Hybrid Enhanced Combat Helmet in Testing

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In a recent article published on High Performance Composites, it was reported that the “U.S. Army and Marine Corps are conducting final validation testing of the U.S. military’s next-generation — and radically new — combat helmet at the Army Research Laboratory’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Testing on the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH), is expected to last 6 to 12 months. The previous-generation Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) — currently in use by most U.S. combat troops — is made primarily of Kevlar and phenolic resin. The ECH will be the first to incorporate thermoplastic resin in its construction. Military sources tell HPC that the ECH comprises a carbon-fiber inner cage overmolded with a preform made from Spectra ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), supplied by helmet development partner Honeywell Advanced Fibers and Composites (Colonial Heights, Va.).

“,The ECH involves a change in materials, a change in the manufacturing process and a change in the specifications,’  says Honeywell’s armor industry technical leader Lori Wagner. While the UHMWPE outer hemisphere imparts the energy-absorbing antiballistic behavior, the carbon inner cage is designed to resist deformation, offering better local-impact protection for the wearer. The design reportedly results in a 10 percent improvement in ballistic protection while reducing helmet weight.

“The military is expected to issue production contracts to several manufacturers. The helmet will be made using an out-of-autoclave, automated compression-style press. Automation is expected to reduce the cost of making the ECH by 10 to 15 percent compared to the ACH.”

Given the increased attention placed on Brain Trauma Injuries and combat-related head injuries, it is reassuring to see the application of new technologies to provide our frontline troops with greater protection while simulateously reduced the helmet weight.

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Military News you may have missed – September 1, 2010

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Military Helmet Sensor Data: What does it show?

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Two years ago, sophisticated sensors were implanted in military helmets of some 7,000 troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The purpose of the sensors was to evaluate the extent of concussions and  brain trauma injuries caused by IEDs and other combat related incidents.  According to the military video shown below, data from these sensors was downloaded monthly to a computer terminal  and then forwarded to a “secure” data center in Aberdeen, MD for analysis.

 

To date, SFTT is not aware that the Department of Defense (DOD) has shared any of this information with the public. However, the recent decision by the military to award a new helmet sensor contract to BAE Systems strongly suggests that we are dealing with no trivial issue.  Indeed, the recent release of the comprehensive US Army report entitled Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention and increased media attention at the extent of brain trauma injuries within the military would argue that greater public disclosure is well-advised to deal with this growing problem.

As recent history shows, the US Army and DOD are unwilling to share relevant data with the public that might suggest that the equipment provided to our brave warriors is deficient.   In fact, Roger Charles, the Editor of SFTT, was obliged to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to obtain forensic records of troops killed with upper torso wounds to evaluate the effectiveness of military-issue body armor.   A  federal judge in Washington, D.C. recently ordered the Army’s medical examiner to release information about the effectiveness of body armor used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or to justify the decision to withhold it.  For Roger Charles and those in SFTT who have followed this issue for several years, it is unlikely that the US Army will open their kimono and confirm what most already know:  the body armor issued to our troops was not properly tested and is most likely flawed.

Full disclosure is generally the “right” decision and it would be useful for the US Army to share the helmet sensor data with the public to help address a growing problem for the men and women who have served in harm’s way and their families.   The American public can handle the truth!

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The B.E.S.T. Annual Benefit scheduled for October 15, 2010 in Greenwich

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The B.E.S.T. (Best Equipment to Support our Troops) 4th Annual Benefit is set for October 15, 2010. Proceeds as always help SFTT protect America’s frontline troops by ensuring they have the best available equipment to make it home alive and in one piece.

B.E.S.T. is the annual fundraising event of SFTT, a non-partisan, apolitical 501(c) 3 educational foundation that relies on funding from individuals, private foundations and the B.E.S.T. Event.  SFTT is a voice and advocate for America’s frontline troops. Its unique educational and advocacy mission is to see that the Pentagon and our elected leaders in Washington get the right equipment, training and leadership for our country’s brave warriors.

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U.S. Government Loses FOIA Ruling on Body Armor Records

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Thanks to superb pro bono legal representation by a team from the NYC office of Kirkland & Ellis, LLC, a federal district judge has issued his ruling on SFTT’s editor’s request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) for forensic records held by the Department of Defense regarding the performance of government-issued body armor. The ruling was characterized in the following way by a news service covering legal issues:

U.S. Loses FOIA Ruling on Body Armor Records

 (CN) – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered the Army’s medical examiner to release information about the effectiveness of body armor used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or to justify the decision to withhold it.   (For the complete Courthouse News article, see: http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/08/16/29630.htm )       

As supporters of SFTT know, we have, to no avail, for several years requested that these records be reviewed by the appropriate oversight bodies of the US Congress. It was only after this baffling refusal that SFTT’s editor requested the records under the FOIA. To no one’s surprise, DOD denied SFTT’s request.   Under the brilliant guidance and with the incredible support of Kirkland & Ellis’ NYC office, SFTT’s editor filed a new request, and that request was basis for the complaint in federal district court upon which the judge issued this ruling.    

