SFTT News: Highlights for Week Ending Mar 31, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Lightweight Military Helmet

New Lightweight Combat Helmet Introduced
The Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II will replace the legacy Advanced Combat Helmet, which was fielded about 15 years ago. The service earlier this month awarded Revision Military, based in Essex Junction in Vermont, a contract worth about $98 million to make 293,870 of the new helmets. Made of high-density polyethylene instead of the current helmet’s Kevlar, the ACH Gen II weighs about 2.5 pounds in size large — about a 24-percent weight reduction, officials from Program Executive Office Soldier said at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.  Read more . . .

Iran Called a Destabilizing Influence in Middle East by Military Brass
The nation’s top military official in the Middle East on Wednesday said Iran is one of the greatest threats to the U.S. today and has increased its “destabilizing role” in the region. “I believe that Iran is operating in what I call a gray zone,” Commander of the U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, told the House Armed Services Committee in testimony Wednesday. “And it’s an area between normal competition between states — and it’s just short of open conflict.”  Read more . . .

Kim - North Korea

Dissecting US Policy Toward North Korea
Since the Clinton years, the US has considered military action and imposed strict sanctions against North Korea in an effort to curb its nuclear program — but none of it has worked amid fundamental misunderstandings about the shadowy Kim regime. US and UN sanctions on North Korea have sought to cripple the regime through restricting access to commerce and banking, but despite limited successes here and there, North Korea now regularly demonstrates a variety of potent and expensive nuclear arms in open defiance of the international community at large.  Read more . . .

Chinese Military Growth and Sophistication Attracts Attention
China’s rapid development of new destroyers, amphibs, stealth fighters and long-range weapons is quickly increasing its ability to threaten the United States and massively expand expeditionary military operations around the globe, according to a Congressional report. A detailed report from Congressional experts, called the 2016 US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, specifies China’s growing provocations and global expeditionary exercises along with its fast-increasing ability to project worldwide military power.   Read more . . .

Highlights of NPR Interview with VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says the Department of Veterans Affairs “is on a path toward recovery.” “We have a clear mandate to do better, [and] to make sure that we’re honoring our mission to serve our veterans,” Shulkin told NPR’s Morning Edition. Shulkin discussed his current priorities for the Department of Veterans Affairs, including how the money from the Veterans Choice program has been spent, and his approach to the persistently high rate of suicide among military veterans, with NPR’s Rachel Martin. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.  Read more . . .

New Diagnosis Tools for Veterans with PTSD?
Researchers are working at brain banks around the country to see what is going on inside the heads of veterans like Fadley. They are examining the brains of deceased veterans in hopes of knowing more accurately what effects trauma ― psychological or physical ― has had on the brain. That could someday lead to better diagnostic tests, treatments, clues into where PTSD originates and evolves.  Read more . . .

Agent Orange Effects Still Felt Today
An estimated 11.4 million gallons of the chemical pesticide known as Agent Orange were sprayed over millions of acres of Vietnam forests from 1962 to 1970. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has long acknowledged the link between the substance and diseases like cancer in veterans, but when veterans began reporting having children with birth defects, the VA stayed mostly mum. But a joint investigation by ProPublica and the Virginian-Pilot published Friday revealed the odds of having a child born with birth defects were found to be a third higher for veterans exposed to Agent Orange than for those who weren’t. The investigation also determined that the VA had collected information about the link between birth defects and Agent Orange during examinations of more than 668,000 veterans but never adequately scrutinized it.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops


Uncomfortable Combat Helmet: Deal with it!

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One wonders at the insensitivity or blatant carelessness demonstrated by the public relations and advertising departments of major firms.  This latest promotional ad from Team Wendy – which makes military helmets rather than hamburgers – suggests that men and women in uniform should should quit their belly-aching and cope with the safe but uncomfortable military helmets Wendy’s manufactures.

Wendy Promotes Uncomfortable Helmet

A veteran of many wars brought  Team Wendy’s recent promotional ad to the attention of SFTT and asked for our comment.   Frankly, we are not sure what the message is, but we are quite sure that Wendy’s management must be a little red-faced at the suggestion that men and women in combat are responsible for the ill-fitting and uncomfortable military helmets that they manufacture.  After all, the Wendy Epic helmet is standard government issue and our military leadership surely knows what is best for the troops that serve in harm’s way.

Perhaps, troops in the field might weigh-in on how best to interpret Wendy’s promotional ad.  It is interesting to note, that Team Wendy goes on to promote the safety features of their combat helmet.  I suppose that might prove reassuring if troops were actually wearing the helmet, but one suspects that an ill-fitting helmet may well be used for other purposes  than protecting our troops from head injuries or even worse.     Surely, Team Wendy can’t be blaming the troops in the field for the uncomfortable helmet it produces?  SFTT hopes that this is not the message you are trying to convey to troops that wear your protective gear.


