In the early 1960's, then Col. Spurgeon Neel, commander of Lyster Army Hospital at Fort Rucker, Ala., now Fort Novosel, recognized that an expanding Army aviation community would need specialized medical and physiological support to help close the gap between Army combat aviation needs and human capabilities, and to protect aviators from altitude, climate, noise, acceleration, impact, and other stressors.
Therefore, on July 1, 1962, Neel and Maj. Gen. Earnest Esterbrook, then commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center at Fort Novosel, established the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Unit with a goal of providing direct aviation medical research support to all Army aviation and airborne activities, and to provide a central aeromedical research and reference library. Technical evaluation of aircraft and personnel equipment, aeromedical in-flight observations, and field problems analysis reported by other aviation agencies were also part of the Unit's early research program.
In 1969, as USAARU's involvement in air mobility research grew, the Army re-designated the unit as USAARL.
In May 1978, ground was broken for a new laboratory facility, with completion in March 1981.
During the 1980's, USAARL scientists and support staff became increasingly involved in field studies throughout the Army in assessing hazards of military systems and operations, and biomedical means of enhancing Soldier selection, performance, and protection.
In 1990, USAARL was honored with the Department of Defense Award for Excellence. For its support and contributions to Desert Shield/Desert Storm, USAARL was awarded the Army Superior Unit Service Ribbon in 1992.
In April 2004, USAARL's building was dedicated in memory of Maj. Gen. Neel for his integral role in the development of the principles of aeromedical evacuation of battlefield casualties.
In October 2012, USAARL celebrated 50 years of medical research in support of the Soldier, on topics including vehicle operator injury, Soldier performance under stressful conditions, airworthiness testing, air safety, occupational hazard exposures, and personal protective equipment.
Today, USAARL remains committed to the aviator, the airborne Soldier, and the ground Warrior, as the Laboratory's research focuses on cognitive and sensory workload, displays and automation, unmanned systems, task saturation, noise, medical standards, crashworthiness, wearable sensors, head and spine injury, aeromedical transport, and MEDEVAC interior space.
By providing the Army's Cross Functional Teams, military developers, and commanders with expertise and data-driven information, USAARL will advance the Army's modernization priorities and enhance the performance and safety of Warfighters operating complex Army systems.