2009 Army Meetings

Non-answer from PEO Soldier when I forwarded email complaints (identifying data redacted) from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and asked ‘what would you tell this trooper if they emailed you directly:

“Bob, The Army’s position is that we will always test and challenge ourselves to ensure we provide the best products available to our Soldiers. Take care, John”

I don’t think this answer will do a single thing to help the trooper obtain better equipment! If it’s broke, FIX IT.

Email exchange 10 February, 2009 with PEO Soldier:

From: McGuiness, John J COL MIL USA USAASC [mailto:john.mcguiness@us.army.mil] Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 8:14 PM
To: Bob Meaders MD; Sumner, Vicki CTR USA USAASC; Hauck, Barry T Mr CIV USA USAASC
Subject: RE: Telecon with Congressman Wu’s office

Bob, Isn’t this a computational model?  They have not done any pad testing.  For additional info, we’ll check with DOTE, they sent up a pad

report to Congress.  I will ask DOTE if it is releasable. John

10 February, 2009:

Correct, John. I’ll modify our website to be sure it is clear on that issue. Appreciate your help in obtaining the complete data from the 3-lab civilian testing.

Today, 10 January, 2009, I spoke with Congressman Wu’s staff (Chair of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee) to discuss this and other matters concerning helmet protection. Expressed concern about troops’ telling us their pads are so uncomfortable they detract from mission effectiveness and performance. No solution offered by the Congressman’s staff.

Is it just me, or are things crazy when politicians can raise MILLIONS of dollars almost overnight while our troops have to make do with inferior products? Read the emails we get and see if you can find a few bucks to send our way…99.95% goes for helmet pad upgrades.

New ACH Army helmet to be fielded with higher protection specifications:http://www.fbodaily.com/archive/2007/11-November/15-Nov-2007/FBO-01451187.htm

Re: AP report http://www.star-telegram.com. The Marine Commandant was given a supposedly wonderful new body armor set to wear on visiting troops. Within a short time, he shucked it off and said it was too heavy, too cumbersome, and will NOT be used for his Marines.

Bravo Zulu  to the Marine Corps Commandant, a highly decorated combat veteran. Instead of blindly following the assurances of those in charge of testing, purchasing and supplying the troops with body armor, he went into the combat zones and tried the gear himself, listened to the troops’ complaints and ordered instant changes regardless of cost in order to better protect his Marines and increase their combat effectiveness.

The military’s procurement chiefs depend on ‘Limited User Evaluations’ (LUE’s) that test gear in a short-term play-like scenario stateside. If no one complains during these limited evaluations, the bureaucrats stamp the gear ‘Approved’ and send it off for use in combat without further question. When troops go into combat for months at a time, problems with their combat/protective gear surface in what are best called Combat User Evaluations that are overlooked, don’t come to light, or are ignored in the short-term artificial LUE trials.

Operation Helmet has tried to get the military to give note to Combat User Evaluations (CUE’s)  regarding troops’ blast/impact protecting helmet pads as reflected in the emails we get almost daily from warriors asking for the top-of-the-line pads Operation Helmet provides (and the Army used to provide, but went for cheaper). So far, no response other than to say there isn’t a problem. Better body armor means more lives saved. Better head armor means better quality of those lives.

To better understand the difference between LUE’s and CUE’s, look at operationhelmet.org. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen email us almost daily asking for helmet protective pad replacement sets for their GI pads that have proven dangerous to use in their prolonged combat environments (CUE’s),  but were approved for use by the short-term LUE’s. The GI pads are much too hard, resulting in headaches that detract from mission performance and safety when warriors have to remove their helmets for relief or loosen them to be able to concentrate on their complicated missions and patrols. Helmets only work when worn properly; no one can predict IED’s or ambush.

The troops’ Combat User Evaluations’ reflect combat reality, not the ‘scientific’ but meaningless approach taken by Marine Corps Systems Command and PEO Soldier, both of which assure us they’ve not had ONE complaint from warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan or in post-deployment debriefings about their helmet pad problems. To this we say Hotel Sierra…and I’ll leave it to you to decipher the meaning.

S/Robert H. Meaders, MD, CAPT, Medical Corps, USN-Ret

Meeting with PEO Soldier at House Armed Services Committee Hearing Room, Washington, DC 9 December, with HASC Staffer Jesse Tolleson attending as well:

Summary: Army will continue to use Team Wendy or MSA pads for the ACH, as PEO Soldier claims they’ve not had ONE complaint from a Soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan or during post-deployment debriefing. We find that hard to believe when we get emails by the handful from Soldiers seeking to upgrade their helmets with pads that allow them to wear the helmet continuously during long and danger-filled duty hours.

Something is amiss, either in what the Army asks troops or in the willingness of combat troops to stick their necks out via the chain-of-command and risk either censure or ridicule being labeled ‘soft’ for asking that they get more wearable helmet pads. Also, troops tend to fix their own problems by any means at hand when they know that going up the chain of command will do NOTHING to help.