Did A.J. Hughes Screw the Troops?

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In a solid piece of investigative reporting, WHEC of Rochester, New York reports that local firm A.J. Hughes Screw Products may have supplied defective screws for combat helmets.

I-Team 10 Investigative Reporter,  Brett Davidsen, reports that the now defunct A.J. Hughes Screw Products was sub-contracted by Gentex Corporation to make parts for Army and Air Force helmets.   According to court filings unearthed by WHEC investigative reporters,  A.J. Hughes was subcontracted to supply screws that attach the chin strap of the Advanced Combat Helmet.   Apparently, the screws didn’t meet specifications and the US Army found that ” in extreme environmental conditions, the non-conforming screws corroded pre-maturely.”

As a result,  the Army recalled about 37,000 of the helmets that were issued to soldiers and airmen. U.S. Army Project Manager of Soldier Protection Colonel William Cole said, “Instead of protecting the soldiers the way it should, there’s a potential you could have a ballistic failure where either there would be a penetration, or more likely, a part of the bolt that would break off and impact the soldier’s skull.”

Retired Army General John Batiste was commander of the First Infantry Division in Iraq. “Our troops in harms way deserve the very best…the best equipment that money can buy that we can provide them to protect their lives.”

As SFTT is quoted in the article, this is not the first time defective equipment has been furnished to our frontline troops.   In fact, defective  helmets were recalled when irregularities were found in the manufacture of combat helmets subcontracted to the Federal Prison Industries.    Even more egregious, are DoD efforts to hide the efficacy of body armor issued to US troops.  In fact, SFTT has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to obtain access to autopsy records which may prove that defective body armor and cracked ceramic plates may have been a factor in their deaths.

While “the Army says no one was ever injured as a result of the faulty screw,” how can one be sure?  Those in charge with the procurement process insist that our troops have the best equipment.  Furthermore, they claim that there has never been a failure which contributed to injury or death caused by a defective “screw” or “ceramic plate.”   If true, why do military officials stonewall every public effort to get the facts?  If DoD and military leaders would be more straight-forward with the public and the troops they lead, we would be in a far better position to truly provide our troops with the” best equipment money can provide.”

I-Team 10 investigation: Screwed up Army helmets

Posted at: 11/24/2010 4:53 PM | Updated at: 11/24/2010 7:17 PM

By: Brett Davidsen | WHEC.com

Did a local company put U.S. soldiers at risk?

A.J. Hughes Screw Products was sub-contracted to make parts for Army and Air Force helmets but I-Team 10 has learned that one of the executives from the company is now the target of a federal criminal investigation.

In a war zone, specially designed helmets can be the difference between life and death. But a local company that provided parts for the Army’s advanced combat helmets is under investigation for using lesser quality parts.

Retired Army General John Batiste was commander of the First Infantry Division in Iraq. “Our troops in harms way deserve the very best…the best equipment that money can buy that we can provide them to protect their lives.”

A Pennsylvania company called Gentex Corporation was contracted by the U.S. Army to make the helmets. Gentex sub-contracted with A.J. Hughes Screw Products of Rochester to manufacture the screws that attach the chin straps and other parts.

Now, A.J. Hughes is facing allegations it cut corners by using screws that did not meet government requirements.

U.S. Army Project Manager of Soldier Protection Colonel William Cole said, “The fact of the matter is we put out a very specific specifications on what the material has to be and they didn’t follow it.”

As a result, last year the Army recalled about 37,000 of the helmets that were issued to soldiers and airmen. The Army found that in extreme environmental conditions, the non-conforming screws corroded pre-maturely.

While the risk may have been minimal, the Army says the helmets were not as safe as they should have been. Col. Cole said, “Instead of protecting the soldiers the way it should, there’s a potential you could have a ballistic failure where either there would be a penetration, or more likely, a part of the bolt that would break off and impact the soldier’s skull.”

A.J. Hughes is no longer in business. But I-Team 10 has discovered the federal government is preparing criminal charges against the former vice-president of the company, Gregory Tremaine of Spencerport.

Felony information was filed in U.S. district court last week. It accuses Tremaine of making false claims causing the U.S. government to be over-billed by $130,000. The court documents say Tremaine signed certificates of compliance attesting to the fact that the screws met Army specifications.

I-Team 10 went to Tremaine’s home twice to speak with him about the allegations, but no one was there. And his attorney declined to comment.

Gentex has already taken civil action, accusing the screw maker of malicious conduct. It won a default judgement of more than $672,000 when no one from A.J. Hughes responded to the lawsuit.

General Batiste said, “Rochester is a lot of great things and one of them should be the center of ethics and integrity. And this is an example, maybe, where we don’t measure up.”

I-Team 10 also contacted an organization called Soldiers for the Truth whose stated objective is to get the best equipment for the troops the government can provide.

