Military Technology: Improving Soldiers’ Lives…And Deaths

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Checking out Pentagon paperwork sometimes leads to strange findings, like the pair of contract solicitations Battleland just came across. They seem especially apt given how the GOP basically drove by the war in Afghanistan at its convention Wednesday night in Tampa.

The American public wants nothing to do with the Afghan war. Thankfully, for U.S. troops – those alive, those dead, as well as those suspended in-between — innovation continues despite public apathy.

First, the Army has issued a solicitation to buy a “Severe Trauma Multiple Amputation Trainer” to help train its medical personnel to deal with the all-too common wounds inflicted by improvised explosive devices. Frankly, Battleland has never heard of such a device, but war does inflict its own peculiar form of progress in many fields, including medicine. The Army also wants to buy what it calls “flesh chunks” to help train battlefield medical personnel.

“The Multiple Amputation Trauma Trainer (MATT)® is a ruggedized, tetherless, remote controlled human patient medical simulator that delivers high-fidelity simulations of lower body blast injuries commonly caused by IEDs and other explosive devices,” contractor KGS notes. “MATT employs state-of-the-art special effects materials and technologies to deliver incredibly realistic visual and tactile stimuli with lifelike response to treatment.”

Among other features, MATT “bleeds from both legs,” has “crepitus to cue for crushed pelvis” and comes complete with “scrotal avulsion” and “optional interchangeable priapism” ($558 extra for “Removable Erect Penis [For Simulating Spinal Cord Damage]).”

Bottom line? MATT has “unparalleled realism” – just like a real soldier – and “unparalleled…durability” – unlike a real soldier.

Best of all? “Easy clean-up – can quickly be hosed off after use.”

How much? KGS sells MATT for $76,500, with discounts if you buy at least five ($66,500 each), at least 10 ($57,500) at least 20 ($56,000) or at least 25 ($54,000). The Army is seeking only one MATT under this contract, suggesting taxpayers will be paying top dollar. But not to worry: it comes complete with “standard starter accessories kit.”

And, just like when you buy a TV at Best Buy and the sales person pressures you to purchase an extended warranty, you can get one of those for MATT, too: $6,120 for a year, and double that for two years after the initial one-year warranty.

As for the “flesh chunks” the Army wants to buy? Thankfully, KGS makes clear they’re “Simulated Flesh Chunks” and cost $1,914 (coincidentally, 1914 also happens to be the year the War to End All Wars began).

The price list for MATT and his options is amazingly long and detailed.

While such gear no doubt improves military training and helps save lives, it also highlights the U.S. military’s belief that technology can conquer all.

That also can been seen in the second contract solicitation, which involves a National Guard request for “ceremonial bugle inserts.” It’s seeking an idiot-proof bugle to play – not be played — at military funerals and burials. The U.S. military simply lacks sufficient live buglers to play at dead veterans’ funerals.

Requirements include:

1. Bugle will be designed with an insert preprogrammed to play taps and other music intended for use in providing honors to deceased military members.

2. Bugle will look like a normal bugle.

3. Operator will be able to play this device creating the look and feel that the music is actually being produced by the bugle.

4. Bugle will require no musical ability on the part of the user to render the desired music.

According to the National Guard, “the Ceremonial Bugle manufactured by the S and D Consulting Int LTD is the only known product of its kind” that does all four things.

“The device plays a high-quality recorded version of `Taps,’ taken from the 1999 Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery,” the company’s website says. “The resonating tones inside the bugle create a realistic horn quality.”

The company helpfully has posted nifty directions on how the faux bugler should fake it. “Based in New York City,” the company says, “S & D Consulting seeks to enhance people’s lives through the application of emerging technologies.”

Their deaths, too.