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Activity title

Optimizing Human Performance in NATO SOF Personnel Through Evidence-Based Mental Performance Programming

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Human Factors and Medicine

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human factors, mental performance, mental skills training, performance psychology, special operations forces, sport psychology


I. BACKGROUND AND JUSTIFICATION: The NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ), as NATO’s designated proponent for NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) Development, hosted a Research Workshop on Training-Prevention-Support-Treatment: Different Aspects of Mental Resiliency in Special Operations, during the period of 03 – 06 October 2017 in Lisbon Portugal. This Conference was attended by more than sixty delegates representing fourteen NATO and three Partnership for Peace countries, and provided an International platform for discussing existing national approaches and experiences, developing a common understanding of terminology, overviewing current scientific developments, and identifying future opportunities as they pertain to enhancing human performance and psychological functioning through mental resiliency in the SOF environment. During the 4th International Congress on Soldier’s Physical Performance (28 Nov to 1 Dec 2017) representatives from Belgium, Canada, Germany and Australia discussed objectives, specific topics and deliverables for the proposed RTG in place of a formal Exploratory Team meeting. Further email and VTC coordination with the nations willing to participate in this RTG took place prior to submission of this TAP.


The objectives of the Research Task Group (RTG), pertaining to the NATO SOF environment, are to: a. Conduct a comparative analysis of mental performance programming in SOF to identify existing frameworks, best practices and gaps; b. Develop a common conceptual framework and terminology regarding mental performance training, enhancement, and optimization in SOF, based on a human factors approach, within the cognitive and psychological domains; c. Develop guidelines and best practices for the development, tailoring, implementation, and evaluation of mental performance programming in SOF ; d. Establish guidelines for collaboration between practitioners/professionals delivering mental performance programming and other human performance stakeholders working in SOF; and e. Establishment of a White Paper on best practices and agreed upon terminology to assist with the development and implementation of future NSHQ courseware and a Directive on Evidence-based Mental Performance Programming for SOF.


The following topics will be covered during this RTG: a. Review of emerging and established SOF mental performance programs with the intent of identifying best practices and knowledge gaps; b. Terminology; c. Identification of Best Practices and guidelines applicable to SOF: i. For the development and delivery of “Mental performance” training, enhancement, and optimization, including but not limited to: what, how, how much, and by whom; ii. For collaboration between practitioners/professionals developing and delivering mental performance programming to optimize human performance for SOF operators within the cognitive and psychological domains; iii. Outcome measurement and program evaluation: how to quantify the effect, and thus the cost-effectiveness of the suggested interventions.

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