Jan 2010: We’re still requesting the data from tests on helmet pads conducted by three civilian labs. PEO Soldier has blocked us, even in the face of a Freedom of Information Act request, by having all useful data redacted; 185 pages of blacked-out info doesn’t help us to keep searching for best all-around helmet pads America can provide. Seems the Army lawyers claim if the enemy knew that helmet/helmetpad systems aren’t 100% effective in preventing head injury, they’d hit more of our troops in the head with bricks or something. Like no one knows that already. For heaven’s sake, let’s just get the troops the best helmet system protection that is also wearable for their long and danger-filled combat duties. Enough petty guarding of past decisions. 12/10/2009: Conversations with Marine Corps Systems Command: this email was sent following talks with LCol AJ Pasagian:
Thanks for the phone call, AJ. I certainly appreciate the dedication you give to properly equipping our Marines for their deadly roles in combat. It’s gotta be tough to learn from massive injuries as well as fatalities. You’re a special person and I appreciate your updating me. Too bad the four vendors couldn’t come up with an acceptable plastic helmet capable of stopping the 7.62, etc. Now that we know the urgency of equipping Marines on the way to Afghanistan with the ECH is on hold pending rework, perhaps a second (or more) look at the pad system is in order. You were wise to separate the helmet from the retention/suspension system via the SMART-T program, planning to integrate the two for final testing.
As we discussed, Team Wendy keeps stating their pads work best across ‘all temperatures’. This claim is only valid if one accepts the drop test protocol calling for the head form, helmet and pads to be ‘soaked’ in either a cold or hot environment and rapidly drop-tested before any temperature change can happen. That scenario never happens in real life as we’ve pointed out and now verified by the Army test reported by Steve Eckels, Ph.D. The helmet pads in such ‘soaked’ helmet complexes migrate rather swiftly towards the skin temperature instead of remaining at the frozen or baked temperature of an inanimate head form. The test protocols should be revised to take into consideration the human head’s capability as a heat sink to correct any mis-interpretation of such testing.
On a similar note, a bio-similar head form with chin and nape strap securing capability should be used rather than one that does not take into account the effect of the four-point restraint system. The DOT head form does not, and allows slippage of the helmet complex during testing, sometimes resulting in significantly outlying test results.
As to the proposal for pads or lining hybrids with fluid-filled pockets or valve-equipped chambers, I’m concerned that proper emphasis be placed on both transmission of the blast wave in a fluid environment and the possible detrimental effect of the fluid or gel matrix if the helmet’s integrity is breached and underlying tissue is exposed to the fluid/gel substance. Hard to remove liquids or gels from brain tissue. Blast wave effect is magnified in water, so in-depth studies need to be done on that level as well as impact attenuation prior to sticking the fluid/gal complex in helmets.
The transmission of impact forces or the scoop effect of the helmet complex and blast wave via the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is being explored by various athletic organizations. Right now, the energy-dampening ‘bite blocks’ can only be fitted by dentists. One would hope a more simple ‘boil and bite’ system could be forthcoming that would make the process simpler.
We are in the process of putting together all of the comments from troops in or headed into combat concerning their experience with and problems in mission performance related to headaches and distraction caused by too-firm helmet pads. When finished, I’ll make sure you get a copy. As we all know, Marines do more with less, grin and bear it while doing the superhuman, bitch to each other and carry on. Unsolicited comments to an outside agency are unique in their significance.
S/ Doc Bob