In preliminary filings DOD admitted that for the two calendar years (2006 and 2007) for which records were requested 103 KIA’s died from ballistic wounds to the torso. It further admitted that only 51 of these 103 KIA’s (49.5%) had body armor plates shipped back to the US for forensic examination,  and that these 51 KIA’s had a total of 155 plates returned with the “service members.”

Of these 51 KIA’s, 18 had “body armor description sheets with information responsive” to the SFTT editor’s FOIA request. (By DOD’s own definition, a “body armor description sheet” indicates that the “body armor is not perfectly intact.”)

Assuming that only one body armor protective plate was struck in each KIA’s tactical engagement, that means that a staggering 35.3% (18 of 51) of the plates were “not perfectly intact.”       

It’s hard to imagine that DOD would not release these records if they proved that although 35% of the KIA’s during the specified two-year period for whom even fairly complete records exist had “not perfectly intact” plates, not a single KIA resulted from penetration of the plates.

 

So, why has DOD not released the responsive records, i.e., the Firearm Wound Charts and body armor description sheets?

Roger Charles

Editor SFTT

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Supplying US Military Forces in Afghanistan

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Supplying US military forces in Afghanistan has become a logistical nightmare.  Sources from the field suggest that US combat troops are “asked” to carry increasing loads since resupply opportunities are limited.  Found below is an excerpt from CLOSE HOLD which accurately describes the dilemma and increasing kit loads of US forces in Afghanistan:  “‘King for a Day’ Kit-Wise”

“From 2005 until this past spring US forces have had a short stock of gear that could be tailored to reduce the load because of the then current design never matched mission requirements. There was never a concerted effort by either leadership or by extension the defense industry to produce and outfit troops with the lighter, better equipment necessary for extreme conditions found in this little valley of death. If anything the Army and Marines only added more weight to the grunt’s kit. In other words: “more protection is better,” “we must protect the deltoids,” “we can’t resupply you as often because are helicopter resupply is limited, so you have to carry more,” “Hey, hand these items out to the locals and win their hearts and minds…yeah we know the items are heavy, but figure it out.” The on-the-ground commanders made the best of a grim situation and soldiered on, taking unnecessary casualties along the way.”   Read more from “‘King for a Day’ Kit-Wise”

CLOSE HOLD covers stories from the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq to the DC Beltway to bring you closer to the real-life stories that are unfolding each day that affect the brave young men and women serving in harm’s way.   We encourage each and everyone who values the service of our front-line troops to contribute your story to SFTT.   For those who want to do more, become a member of SFTT and make a Donation to keep the Light of Truth burning brightly.

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Military News you may have missed – August 22, 2010

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US Troops: Stressed and Tired. You can help!

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As readers of SFTT are aware, we have recently introduced CLOSE HOLD, a column developed by a “master intelligence analyst” with deep ties to the grunts in the field and a committed warrior who wants to make sure that our troops have the best combat equipment possible to come home alive and in one piece.   CLOSE HOLD covers stories from the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq to the DC Beltway to bring you closer to the real-life stories that are unfolding each day that affect the brave young men and women serving in harm’s way.   We encourage each and everyone who values the service of our front-line troops to contribute your story to SFTT.  You are not alone.  For those who want to do more, become a member of SFTT and make a Donation to keep the Light of Truth burning brightly.

Found below is an excerpt of a recent article from CLOSE HOLD which describes the rigors of continued deployments and how our troops are stressed to the point of exhaustion.  It is a pretty discouraging story.  Can we continue to subject these brave young men and women and their families to this form of existence?  Care to share your story?

The Cost of Endless Delployments to US Troops:  Stressed and Tired

 “The resounding theme emerging from my constant commo with those serving in either Iraq, Afghanistan or stateside is a sense of exhaustion that permeates all levels of our Army—coupled  with its debilitating effect on morale and capability.   The impact of almost a decade of grinding down the force through under-resourced “persistent conflicts” is sapping the institutional core and increasingly manifest in the daily operations that on-the-ground commanders, non-commissioned officers and the privates struggle to sustain whether deployed or in garrison.  In one account an infantry officer describes the Army as “stretched and tired” and that “no one believes, no one cares,” which seem to characterize the issue best.  I am told that most senior military leaders discard these frustrations with status quo responses like “stay in your lane” or “your tactical disillusionment will pass,” giving these highly relevant observations little credibility or thought, while those few senior officers who do take them seriously are too often muzzled.  When unit leaders tell me “I’ve been telling higher for months about the dismal shape we’re in…they simply don’t listen” or “nothing changes, it never gets any better,” and these front-line reports come in unsolicited from battlefield leaders held responsible for our sons and daughters in harm’s way, I would suggest that senior leaders who ignore these insights, no matter from whom or where it comes, do so at great peril to our national defense.”

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Brain Trauma Injuries and A.L.S.

