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Margaret Mead
Research Article

Fit for the frontline? Identification of mission-critical auditory tasks (MCATs) carried out by infantry and combat-support personnel


The ability to listen to commands in noisy environments and understand acoustic signals, while maintaining situational awareness, is an important skill for military personnel and can be critical for mission success. Seventeen auditory tasks carried out by British infantry and combat-support personnel were identified through a series of focus groups conducted by Bevis et al. For military personnel, these auditory tasks are termed mission-critical auditory tasks (MCATs) if they are carried in out in a military-specific environment and have a negative consequence when performed below a specified level. A questionnaire study was conducted to find out which of the auditory tasks identified by Bevis et al. satisfy the characteristics of an MCAT. Seventy-nine British infantry and combat-support personnel from four regiments across the South of England participated. For each auditory task participants indicated: 1) the consequences of poor performance on the task, 2) who performs the task, and 3) how frequently the task is carried out. The data were analysed to determine which tasks are carried out by which personnel, which have the most negative consequences when performed poorly, and which are performed the most frequently. This resulted in a list of 9 MCATs (7 speech communication tasks, 1 sound localization task, and 1 sound detection task) that should be prioritised for representation in a measure of auditory fitness for duty (AFFD) for these personnel. Incorporating MCATs in AFFD measures will help to ensure that personnel have the necessary auditory skills for safe and effective deployment on operational duties.