Jack Blackhurst, executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and Brig. Gen. Mark Koeniger, commander of the 711th Human Performance Wing, prepare to cut a ceremonial red ribbon in honor of the activation of the Warfighter Medical Optimization Division, one of five divisions comprising the 711 HPW’s Airman Systems Directorate. The activation ceremony was held May 1 at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rick Eldridge)

New AFRL division brings S&T, medical research capability together

A new division in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing was activated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony held in the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base May 1.

“The Warfighter Medical Optimization Division becomes one of five divisions in 711 HPW’s Airman Systems Directorate,” said Dr. Kevin Geiss, director of Airman Systems Directorate in 711 HPW. “This provides an integrated capability across both the traditional acquisition science and technology activity as well as medical science and technology research to provide a unified front for the Air Force to address all aspects of Airman performance.”

The new division is comprised of about 100 personnel – military members, Department of Defense civilians and contractors. Most are located at Wright-Patterson AFB, and some are located at two Center for the Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills, or C-STARS, locations in Baltimore and Cincinnati. Personnel were pulled together from both the Airman Systems Directorate and USAFSAM.

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“I truly believe that this newly combined team is uniquely positioned to execute on our three strategic cornerstones: AFRL’s contributions to S&T 2030; the SECAF’s Force of the Future; and the chief of staff’s readiness priorities,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Koeniger, 711 HPW commander, who provided opening remarks during the ceremony.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Vecchione, who previously served as a strategic advisor in the Medical Plans and Programs office at the 711 HPW, was named as the chief of the newly established division.

“I am excited to lead this amazing team, who is the leading the way in aerospace and operational medicine R&D,” Vecchione said. “This new division gives us a great opportunity to combine a 100-year legacy of aerospace medicine research in USAFSAM with the concentrated Airman-centered research on-going in the Airman Systems Directorate. Our vision is to bring health and human performance R&D efforts even closer to the battlespace in direct support of our warfighters around the globe.”

“Every Airman, whether supporting the fly, fight and win mission, or training or getting ready to support that mission – we have to be focused on their performance,” said Geiss. “But at the end of the day, it’s not just about their performance – it’s about mission effectiveness. So, what we have is an integrated ability to support mission effectiveness through our focus on Airman-centered research.”

“There’s no Air Force mission that gets accomplished without Airmen, and our role in enabling them, sustaining them in the mission, helping their performance get better, and then restoring them to duty when there’s a detriment in their performance or their health – that’s our job in 711 HPW and it’s exciting for what we can do for the Air Force,” Geiss said.

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