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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn's Warrior Research Center provides solutions to military problems

While many programs at Auburn prepare men and women to be a part of the United States Armed Forces, one lesser known program focuses on helping those men and women succeed once they are in the military.

Working out of the College of Education’s School of Kinesiology, the Warrior Research Center conducts research to improve health, wellness, physical performance and other human factors in members of the military and tactical athletes such as firefighters and police.

Started in 2010 by JoEllen Sefton, the Warrior Research Center has become one of the premier institutions in the country dedicated to U.S. military research, performance and warfighter health.

The WRC collaborates with researchers and investigators around the country and works with students who are seeking internship opportunities, military research experience and Ph.D. candidates.

“If a researcher has an idea that might work for the military they can come to us, we can help direct them in the right way,” Sefton said. “We help them be successful, find the language needed and put them in touch with the right people.”

The center also works with military personnel and tactical athletes who may have specific needs.

“If military or tactical athletes have questions, or they would like to reach out to specific researchers, we are the one place here in Auburn that they can come to,” Sefton said.

According to Sefton, the WRC works with a broad range of disciplines and majors in order to address a wide array of problems that the military may have. Students and professionals in fields from psychology to engineering participate in the research that goes on there.

“We try to involve as diverse a population as we can,” Sefton said. “The questions and the problems that we are dealing with are not easy, the easy ones have already been solved.”

The research conducted focuses on performance optimization, injury prevention and the improvement of military gear and equipment.

A current project nearing completion after nine months of data collection and five more months of data analysis is the Initial Entry Training Physical Resiliency Enhancement Program, or I-PREP.

For this project, the WRC worked with Ft. Benning in Georgia to reduce injury and improve initial entry training soldier success.

“We were working with soldiers down at Fort Benning, looking at protein and carbohydrate supplementation and how that affects their physiology, their performance and their injury rates,” Sefton said.

I-PREP has already been shown to decrease injury, improve trainee fitness and graduation rates and provide significant savings in medical, recruitment and training time costs for the military.

When they’re not conducting research, the WRC also provides educational and community outreach services for military, academic and local groups around Auburn.

They have worked with the Student Veteran and Transfer Resource Center at the University, provided sports medicine coverages for road races and collaborated with Auburn Athletics to provide gear to Wounded Warriors.

The first WRC Summit, which took place in summer of 2017 at the University, brought over 30 speakers and presenters together to share ideas and findings of soldier training, injury prevention and many other aspects related to warfighter readiness.

Although small, the WRC here at the University has made a large impact in the world of military research since its start seven years ago.

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“We conduct very problem-based research,” Sefton said. “We are not doing a lot of basic research just for research’s sake; we are trying to take that and apply it to solve a number of problems.”

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