A spokesperson for the group echoed General Batiste’s sentiment but added that unfortunately, this is not the first case of defense contractors not living up to their promises.

As for how the sub-standard screw discovered, the problem was actually discovered by the helmet company, Gentex, when they noticed the screw appeared different. They notified the Army and ultimately provided replacement helmets for the troops at no cost.

The Army says no one was ever injured as a result of the faulty screw.


Medics Improvise to save lives on killing fields of Afghanistan

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In a compelling story published today by the Washington Post, “Military medics combine ultramodern and time-honored methods to save lives on the battlefield” of Afghanistan.

Key Highlights:

  • At 6:09 p.m., Dustoff 57 has just left this base deep in Taliban-infiltrated Kandahar province, headed for a POI, or point of injury. Somewhere ahead of the aircraft is a soldier who minutes earlier stepped on an improvised explosive device, the signature weapon of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the helicopter crew knows is that he’s “category A” – critical.  The trip out takes nine minutes.  Fifteen minutes have now passed since the soldier was wounded. Speed, simplicity and priority have always been the hallmarks of emergency medicine. The new battlefield care that flight medics and others on the ground practice takes those attributes to the extreme.
  • Four people run to the helicopter with the stretcher holding the wounded soldier. He lies on his back partially wrapped in a foil blanket. His chest is bare. In the middle of it is an “intraosseous device,” a large-bore needle that has been punched into his breastbone by the medic on the ground. It’s used to infuse fluids and drugs directly into the circulatory system when a vein can’t be found. It’s a no-nonsense technology, used occasionally in World War II, that fell out of favor when cheap and durable plastic tubing made IV catheters ubiquitous in the postwar years. Until they were revived for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, intraosseus devices were used almost exclusively in infants whose veins were too small to find. On each leg the soldier has a tourniquet, ratcheted down and locked to stop all bleeding below it. These ancient devices went out of military use more than half a century ago because of concern that they caused tissue damage. Now every soldier carries a tourniquet and is instructed to put one on any severely bleeding limb and not think of taking it off.
  • Tourniquets have saved at least 1,000 lives, and possibly as many as 2,000, in the past eight years. This soldier is almost certainly one of them. They’re a big part of why only about 10 percent of casualties in these wars have died, compared with 16 percent in Vietnam.  On the soldier’s left leg, the tourniquet is above the knee. The tourniquet on his right leg is lower, below the knee; how badly his foot is injured is hard to tell from the dressings. His left hand is splinted and bandaged, too. Whether he will need an amputation is uncertain. The hospital where he’s headed treated 16 patients in September who needed at least one limb amputated. Half were U.S. soldiers, and the monthly number has been climbing since March.
  • After three minutes on the ground, the helicopter takes off.  Eleven minutes after lifting off from the POI, the helicopter lands at the so-called Role 3, or fully equipped, hospital at Kandahar Airfield, about 30 miles to the east of the also well-fortified Forward Operating Base Wilson. There, surgeons will take care of the injuries before transferring the patient, probably within two days, to the huge military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and there, after a week or so, to the United States. It’s been 28 minutes since the helicopter left Forward Operating Base Wilson.

SFTT Analysis:

  • Before every Grunt leaves the wire, they want to know if air or artillery support is readily available and more importantly, if required, will an aerial medevac be responsive – in Joe speak “Time on Target for Air and Arty and a quick Nine-line medevac request . . . how quick will the angels of mercy get here?”.   Quick means quick, the sooner the better obviously, since every minute counts.  Secretary Gates figured this out when he began his battlefield circulation tours in Afghanistan when he became Secretary of Defense and quickly realized that the “Golden Hour”, that period in time that is the standard from time of request for a medevac to arrival at the point of injury and back to medical care on a base, was not being met in Afghanistan due to lack of medevac resources and the distant out-posts that troopers were operating from.  Secretary Gates made it a personal mission to close the gap and ensure that troopers were supported by the “Golden Hour” standard and personally kept the pressure on logistics planners to increase medevac resources and establish medical unit facilities in support of all forward deployed personnel.   The only question SFTT raises regarding this issue is why did it take the Secretary of Defense to correct this situation?  
  • The Washinton Post online article provides a remarkable photo gallery,  – of note is:
    • the destructive nature of an IED that targeted a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP).  The simplicity of a pressure plate device loaded with hundreds of pounds of fertilizer (and other components) can defeat US “resistant” vehicles.  More telling is that a device of this size takes time and local support to emplace;
    • grunts not wearing all of their protective gear – no throat, deltoid, or groin protectors – obviously a commanders call, but is the decision not to wear the complete armor suite because of weight and comfort?;
    • the chinstrap for the Advanced Combat Helmet is a flimsy strap of material – no chin pads are provided and the harness is simply used to hold the “brain bucket” in place.  At least the trooper is being medevaced for treatment of a possible TBI.