PhD candidate taking Special Forces research to NYC for Mission Critical Team Summit

8 Sep 2017
Jemma King with Rex Joseph Walheim, a United States Air Force Officer, engineer and a three times NASA astronaut.

Jemma King, a PhD candidate at UQ Business School, has spent the last two years researching and working with the Australian Special Forces to understand how emotional intelligence can help combat soldiers build resilience and to maximise their performance under high stress situations.

Recently, Jemma was invited to take part in a Wharton School ‘McNulty Leadership’ initiative called the Mission Critical Team (MCT) Summit. The event was hosted at the NY Fire Department training facility in New York City, and attracted mission-critical teams from sports, aerospace, military, fire departments, NGOs, law enforcement and medical backgrounds.

“Think of Mission Critical Teams as small groups of trained, experienced specialists who work on the frontline. Their work exposes them to highly stressful and dangerous situations, which, if handled inadequately can be detrimental not only to their own lives, but others involved,” she said. 

The forum organisers invited participants from MCTs, research or academic backgrounds to share their personal experiences or research work as a means to understand candidate screening, training and education for mission critical teams.

Over the past few years, supervised by Professor Neal Ashkanasy OAM and Associate Professor Nicole Gillespie, Jemma has been working with the 2nd Commando Regiment in Australia to train Special Forces soldiers to deal pre-emptively with highly stressful situations, an experience that she was able to share at the forum.

“I train these soldiers in the interplay between how you think, how you feel and how you act when in a high stress or highly critical situation, it’s imperative that elite soldiers build and maintain emotional fitness through training,” she said.

“I was able to take the experience and research from working with the Special Forces and share that with the forum, to help MCTs achieve their overarching goal.”

The insights and research that Jemma and other participants of the forum shared will help achieve an overarching goal of understanding how to increase mission success, survivability and sustainability in frontline teams, especially when faced with highly stressful situations.

The forum is held annually in the US and has already achieved tremendous interest and created invaluable collaborative networks across multiple interdisciplinary fields for attendees.