10/25/06 FLASH: The Air Force purchased and ‘is sending’ over ten-thousand padded suspension systems in the US CENTAF AOR, at the three Expeditionary Theater Distribution Centers (ETDC), with an additional 122K to be received within a couple of months. The ETDC issues padded suspension systems to Airmen transiting through, and will ship to those who are forward in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations, upgrading their issued PASGT Helmet. To further afford Airmen with protection, the Air Force has purchased 25K advanced combat helmets (ACH) for troops forward in the AOR.
10/10/06 The publicity concerning the availability of the helmet upgrades has charged far ahead of the ability of the supply system to distribute them, as evidenced by this morning’s emails asking for several HUNDRED helmet upgrades by troops either deploying within the next two weeks and told they would need to get their upgrades ‘later’ or already in-country and doing without…so folks holding fund raising events should know their efforts are still needed at least through Veteran’s Day, 11/11/06 and appreciated during this transition period. We will continue to help provide the helmet upgrade kits to units not yet reached by the supply system but in harm’s way. We also have many requests for the Air Force helmet upgrades, as their supply system has not spooled up to provide the added protection just yet.
MarCorSysCom response to our question as to when Marines can expect to put the new upgrades in their helmets: “Dr. Meaders, I wish I could be more definitive in my answer but here goes. MCSC is the acquisition arm of the Marines. We did an initial purchase of 39,000 and have purchased an additional 100,000 of which 50,000 have been delivered to I and II MEF in theater in September. The MEFs receive them through their Supply Issue Points in theater and then assign quotas and requirements for the battalions. As you can imagine, by the time the pads get to the company and platoon level some time has passed. This doesn’t take long, but it depends on how quickly the requisition process is working in theater. The pads are now available in the Marine supply system for all Marines. At this level, we cannot answer just where in the supply system all the pads are located. This would be a question for higher headquarters and they would have to query the system to get this answer.
Bottom line is that it could be now or weeks from now that the individual Marines who need them will get the pads. I’m sure in your days in the Navy you remember how the supply system works. I hope this helps.“
10/8/06 /Email from a Battalion Commander: Doc Bob, The moment we got the first 75 pads from Operation Helmet, we distributed and installed them. We were at Ft. AP Hill, VA at the time and conducting training. I can personally verify the chasm of comfort that exists between the pad vs. suspension system and I have not encountered a single Marine that would change back. Case in point, we had a 330 mile convoy from xxxxx (9 1/2 hours) and I was wearing the suspension system. I was lifting the helmet every 10-15 minutes to get the blood flow started to my cranium — miserable. On the convoy back — same distance, but 12 hours — I never once took the helmet off. You can use all the studies about susp vs pad brain injury, I just want them to keep the helmet on….the pads win. I believe you sent about 125 sets. They were out of the box and in helmets before the UPS truck left the parking lot. We have two significant field ops under our belt in…the summer heat — the pads are smelling ripe, but they wash out quite nice. Not sure you’d want these systems back.
I mentioned the importance of the pads to the Regimental Commander — he had a set from his previous job in Congress — and also to the Division CG. Word got to the ME as well and our supply system cork finally popped. We spent last week swapping all the remaining suspension helmets for pad system helmets. It is a much more firm pad, but is an enormous improvement over the susp system. Bottom line – Our Bn is finally getting what we need. The pads you sent were put to immediate use and would not be good for reissue…..if I could even pry them away from the Marines. I can’t thank your donors enough. Their benevolence is certainly saving lives. Sincerely, Jim
10/7/06; We are hearing from units in the field they’ve not seen hide nor hair of the new upgrades, so we recommend each ‘specified’ donor ask their trooper/unit if they still need the upgrade we send, and if so to act swiftly. Time is always critical and we want all Marines as well protected as possible every second they’re in danger.
We recommend donors carefully consider any further donations until the supply system can ‘catch up’. The MarAdmin says units and individuals must exchange their ‘old’ helmet upgrades for the ‘new’ ones issued by the Marines AS SOON AS THE OPERATIONAL SITUATION PERMITS.This gives operational commanders a good bit of leeway in telling their Marines to remove the Oregon Aero kits our donors have sent and replace with the Team Wendy kits the Marines bought. We hear from some unit commanders who just leave well enough alone for those already equipped and use their supply of the Marine-issued kits to upgrade all others in need.
Navy personnel are provided upgrades containing shock-absorbing pads similar to those we have been providing the Marines and Air Force troops ‘outside the wire’. Way to GO Navy! Wonder why Army shifted to the harder and less ‘conforming’ helmet pads? Save a few bucks? Or did somebody GET a few bucks?
And from the front:
Availability of Marine-issue helmet upgrades:8/28/06 “We can’t track down an ESD on our order, and the system order with the NSN that was provided bombed out. So we have all these new Marines and have issued out all of the inserts you sent us. Our whole new battalion came without the inserts; if possible to send more, please do.”
Sir, thank you for kits that you are sending out. As you probably already know the Maradmin did hit the streets but it will take the Corps at least 6 months to get on board with the program. And then another 6 months for the infantry battallion to accept the new gear as worthy. Thank you for your continued support of the military and keeping the active duty Marines, Sailors and Soldiers in your everyday thoughts and prayers. I hope that the kits you supply these young Marines only provide comfort and are not necessary to save their lives. But I know that you can never foretell what is in our futures. I will be a little more comfortable sending out my Marines with the kits installed and know the other Officers that requested the other kits will be a little more at ease knowing their Marines have the best protection available. (I) ask that you keep ( my )Marines in your thoughts and prayers along with all the other deployed Marines, Soldiers, Seaman and Airman.
