Wednesday, November 15, 1995

Another Paratrooper is dead after a "routine" parachute jump, possibly after his helmet became unsecured. Last year, it was a sub-120 pound jumper getting towed: she died when her PASGT Kevlar(c) helmet too, fell of as she banged against the plane. Light jumpers should be at the end of the stick so they can be discovered/pulled in by the jumpmaster, without having to wait for the stick to clear the aircraft.

To prevent further head injuries, what we need now is a Fastex(c)-quick-release buckle chinstrap for the PASGT Kevlar(c) helmet, which will keep the helmet securely on in an effort to save your life from impact. The current metal "pull-the-dot" snap (See item 4 in drawing below) corrodes, bends and is notoriously unreliable. It will pop open during the parachute opening shock, regardless how tight you cinch down the chinstrap. The majority of the helmet's weight rests at two points across the temples, creating headaches and "wobbling" when the Soldier runs or low-crawls (IMT), he has to constantly prop up the helmet so it doesn't block his eyes to see where he is going and to fire his weapon.

Helmet weight stressed at the temples

The Fastex(c) chinstrap has been on my helmet for more than a year. The strap comes in small, medium and large. It was jump tested at LeapFest '95 in August and has been checked out by the 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division. Often, the "All Americans" are stuck with what the rest of the Army has to make do with, and Paratroopers are getting hurt and sometimes dying because of bureaucratic short-sightedness. I haven't written about it because I was going to let Natick Labs work through their certification process, but now another Paratrooper is dead. And the helmet program manager at Fort Benning, Georgia thinks since HE had to make do with the current helmet, everyone else should be made to suffer, too. He thinks everything is fine, when all he has to do is look out his Building 4 window and see Airborne School students exiting 34 foot towers and see their helmets flying off. This is a serous case of "Old Timer's Attitude" (OTA). Its time we put an end to this narrow-minded crap and put a decent chinstrap on our helmets. Its too bad General James M. Gavin wasn't around anymore to set things straight.

Before one more Paratrooper dies needlessly, slandering the viability of the Airborne operation, we need these chinstraps on all 82nd Airborne Division Paratrooper helmets on an emergency interim basis without waiting for the bureaucratic process to kick in. Not only will the Fastex(c) quick-release buckle save lives, it will be dramatically more comfortable and keep helmets from sagging over eyes when low crawling.

The Swedish Army has a new helmet with a decent 3-point suspension system seen here in Bosnia without camouflage cover:

Note how the helmet's weight is spread evenly across the head

Ask the Australian SAS & Airborne, which uses the same PASGT Kevlar(c) helmets we do, but with the better 3-point Fastex(c) chinstrap. If we cannot do this, then local riggers could sew a strip of material with a Fastex(c) buckle on top of the metal snap to make it doubly secure. It has been several years since the then 82nd Airborne Division commander lost his helmet on a jump and subsequently ordered a fix. EVERYTHING we can do to get the Paratrooper off the drop zone safely and faster, we must do, NOW.

The courageous Paratroopers of our Airborne have waited long enough.

The manufacturer's 3 point chinstrap:

Gentex Corporation
POB 315
Carbondale, PA 18407
(717) 282-8226
FAX: -8555

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