Preserve Your Sight To Fight
March 11, 2013
- This story and more in the March online edition of Knowledge Magazine - the Official Safety Magazine of the U.S. Army.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Today's Soldiers understand the importance of mission readiness. We prepare our equipment and we train to ensure we are ready to go. But what about your eyes? Are they ready to go? You know you need protection from dust, wind and ultraviolet and bright sunlight, but how about a 0.15-caliber steel fragment coming at you at 660 feet per second?
Here are the facts: eye injuries are a large part of combat injuries and can lead to blindness. Your sight is important, and the Army's Military Combat Eye Protection program wants to protect your eyes. To better do that, the Army has teamed with commercial manufacturers to develop, test and field combat eyewear. The spectacles and goggles are tested to meet not only the industry standard, but also the even more stringent military standards. For example, the military ballistic fragmentation standards are five to six times stronger than industry standards for impact protection.
After passing rigorous inspection, Program Executive Office Soldier then places all approved eyewear on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List. Units and/or Soldiers can choose spectacles and goggles to suit their mission needs. This provides Soldiers the opportunity to check proper fit and ensure the product can accommodate their prescription inserts. The APEL provides assurance that the items have been certified to meet military and industry standards and approved by users downrange.
In a 2009 survey of MCEP users, 33 percent indicated personal experiences where they felt the combat eye protection saved their eye(s) from injury. Another report showed MCEP users had nearly 10 percent less eye injuries in combat operations. The same report also showed a significant decrease in the severity of eye injuries in MCEP users. The U.S. Army Public Health Command monitors battlefield data on eye injuries, and the results clearly show ballistic eye protection works.
The current APEL has six goggles and nine spectacles, and all come with both clear and neutral gray tinted lenses that are interchangeable and replaceable. The products, as well as all replacement parts, have national stock numbers and can be obtained through normal logistic channels. The program also has products that protect from lasers.
For Soldiers who need vision correction, four of the goggles and seven of the spectacles are compatible with prescription inserts (similar to the gas mask inserts). Unfortunately, not all prescription inserts are interchangeable between brands. However, the program office is working to create universal prescription inserts. Until then, it is important to know what brand of MCEP you are issued so your local optometry clinic can order the correct prescription inserts.
Even though different prescription inserts may look alike or be of similar size and shape, any "work around" is not recommended. The APEL items are tested as a "unit" with matching inserts to ensure proper protection. Testing has shown unapproved inserts may shatter upon impact. The shattered pieces can get into the eyes and possibly cause injury. Since August 2011, the APEL logo has appeared on the left temple of all approved goggles and spectacles to make identification of authorized products easier. Make MCEP a part of your readiness. Use it in training and preserve your sight to fight!
To learn more about the MCEP program, the APEL or to see the latest authorized protective eyewear list, go to https://peosoldier.army.mil/equipment/eyewear/.