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Cannon AFB’s new MindGym sharpens Air Commandos’ cognition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexcia Givens
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

On Feb. 6, 2024, the 27th Special Operations Wing leadership and resiliency teams celebrated the opening of Cannon’s Lumena MindGym. The MindGym is a cognitive training device designed to enhance Air Commandos’ mindfulness during high-stress situations, sharpening the critical thinking skills and competencies required by the joint force in current and future operating environments.

The technology consists of a 7-by-7 reflective cube, ergonomic chair and specialized EEG headset that utilize sensory deprivation, reflection, light and sound to create an immersive cognitive training environment. Users can then select from 19 guided training modules, including sessions designed for Airmen in aircrew specialties.

“It's important to get after cognitive training for our Airmen,” said Lt. Col Brandon Dues, 318th Special Operations Squadron commander. “We must invest in developing our human resources in the cognitive space and improve their tactical capabilities. This will enable us to be better prepared for strategic competition in tomorrow's fight.”

The 10-20 minute training sessions enhance the user’s ability to transition their mental state through light and sound for relaxation, inner exploration, and contemplative practice. A typical session is divided between peace and relaxation, cognitive training, and performance. The device gathers biofeedback by monitoring user heart rate, respiratory rate, and brainwaves, allowing each training session to be tailored to the individual’s real-time psychological state.

The Steadfast Line now has one of only two MindGym testbed locations in Air Force Special Operations Command, and the data collected during implementation will determine its potential as a cognitive tool for other Department of the Air Force bases.

"We're looking at a one-year window to assess the feasibility and utility of the MindGym as a specific piece of technology, but we’re also trying to pathfind and understand the best ways to use those cognitive aspects of humanity,” said Maj. Samuel Oldham, 27th Special Operations Medical Squadron operational psychologist. “When we look at AFSOC, a lot of our value in the battlespace is our ability to be more creative. In Agile Combat Employment, whoever can adapt and implement solutions more quickly is going to have a huge advantage.”

The MindGym is an intersection of two initiatives: the Department of Defense’s Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program, and US Special Operations Command’s Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) program.

“The SBIR program is very useful because it actually allows the Air Force to act as a venture capitalist and technology accelerant,” said Robert Streseman, 27th SOW interim director of staff. “The idea is to do two things: get new development projects to fill key gaps for the Air Force, and, at the same time, encourage new companies to work with the Air Force to develop solutions.”

The POTFF initiative optimizes and sustains Special Operations Forces’ mission readiness, longevity and performance through integrated and holistic human performance programs. Through a multitude of resources like MindGym, AFSOC and the Cannon POTFF team aims to create better, smarter, stronger Air Commandos across the physical, psychological, social, spiritual and cognitive realms.

“A Harvard study shows that we are all distracted in the present moment for half our waking lives,” said Amy Egbert, 27th Special Operations Wing Integrated Resiliency Optimization Network interim director. “I think it's important for our Airmen to be quicker in thought, to be quicker in deliverance, to meet the mission quicker and to perform better under stress. That is a huge part of why the MindGym is going to help with our Airmen here at Cannon.”

Airman interested in trying the Lumena MindGym can contact the 27th Special Operation Medical Group at 575-784-2278 or any POTFF member, including chapel services, embedded mental health professionals, social resilience professionals and sports medicine experts for an appointment referral.