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In a paper released this week, there are new indications that brain trauma injuries may mimic many of the symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s disease.  In an news article published August 18th by the New York Times entitled Brain Trauma Injury can mimic A.L.S.,  NYT’s reporter Alan Schwartz indicates that A.L.S. or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lew Gehrig’s Disease may have been triggered by concussions and other traumatic head injuries. 

According to the New York Times report, “Doctors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., and the Boston University School of Medicine, the primary researchers of brain damage among deceased National Football League players, said that markings in the spinal cords of two players and one boxer who also received a diagnosis of A.L.S. indicated that those men did not have A.L.S. They had a different fatal disease, doctors said, caused by concussion-like trauma, that erodes the central nervous system in similar ways.”

As previously reported by SFTT and other reliable sources, the military is paying far greater attention to brain trauma injuries and its long-term effects on military personnel if left un-diagnosed.    Officially, military sources place the number of troops suffering from brain trauma injuries at 115,000, but informed sources place the number much higher.    Clearly, the  rapid deployment of new helmet sensors by BAE based on preliminary field studies suggests that is a serious problem that is attracting the attention of our military leadership.

While pleased brain injuries caused by frequent I.E.D incidents is receiving more careful diagnosis and serious medical study, the question remains:  Do our troops have the best protective gear and military helmets to cushion the immediate effects of an I.E.D. explosion?  Simply deploying our troops with sensors to “study” the effects of brain trauma injury is akin to a laboratory experiment with rats.  More succicntly, is there currently a better alternative to the current standard-issue military helmet that would help reduce brain trauma injury.

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Shared News from SFTT – August 14, 2010

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  • *US* Marine Corps must redefine mission: Gates

    August 14, 2010 – Not sure it makes a lot of sense for the Marine Corps to redefine their mission. Isn’t that the responsibility of the Secreatry of Defense in consultation with the other military service components, Congress and other govenment Departments and agencies?

  •  Fallen Heroes: Army Spc. Faith R. Hinkley

    August 14, 2010 – Excellent point. Despite the wind-down in Irag our brave heroes are still exposed to constant danger. SFTT salutes Spc. Faith Hinkley and extend our heartfelt condolences to her friends and family.

  •  Remains of American MIAs to be returned to *U.S.*

    August 12, 2010 – We salute you and welcome you home.

  • *Military* mentor rules revised – Army News, news from Iraq, – Army *…*

    August 12, 2010 – What have they got to hide? What is the difference between a “mentor” and a “lobbyist”? With countless GAO studies suggesting an unhealthy relationship between vendors and the military procurement process, the least Secretary Gates can do is to require vendors to publically disclose all former military and DOD civilian officials who have received more that $10,000 in commissions or non-salary compensation. Similary, the military should do the same for Mentors or Consultants. Make those 1099s public.

  • Chairman of Joint Chiefs: Wartime focus shifting

    August 12, 2010 – We often take our brave young heroes for granted, but clearly there are serious “unintended consequences” of prolonged deployments, short rotation periods and the rigors of fighting wars in Afghanistand and Iraq. SFTT applauds the recent disclosures and initiatives taken by the military leadership to deal with the mental and physical well-being of our men and women in uniform.

  • Most troops will get longer home stays between *war*-zone deployments

    August 12, 2010 – This is very good news. Clearly, shortened rotations were cited in the recent US Army Report on Suicide Prevention as a factor in contributing to high stress among our men and women in uniform.

  •  BAE Systems Displays Ultra Lightweight Warrior (ULW) Infantry *…*

    August 7, 2010 – The development and deployment of light and effective body armor is to be applauded. Nevertheless, considering the US Army’s and DoD’s shoddy test procedures and questionable contract awards as documented in GAO studies, we are hopeful that all new military protective gear is properly tested and its suppliers vetted.

  •  A Sergeant’s Suicide Brings The Battle Home

    August 7, 2010 – A recurring tragedy that ravishes the families of the brave heroes who serve in harm’s way. With recent release of the US Army report on Suicide Prevention, we are hopeful that our frontline troops get the medical and psychiatric attention they deserve to deal with this serious problem.

  •  Forced *U.S.* military extensions to end

    August 7, 2010 – This is welcome news indeed, give the level of stress and uncertainty that this placing on the young men and women serving in harm’s way.

  •  *US* Troops Can’t Access WikiLeaks Website, ‘The Washington Times’ Reports

    August 7, 2010 – Surely you must be kidding me? Lots of jokes come to mind – like the mushroom in the basement – but obviously quite a few Pentagon staffers were out doing their inane version of damage control. Doesn’t it seem fair that our troops deserve the same level of intelligence that our enenmies have or do we feel compelled to provide them with a sanitized version?

  •  *Afghanistan war*: Will the new Petraeus rules of engagement make troops safer?

    August 7, 2010 – While there is no question that safeguarding the lives and safety of non-combatant civilians is a critical component of any military operation, it places a huge strain on on US forces policing what has now become a civil or tribal war in Afghanistan. When you insert a clause that permit US troops to respond aggressively in self-defense, you are advocating a military doctrine that is open to interpretation and pretty much useless.

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