http://www4.army.mil/news/article.php?story=7433 Army testing new types of eye protection By Melissa House June 7, 2005 FORT BENNING, Ga. (Army News Service, June 7, 2005) About 400 Infantry trainees and cadre are testing several different types of combat eye protection that might eventually be issued to all Soldiers. Col. Chuck Adams, the senior optometry consultant for the Armys Office of the Surgeon General, said the goal is to achieve a culture change from vision correction for some Soldiers, to eye protection for all. Were talking about putting eyewear on half a million Soldiers, Adams said. And its not so much about which product we choose, but the training. Combat eye protection is embraced for deployed Soldiers. We need to embrace it for all Soldiers. Eye injuries represent almost 16 percent of all injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since March 2003, according to statistics from the Office of the Surgeon General. As part of the Military Combat Eye Protection Program, the OTSG and the team from PEO-Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va., are hoping the Soldiers in B Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, and D Co.,1st Bn., 329th Inf. Regt., will have some good feedback on three sets of spectacles. Eye injuries hit the radar post-1972 and the Arab-Israeli Wars, said Lt. Col. Emery Fehl, chief of optometry at Martin Army Community Hospital and the posts MCEPP liaison. In subsequent years, the Army researched and developed spectacles and goggles designed to combat a laser threat by blocking certain wavelengths. That, he said, is where the Armys current offerings, with their multiple lenses, came in. But the eyewear adopted in 1994 and issued in 1998 didnt pass muster with Soldiers. Sarah Morgan-Clyborne, who has been working the eyewear issues with PEO-Soldier for about 12 years said the second generation items, intended to provide spectacles and goggles that would share lenses, provide ballistic protection and support prescription lenses, was unsuccessful. We did not design a frame that was acceptable to Soldiers, Morgan-Clyborne said. Protection was important, but not a motivating factor. The missing factor? It was a great product, Adams said, but it doesnt look like an Oakley and doesnt look cool. So the Army entered the formal contracting process with several commercial vendors, Morgan-Clyborne said, and also receives unsolicited proposals. We evaluate (the eyewear) for industry safety standards and ballistic fragmentation protection, then rank the products and place them on an authorized protective eyewear list, she said. Individual commanders can select eyewear for their unit from that list. Right now, the ballistic protection piece is more important than the laser threat, Fehl said. Of the 345 eye injuries evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan after March 2003, three Soldiers are totally blind and 44 have total loss of vision in one eye. But eye injuries arent limited to combat operations. Adams said one of his first patients as a young doctor in Germany was a sergeant with a prosthetic eye because of an accident on a range. We want to protect Soldiers vision, Adams said, and one of the ways to do that is by issuing CEP to every Soldier. Fort Benning is the only installation conducting the CEP test, and Fehl said the end number of around 400 makes this test more valid. This is the right place to do this testing, Fehl said. On April 8 and 9, the two companies received a mass issue of the first set of CEP, the UVEX XC. Soldiers wore them during field training for two weeks, then critiqued them. In May, Soldiers from B Co., 1st Bn., 50th Inf. Regt. put the second set ESS ICE 2 spectacles through the paces on the range. The Soldiers have yet to see the Revision Sawfly, the third set theyll test. Based on the data, the company will wear the preferred CEP during their seven-day capstone field exercise. Pvt. Duncan Kiruthi, a B Co. Soldier, doesnt normally wear eye protection. In the first day on the range, Kiruthi had reservations. Im not feeling confident, he said. But Kiruthi thought since it was his first time firing a weapon it would get better and didnt expect the eyewear to be a factor. One of the companys drill sergeants, Staff Sgt. Jefferson Negus, said the Soldiers, and some of the cadre, have been putting the CEP on every time they don their Kevlar and equipment. The glasses are getting a full set of abuse, Negus said. Weve had breakage, but we havent seen a pattern. They seem to be fitting the durability standard. He said he felt much more protected and the two glasses hes tried are light enough not to bother him. Negus, a combat veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Mosul, said his unit had eye protection, but it was a personal choice whether or not to wear it. Thats what were trying to change, Adams said. We want to instill the feeling that somethings missing when they walk outside (without eyewear). Soldiers are willing to walk around garrison with a little bit of blur, but out in the desert, they want the best possible vision. They must train as they fight. Training as they fight means Soldiers would be issued CEP, frame of choice and protective mask inserts for those Soldiers needing corrective lenses, and CEP for those without a need. The Army currently only issues S-9 glasses to initial entry Soldiers who need vision correction. Issuing the CEP to all Soldiers is a move Negus thinks is long overdue. I dont think the Soldiers see the value in them yet, Negus said. But another of B Co.s Soldiers likes the idea and said the glasses are working well for him. They have saved me a couple of times already from getting an eye injury, said Pvt. Joseph DeLair, especially during land nav walking through the woods and bushes. While the CEP will cost between and average of $16 to $40 per Soldier, Adams said it will be partially offset by no longer issuing the S-9 glasses Soldiers dont like. Its tough to talk numbers, Adams said. But the important point is if you lose one eye, the Army pays a Soldier upwards of $1 million for disability. (Editors note: Melissa House writes for the Bayonet newspaper at Fort Benning.) --------------------------------------------------------------- I'm not all up to date with the active Army, but we were (well, at least the infantry was) issued with Gargoyle eye armors back in late 1980s early 1990s, so what's with this new eye armor deal?