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Capt. Jennifer Noetzel, chief of the Fort Drum Hearing Program, Preventive Medicine Department, fits an in-the ear TCAPS system for Pfc. Mark Epling, a member of 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, during hearing equipment... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Some 23 percent of injuries sustained by Soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom II were related to the ear, according to a study published in a 2005 issue of Military Medicine.

On today's battlefields, Soldiers are surrounded by the latest technologies in armored vehicles, body armor and other ballistics gear.

Standard-issued hearing protection has not changed much over the last 200 years, until now.

To combat hearing-loss problems, the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS) TEA Invisio X50 has been introduced by Project Manager-Soldier Warrior (PM SWAR) / Product Director Soldier Systems & Integration (PD SS&I), based at Fort Bel- voir, Va.

The PM SWAR / PD SS&I mission is to field concurrent hearing protection and auditory situational awareness devices to Soldiers to increase hearing readiness and reduce hearing damage / subsequent post-service hearing disabilities resulting from high noise exposure for combat Soldiers.

TCAPS is an amplified pass-through system.

Used for years by Special Forces operators, Rangers and aviators, the technology will now reach down and benefit infantry Soldiers as well.

Historically, Soldiers have had to choose between hearing protection and force protection. As a combat-force multiplier, TCAPS maintains hearing protection while enabling Soldiers to use existing tactical radios, resulting in increase mission effectiveness, safety and survivability.

It not only protects Soldiers?' hearing, but it also can enhance their hearing.

PM SWAR selected and evaluated multiple sets of TCAPS devices to determine what the best fit would be for the Soldier. Fort Drum units 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, were a part of this process in December 2012. Soldiers with these units had an opportunity to use the technology and provide feedback for the most appropriate system to be placed on the Soldier.

TCAPS TEA Invisio X50 fielding initiative begins this month with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., marking the first time this equipment will be mass-fielded.

The second fielding will take place in March at Fort Drum with 1st Brigade Combat Team, immediately followed by 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

The fielding initiative is embedded within a capability set to include other technologies, such as radios, Soldier Power systems and NET warrior.

Fort Drum Soldiers will have an ability to learn and use the new equipment during upcoming training and provide firsthand feedback for future procurements. Soldiers also will be able to shape this new technology, providing the Army with the ability to increase the lethality and survivability of future generations.

For more information about the TCAPS system, contact the Fort Drum Hearing Program at 772-7639.