performance will be impacted which could have very adverse consequences. There is the need for additional research to have a better understanding of the true impact of mental workload on MRAP vehicle drivers, especially in an operational environment.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Marines--Workload--Research; Mental fatigue--Research; Armored vehicles, Military; Motor vehicle driving--Psychological aspects; Combat sustainability (Military science)--Psychological aspects

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Industrial and Systems Engineering (KGCOE)


Marshall, Matthew


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