Radiation exposure is a concern in many fields from construction to mining. It’s critical for operators to know what their current radiation exposure is to be able to make decisions that can keep them safe.
The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense’s (JPEO-CBRND) Joint Project Manager for CBRN Sensors (JPM CBRN Sensors) is equipping units around the globe with new radiation sensor equipment called the Joint Personal Dosimeter-Individual (JPD-I).
The JPD-I replaces the legacy dosimeter and will add new capabilities to give users personal, real-time decision-making ability. The JPD-I was also fielded in an efficient, cost-saving manner, highlighting JPEO-CBRND’s agility and commitment to leveraging digital efficiencies to ensure rapid response to support an integrated layered defense.
The JPD-I is an all-in-one system that doesn’t require an additional external reader, additional calibration, or other hardware to function. It is essentially a wristwatch with a built-in numerical radiation reader that is continuously keeping track of the user’s radiation exposure from occupational to tactical levels. The JPD-I enhances warfighters’ radiological defense capabilities by allowing them to see and monitor their exposure in real time. This gives users the ability to alert their command decision makers if they see concerning numbers in real time and be advised on next steps. Additionally, JPD-I can achieve National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program, as the users’ will report their radiation numbers to be stored in the warfighter’s medical record for future monitoring.
Figure 1 - Two JPD-I devices on a table at an August virtual training event with members of the 20th CBRNE Command
The JPD-I reached the important Defense Acquisition milestone of Initial Operational Capacity (IOC) in August 2023. The target number for the JPD-I IOC was fielding 52,787 devices, which were fielded to over 200 U.S. military units across the world. The IOC milestone was achieved in just under two years, which is an impressive timeline for reaching that many units globally. How it was achieved is, in fact, a positive example of how the disruptiveness of COVID-19 spurred unexpected innovation.
Initially the JPD-I was intended to be fielded to units in Korea in March 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic halted "normal” life worldwide, the team needed to find a way to support the units’ need despite travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
To field the JPD-I, the JPEO-CBRND team was working with United States Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) at that time to host a New Equipment Training (NET) and a New Material Introductory Brief (NMIB). Rather than put the fielding on hold due to COVID-19, the team decided to host the trainings virtually and carry on with their mission.
Figure 2 - Two service members from the 20th CBRNE Command and a trainer at the August virtual new equipment training held by TRADOC and the JPEO-CBRND
“We realized that if we could ship the equipment to them, it was just a matter of presenting slides and turning our camera on for demos. Being in-person, while nice, was not required to properly train someone on the JPD-I,” said Frank Cataldi, Dosimetry Assistant Program Manager, JPEO-CBRND. “We just had to walk a few service members through how to use it so that they can cascade that information and training to their units. We decided to ship the JPD-Is to the units and host the training sessions on [Microsoft] Teams, and we haven’t looked back.”
Once the program of record fielding efforts began in November of 2021, the team opted to stay the course with virtual trainings. This method resulted in cost savings on travel and allowed the JPD-I to achieve IOC quickly. An in-person fielding in the Republic of Korea would consist of two-three days of travel alone, multiple nights hotel fare, and labor costs for each participant. And if, for example, a service member somewhere in Japan needed to join that training session, travel and training costs and logistics would historically be a significant factor to consider. With virtual training, the training team and users from across the globe can login and spend 30 minutes training, then sign off and carry on with their duties. Often multiple units across the country (or globe) would join a single online session and could train together, facilitating unit cohesiveness and understanding.
“We could combine participants from various theaters, EUCOM, INDOPACOM and so on into one call so that in one 30-minute session we were able to double or triple the number of units we were reaching,” said Cataldi. After the session, users shared that they felt confident using the equipment, and appreciated the informative and concise format.
As of October 2023, the team has fielded more than 57,000 units, all virtually except for one in-person session. The team is continuing to work toward achieving Full Operational Capability and ensuring that every service member is equipped with improved radiological threat detection capabilities.
Figure 3 - Two wrists of service members display their joint personal dosimeter devices, used to measure personal rate of radiation exposure