Public Health Command Europe supports initiative from Defense Centers for Public Health – Aberdeen

By Michelle ThumFebruary 27, 2023

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GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Officials from Public Health Command Europe’s Industrial Hygiene Division and the Army Hearing Program attended congressionally mandated sampling of M119 crews belonging to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, 4th Battalion – 319th Field Artillery Regiment during live fire exercises in Grafenwoehr, February 7-10.

Seven individuals representing the Joint Service Member Occupational Health Assessment team from the Defense Centers for Public Health – Aberdeen and the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence collected occupational data related to service member exposures to blast overpressure, impulse noise and chemical hazards during the live fire exercises of the M119.

“The M119 is a 105 mm field artillery weapon system identified by the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [Section 734 (Blast Overpressure Study) Work Group] as one of fifteen Tier 1 weapons systems and breaching charges requiring further evaluations for their potential impact on warfighter brain health,” said Coty Marie Maypole, Industrial Hygienist at Defense Centers for Public Health- Aberdeen. “The goals of this study are to improve the Department of Defense's understanding of the impact of blast overpressure exposure from weapon systems to the service member's brain health and to better inform policy for risk mitigation, unit readiness, and health care decisions.”

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According to Capt. Justin Siler, who is assigned to the Bravo Battery of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, 4th Battalion – 319th Field Artillery Regiment, the battery shoots from Table I to Table VI for training purposes every six months.

“Today we are shooting Table VI which is a section certification. The soldiers will execute the Army Record Course of Fire, use live ammunition and operate on combat speed,” said Siler. “It will be interesting to see and review the data that is collected today.”

Industrial hygienists will use the information to form recommendations to implement mitigation strategies to minimize or remove any hazards.

“The potential exposure data gathered during this exercise will be entered in the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System (DOEHRS-IH) to document and analyze the health risk to the service members,” stated Tony Intrepido, Chief of Public Health Command Europe’s Industrial Hygiene Division. “In addition, the data provides a foundation for this particular operation for each service member’s individual longitudinal exposure record.”

A M119 at the gunner’s position produces 183 decibels during firing. In comparison, normal telephones have an incoming volume of approximately 8 to 10 decibels.

Lt. Col. M. Joel Jennings, Public Health Command Europe Army Hearing Program Manager, reviewed and fitted hearing protection for the soldiers.

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“Damage to the ears has long been one of the most prevalent permanent injuries that warfighters have faced, reduced hearing and ringing in the ears are problems that affect a warfighter’s ability to maximally perform their mission and can be a life-long disability,” stated Jennings. “It's important for us to understand what the health risks are of all of the equipment that we ask our warfighters to utilize so that we can do everything feasible to mitigate and reduce those risks as much as we can.”