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1/25/2018 7:38:29 AM
Posted: 1/17/2002 10:14:56 PM EST
Los Angeles Times: Expo Offers Latest in Combat Wear [url]http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-000004399jan17.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia[/url] Expo Offers Latest in Combat Wear Marines: High-tech helmets, boots and other items bring firms and customers together. By TONY PERRY TIMES STAFF WRITER January 17 2002 CAMP PENDLETON -- Laser-guided rockets and 21st century satellite phones are important, but Marines still come equipped with two feet and a skull--and the comfort of each remains of great importance to the owner. And so, not surprisingly, the most popular booths at Wednesday's ninth annual Marine West Military Exposition here involved new protective gear for the extremities of combat Marines. Amid the wares of military-industrial giants such as General Dynamics, Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon, there were also three companies with footwear that they insist will prevent blisters, jungle rot and split toenails. There was also a company from Scappoose, Ore., that has devised a foam-padded liner and improved chin strap to keep military helmets from shifting and flopping and generally driving the wearer crazy. If you have worn a military helmet, you wouldn't have to ask why the product, called the Ballistic Liner Suspension System, was instantly popular with the troops in attendance. "It's actually comfortable," an amazed Cpl. Michael Franz said as he tried on a helmet. "It doesn't jiggle around," said Cpl. Jeremy Peniston. True, as Marine musicians in the band at Twentynine Palms--Franz plays the trombone, Peniston the trumpet--the two corporals do not have occasion to wear their helmets all that often. But like all Marines, Franz and Peniston are trained riflemen and thus have stories to tell about helmets that slip over eyes, loll from side to side, and get hotter than Palm Springs in August. "Everybody hates their helmets," said Russ Monk, a production design coordinator from Oregon Aero Inc., developer of the helmet liner. The military has done a lot to improve the helmet since the days when it was basically a pot turned upside down. Some troops, though, insist that the webbing and padding have not kept pace. -- continued --
Link Posted: 1/17/2002 10:15:44 PM EST
"You have a modern, Kevlar helmet with World War II era webbing," said Maj. Gene Augustine, an infantry officer. "Everybody would like something better." The Marine Corps is buying a sturdy, flame-resistant, buoyant, lightweight (2.5 pounds to 3.7 pounds, depending on size) helmet with a 10-year guarantee. Each helmet, made by a Pennsylvania company, will have a liner made by Oregon Aero, which also makes a variety of military products, including crash helmets worn by aviators. But it takes awhile for new equipment to filter throughout the fighting force. So, until all the troops get the new helmet and liner, Oregon Aero is trying to interest the military in a liner retrofit kit. If the Department of Defense doesn't bite, Plan B would be to market the kit directly to the troops, retailing at about $100. Which is what brought Monk and other Oregon Aero salesmen to the exposition, an annual gathering of defense industry equipment and technology suppliers. The two-day confab, sponsored by the Marine Corps League, an alumni association for former Marines, brings together suppliers and their customers. "The exhibitors get a chance to talk face to face with the Marines who will be using their products," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Olmstead, the exposition coordinator. "It's not generals that count in these things; it's regular Marines." Most of the 70-plus companies at the exposition are hawking products that only the Defense Department could afford or want. It is highly doubtful that many troops could buy their own precision targeting system for a lightweight 155-mm howitzer. Other products--boots, gun belts, cold-weather gear, individual water bags ("Hydrate or Die"), weapon-cleaning solvents--are probably destined for retail stores for Marines and Marine wannabes. There are several selling points to the helmet liner retrofit kit. One is that the liner dissipates heat and carries away sweat. There is also the promise of enhanced protection. Tests have shown that the padded foam liner absorbs much of the shock of a direct hit from a rock, bullet or other projectile better than its predecessor. "You'll get your bell rung, but you'll survive," said Monk. "We had a guy do a lawn dart and survive." Doing a lawn dart is a military term for taking a headfirst fall from a significant height and ending up with your head buried in dirt. You get the picture. If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights
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