US Army and Circadian Rhythm
Maintenance in the US army aviation is a combat multiplier. That is to say, when opposing forces have relative parity in numbers and quality of equipment, the force that combines skillful use of equipment with an effective maintenance has a decided advantage. The force has an initial advantage if it enters battle with equipment that is operational and likely to remain operational. It also has a subsequent advantage if it can quickly return damaged and disabled equipment to the battle. Therefore securing this advantage is the purpose of a maintenance system (Army aviation maintenance, 2006). Maintenance management therefore deals with the following factors affecting the unit mission:
- Command emphasis or intent.
- Day to day management skills.
- Technical skills.
The commander sets the tone of what is important within the command. The soldiers in the command translate this concern into action. However to place emphasis on maintenance operations, the commander shows an active interest in these operations and in the material readiness of unit equipment. At the same time, the commanders need to balance mission, security, training and administrative requirements to form a cohesive unit.
Maintenance managers continually strive to improve their operations. Because the management process itself plays a key role in maintenance operations, managers should always to improve planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling. Managers must always look for ways to be proactive rather reactive. In addition, feedbacks and after action reports are also vital tools used by managers.
First line supervisors are the vital link in the chain of command. Supervisors are the commander’s first line of defense in the prevention of accidents. The prevention of accidents through composite risk management reduces or eliminates lost man hours. Which will in turn, increase available manpower to execute unit’s maintenance mission.
First line supervisors however, must be aware of mission requirements and the capabilities and limitations of the soldiers under their control. They must continuously train their subordinates to support the needs of the battlefield.
Motivation is the need instilled in an individual to perform designated tasks. The leadership demonstrated by supervisors and commanders greatly influences the motivation of soldiers. Effective leadership is effective to motivation. In this regard therefore effective leaders define objectives, communicate them, evaluate how they are achieved and provide feed back to soldiers doing the work. Since most soldiers always want to perform well, but they must know the objectives and standards and receive performance feed back.
Technical skills involve the ability to perform tasks associated with duty positions. On the job training enhance these technical skills. Since a technically and tactically trained soldier is one of the commander’s important assets. When the battle begins, untrained soldiers will be of little use to the commander. The commander therefore, must continuously strive for high levels of training so that he can provide adequate maintenance support to the operational units (Army aviation maintenance, 2006).
Through adhering to the above policies, the US intend to improve the combat service support characteristics that is responsiveness, simplicity, flexibility, attainability, Sustainability, survivability, economy and integration. These are characteristics which apply across the range of military operations including units conducting offense, defense, stability and civil support operations (Army aviation maintenance, 2006).
However, while attempting to implement the above policies with the aim of improving the combat service support, the circadian rhythm disruption still remain a hurdle to overcome as it affects all aviation industries. Our body’s biological functions work much like a finely tuned watch. Every part works in unison to keep the body in homeostasis (maintenance of the internal environment within tolerable limits). However, when one working part doesn’t function normally, it tends to disrupt many other vital parts and can upset. Circadian rhythm is described as an internal biological clock that regulates our body functions, based on our wake/sleep cycle. Circadian rhythms are not only important in determining sleep cycles but also in feeding patterns. There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to these daily cycles. Any time that our normal 25-hour circadian rhythm is altered or interrupted, it will have physiological and behavioral impacts. This is better known as circadian rhythm disruption, or CRD. Normal circadian rhythms are naturally altered as one ages including changes in sleep pattern with respect to earlier onset of sleepiness, early-morning awakenings and increased need for daytime napping (http://iflyasa.com/educational-information-aviation-training/flight-training/circadian-rhythm-disruption-aviation/).
Shift work like the one in military aviation maintenance almost always causes a circadian rhythm disruption. Since the internal body clock is at odds with the shift schedule. Shift-work problems range from performance issues to accidents and health problems. Of all the stressors in aviation, jet lag or rapid time zone change syndrome seems to have the biggest impact. This syndrome consists of symptoms that include excessive sleepiness and a lack of daytime alertness in people who travel across time zones. Other Symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, disorientation, headaches, digestive problems, and lightheadedness. Jet lag is more evident if one flies from west to east because it is more difficult for one’s body to adjust to losing time when you journey east than to gaining time, when one fly from east to west. Similarly circadian rhythm disruption-induced fatigue that goes untreated or ignored will have both physiological and psychological ramifications that not only can jeopardize one’s personal health but can also become a safety-of-flight issue (http://iflyasa.com/educational-information-aviation-training/flight-training/circadian-rhythm-disruption-aviation/).
Although various tips exist that can be used to minimize circadian rhythm disruption in our daily life, most of them are likely to be overlooked in the army aviation maintenance due to the nature and complexity of its operations. Hence some of the aspirations of the US army aviation maintenance might not be achieved in the long run.