Semper Fi and God Bless your work. Capt XXXXX. (Necessary because of possible recriminations for his telling it like it is)
We ask troops, stateside or deployed, to see if their Supply is handing out the Marine-issue kits. Don’t want to send upgrades that are just going to get ditched before they’re even used, but on the other hand, don’t want troops having to go into combat without the best protection available. We’re not abandoning you guys, just seeing if there’s a quicker and more thorough way to get all hands protected through the system that’s just been announced.Doc Bob…and please stay in touch.”
“Thank you for sending the helmet pads to PFC XXXX. Unfortunately, he will not be able to accept anymore because his Commander ordered him not to hand out any protective pads to any Marines. This has become a political situation at Camp Pendleton for the XX Marines. I will send the helmet pads to Marines if I get an address to send to, or I will return them back to you. My son has been interrogated over this matter; his life has become unbearable on base, all started over helmet pads. Although, I would like to say thank you for all your efforts in providing the troops-helmet safety equipment, and alerting the public on the safety issue concerning the helmet’s, please keep up the good work. ”
10/4/06 After three years, over 31,000 helmet upgrades sent and a Congressional hearing:
A MarAdmin has just gone out ordering that all Marines MUST utilize pad suspension systems supplied by Marine Corps Supply. The actual implementation has begun, and we hope it will speed up in the weeks ahead. Until we hear that the added appropriate protection is ON THE HEADS of the front-line combat troops, we’ll keep raising funds and shipping the upgrades as quickly as possible.
Once the new Marine-issue pad suspension system (ie. ‘helmet upgrades’) are given a trooper, they are supposed to turn in either their old nylon sling suspension or ANY NON-MARINE ISSUE pad suspension system they have as operational conditions allow. This wording gives commanders leeway in implementing the change, allowing troops to continue using the ones you help us send.
This means that some Marines will wind up wearing the upgrades provided by Operation Helmet’s donors for only a short time before they are replaced with the Marine-issued ones.That makes NO difference to us and our donors. If it means just ONE life saved, one future secured, it makes the effort and expense worthwhile.
8/3/06 From the front lines: “We just got the Helmet Kits and its night and day difference. Seriously, these things are great and I cant thank you enough. Im not overstating their effect when I say they have raised morale among the troops. An increase in the quality of the gear translates into an improvement in the Marines performance. Thank You, Paul”
And more: “Just wanted to say HUGE THANKS for this site, founders, workers, and donors. I am an active duty Air Force member of 11 years getting ready to deploy to Iraq. I have inside padding on an older uncomfortable helmet that was donated to us by this company. Small things like this go a long way in the hearts of our soldiers, airman, marines, sailors, and other service members. Thanks to this company for its giving heart and for the now COMFORTABLE older style helmet!!! Thanks for your support both myself and my family appreciate it!”
And from an Air Force trooper’s returning home welcome:
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006 18:23:48 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
On August 3rd, 2006, Bill Cashman and I (Dick LaBonte), both Somersworth residents, joined large number of area veterans and civilians in greeting United States Air Force troops upon their arrival at Pease ITP after flying in from Iraq. We spoke with numerous personnel but enjoyed one particular conversation with a First Lieutenant Jennifer xxx who had just telephoned her husband. While Jen enjoyed refreshments provided by our veterans, we very much enjoyed listening to her situation in Iraq. We expressed our gratitude for her service, that we were all very proud of her and wished her a happy and healthy future. Following group photos, we all shook their hands in a long line as they boarded their aircraft for departure. Many happy tears were shed as happens every time that we greet the troops.
On August 15, 2006, Lt. Jen Snow sent the following e mail reply: “Mr. LaBonte, Thank you again for all you have done for us! That was the best welcome home that we have ever received and I know it meant alot to us all. You seem to have a very motivated bunch of folks up there so I wanted to pass along another initiative I have been pushing – many of our troops suffer head injuries and brain damage from accidents and explosions/ballistic hits because they don’t have the proper pads for their helmets. I have been working to tell as many folks as possible about Operation Helmet so that we can provide the required pads to our troops to prevent such injuries and help them get back home safely. Here is the link to the website: https://www.operation-helmet.org. You can donate to a specific unit or have donations go to those troops who need it most. Thanks again for all you do – its an honor to snow you and we are proud to have such great folks who have gone before us remember us today. Very Respectfully, Lt Jen xxx”
2 Aug 06 – Dear Dr. Bob, I want to personally thank you for all you are doing. When my address for my son wasn’t complete you personally called my home to check about it. My son, Carl, Marine 20 yrs. old, was at sea for training and I didn’t know any more information than what I had sent. As soon as he returned to base his helmet upgrade was waiting. I don’t know how you found the rest of the info but thank you ! ! Carl is thrilled to have the upgrade. He wants the information for his battalion which is to be deployed on Sept. 13th. My husband and younger son are going to visit him and are taking flyers with your website. Please get ready to fill the orders. I’ve been passing the flyers out to anyone who will take them. Passed out 400 on 7/29 at a Veterans Celebration in Kimswick, MO. They had 8 Purple Heart Recipients from The Battle of the Bulge in attendance. It was a wonderful day. I was so proud of all those men gave so we can be free and American. Thanks for everything you are doing. Love, Teresa