When helmets contain pads that are so hard they cause headaches, troops will remove them for momentary relief…and no one can predict at what moment an IED will go off or some other form of ambush will lead to death or disability from brain injury, the ‘signature’ injury of the war. We are disappointed, but will continue our efforts to change hearts and  minds.

1/9/09 New impact/blast wave testing is being done in three independent civilian labs as we speak and we’ve been promised results (don’t hold your breath). However, the same faulty test parameters that insisted on using frozen or baked helmet systems on frozen/baked head forms were mandated for these tests, so that part of the data should be disregarded. It’s a simple thing to test the helmet system on a biosimilar head form or volunteers to see what happens to pad temperatures at those extremes of temperature when exposed to the ‘heat sink’ of the human head’s heat regulation.UPDATE: 8/1/09 FOLLOWING A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST, WE RECEIVED 185 PAGES OF BLACKED-OUT TEST DATA, ALL INFORMATION ‘REDACTED’ FOR REASONS KNOWN ONLY TO PEO-SOLDIER.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome each time. PEO Soldier should insist that meaningful temperature tests be made the norm rather than the baked/frozen helmet system/headform standards used in past and present tests.

If we can help save just ONE Soldier’s life and future, the efforts of all of us are repaid endlessly.  On the other hand, if ONE Soldier dies or is disabled due to a fixable flaw in their head armor, SHAME ON THE ARMY and whoever is resisting the changes asked for by our troops.

In the meantime, please help us keep shaking the money tree. Another ‘surge’ of troops is headed for the dangerous killing fields of Afghanistan even as Iraq winds down.

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Sent July 25, 2008:

Dear Col McGuiness, I’ve read your bio with interest and deep respect for what you’ve done to improve the safety, survivability and comfort of your Soldiers during your highly decorated military career.

As you may know, we’ve supplied many Soldiers with helmet pads manufactured by Oregon Aero (OA), once in universal use by the Army in the ACH/MICH, now supplanted by the GI pads manufactured by Team Wendy.

The reason we prefer the OA pads is simple. Under realistic ambient conditions, they provide the same or slightly better protection than the GI pads and are an order of magnitude more comfortable, according to reports from troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As you can see on our website, we’re bombarded with requests from Soldiers, Marines, and other Service members for OA pads to replace the GI pads they say interfere with mission performance due to headaches caused by the too-firm pads. Also, the pads disintegrate quickly in the field and, in spite of being issued duplicate pads, they run out.

We agree with troops that helmets don’t do the job they’re supposed to unless the Soldier wears it, hopefully without distraction.

Our own admittedly amateur pad flammability tests also show the GI pads to flame easily and burn to exhaustion of material while the OA pads self-extinguish. This may in part explain why the majority of severe burns at BAMC show only a patch of skin on the crown of the head escaping burn injury when one would expect burn protection from the padded helmet’s contact with the head during a conflagration. The Kevlar shell has to pass a rigorous flame test, and one would expect the interior pads to be likewise stringently tested to at least the standards set by Snell Memorial Foundation (SMF) for race car drivers’ helmets (NASCAR).

We met with Marine Corps Systems Command personnel on the same issue with staff of the House Armed Services Committee in attendance. HASC staff have encouraged us to ask for a similar meeting with you. I’ve tried to send emails to addresses for you and BGen Brown supplied by HASC, but they return with ‘fatal errors’ in the address.

We would appreciate hearing from you on the possibility of a meeting to discuss the issues brought to us by the troops. And, by the way, we have no relationship with OA or any manufacturer/vendor other than to purchase their goods and send to requesting troops with the help of thousands of Americans wanting to help.

Sincerely, Doc Bob

Reply 2 August, 2008:

Dr Meaders,
I appreciate those kind words and your service to our Soldiers by staying on the forefront of this issue. I would be happy to meet you and whoever else you would like to bring along. We can never allow ourselves to think or accept we have the best solution and be done with it. We are constantly seeking improvements to everything the Soldier wears or carries. I have seen first hand in Theater and on a subsequent visit to BAMC how devastating burns can be. Please let me know when it would be convenient to meet. You can call Vicki at (703) 704-3xxxx to arrange a meeting. Thanks, John (Col McGuiness).

Update: We were scheduled to meet August 22, but Doc Bob wound up in hospital (again) with bowel obstruction from scar tissue in abdomen. Will re-schedule when up and about again. Seems as I get older, if it doesn’t leak, squeak or break, it just quits working!

Update # 2: Scheduled now for 26 Sept at Ft Belvoir. House Armed Services Committee staff will participate either in person or by video teleconference.

Update # 3: Re-scheduled for 9 December; We’re meeting in the Sam Rayburn House Office Building, Rm 2118, the site of my previous testimony to the Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. Should be interesting.

Army has proudly announced they’re launching a website asking troops for feedback on issued gear. Guess what? We can provide them hard info about helmet/helmetpads for free from our web site. We get emails almost daily from troops telling us the current pads are dangerously uncomfortable and detract from mission performance. LISTEN TO THE TROOPS, ARMY! READ THEIR SPONTANEOUS EMAILS TO US.

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