2008 Emerging Leaders

Patricia Frounfelker

Discovered hazards associated with reactive armor that have prompted safety improvements for U.S. soldiers.

There has been discussion about the protective benefits provided by reactive armor, which uses explosives to detonate a threat outside of a vehicle and thereby reduce the threat’s ability to penetrate the armor. It has been widely used on U.S. military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, until recently, collateral damage caused by dispersing fragments from the reactive armor to dismounted troops had been neglected. Army engineer Patricia Frounfelker studied this problem and other potential hazards, and her research has led to safety improvements that are minimizing risks for our Soldiers on the front lines.

In her three years of government service, Patricia Frounfelker has become a leading expert in analyzing and characterizing the survivability of U.S. Army Soldiers to a wide variety of potential risks. Most recently, she examined the potential of reactive armor to cause collateral injuries to troops who are near a tactical vehicle that is under attack. Frounfelker developed a detailed test plan to characterize reactive armor tiles being sent to Iraq for use on the Abrams tank. She collected and analyzed the data following each test and determined the collateral injuries likely to be suffered by dismounted U.S. troops within proximity to the tank. Frounfelker conducted her analysis using a novel methodology that she had previously developed to characterize the collateral damage to dismounted troops within proximity of the Stryker and Bradley vehicles. Her results identified areas of concern regarding hazards from each version of reactive armor and have led the Army to change how dismounted troops operate around these vehicles.

Concurrently, Frounfelker is one of two engineers who conducted assessments of potential casualties inside Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and all other Army tactical vehicles. These tests were conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground and involved more than 15 different vehicle types, each with a unique Soldier configuration. Each vehicle was tested against various mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Frounfelker used data from wooden mannequins and anthropomorphic dummies to assess the injuries that could be suffered by Soldiers in the vehicle. The Army used her assessments to determine whether the vehicles met survivability requirements.

During the same period, Frounfelker served as the lead assessor of crew casualties for 25 U.S. Army developmental systems, including 11 that were fielded in Iraq or Afghanistan. These systems included three variants of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) and several tactical wheeled vehicles. She collected and analyzed fragment data for every live fire test of these systems, comprising 600 mannequins and over 500 fragment collection panels. Her assessments provided the data needed to assess the lethality of U.S. munitions and the survivability of combat vehicles.

Patricia Frounfelker’s efforts in this time of war have directly benefited Soldiers and Marines by identifying and assessing potential injuries they might suffer in or near U.S. combat vehicles. This has allowed the Army to modify the vehicles or the tactics, techniques and procedures before the vehicles are fielded to better protect U.S. military personnel. Her efforts have resulted in better equipped, better protected Warfighters, who are better able to protect and defend our nation.