Recalled helmets 'no direct risk' to Soldiers
May 17, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 17, 2010) -- The Army recall of 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets that were issued to Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is the result of a Department of Justice investigation as well as independent tests that show the helmets do not meet Army standards, officials confirmed today.
However, the defective helmets are not a "direct risk" to Soldiers, said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, the Program Executive Officer Soldier. He said during a meeting with reporters today that while the helmets failed to meet Army standards, there is no evidence that any Soldier was ever harmed from their use. He said the defective helmets still provided a safe degree of protection, but "just not up to our standards."
Although the helmets pose no direct risk to Soldiers right now, Fuller said the Army is using "an abundance of caution" to pull the helmets out of the field.
"Our objective is for every Soldier to be confident in wearing what they have, and we're not as confident because of some of the procedures the manufacturers used, and we just want to make sure we get them out of the field," Fuller said.
The recalled helmets represent about 4 percent total of the Army inventory, Fuller said. Since officials cannot be sure where all the helmets were issued, they are telling every Soldier who has an ACH to check the tag to see if the helmet was manufactured by ArmorSource.
Fuller said the Army issued an urgent directive May 13 to combatant commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan calling for the immediate turn-in of helmets manufactured by the contractor. He heads up PEO-Soldier, an organization that oversees the development and testing of equipment for the Army from its headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va.
The recall, he explained is the result of a Department of Justice investigation and individual tests conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., that proved the helmet, which was manufactured by ArmorSource, did not meet Army standards. The general could not elaborate on the DOJ findings because of the ongoing investigation.
"Our number-one mission is to ensure every Soldier's lethal-survivability equipment can survive in any environment, and a helmet is a personal piece of equipment that provides that survivability," Fuller said. "We want to make sure they never have any question as to whether or not this will be able to stop what it needs to stop."
Fuller said the Army began the recall process immediately upon notification of the DOJ investigation and after the results of independent testing revealed flaws in the ballistic capability of the helmet. In January, the Army was notified by the DOJ of the investigation, after the paint on some helmets began peeling. The helmets were then subjected to further tests by the Army which determined the ballistic defect.
Fuller said as a precautionary measure the recall notice was issued. "Because of the testing and additional information we got from the Department of Justice, we wanted an abundance of caution to pull all these helmets out and give them (Soldiers) another helmet that we know is perfect pedigree," he said.
Thus far PEO-Soldier officials said none of the recalled helmets have been found at the Bagram Airfield Central Issue Facility, the main supply hub for troops in that theater.
Mike Brown, the director of Supply for Army G-4, said the process of inspection is underway right now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he emphasized that "Bagram reported today none of them have fallen into the source that we are talking about."
Brown also said some direct exchanges of the helmet have begun to trickle in.
"So there are two types of inventories going on right now, one within the command, of a physical inspection of every helmet, of every Soldier, and the second, the CIF (Central Issue Facility) are checking their on-hand stocks."
Command Sgt. Maj. Bernard C. McPherson, the PEO-Soldier senior enlisted advisor, also pointed out the Army is working at every level to ensure all affected helmets are accounted for, adding that "Helmets in the field will be detected during pre-combat checks and inspections by sergeants and leaders."
Col. William Cole, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said ArmorSource, until recently, had manufactured roughly 102,000 of the Advanced Combat Helmets, and of that number, he said 55,000 helmets are still in the warehouse supply system, and about 3,000 were issued to other services through the Defense Supply Center, Philadelphia.
Cole admitted the Army cannot put its finger on all the recalled helmets. "That's why we are doing this through diligence right now to find them."
PEO officials said the recall represents about four percent of about 1.6 million Advanced Combat Helmets in the Army's inventory. The Army has three other helmet manufacturers. They are MSA North America, BAE Systems, and Gentex Corp.