Army Aims to Ensure that Air Crew Members Wear Gear They Need In and Out of the Cockpit

On December 14th, an aircrew member from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) in Landstuhl, Germany, will become the 10,000th Soldier to receive a pre-deployment Air Warrior kit containing the best available Aviation Life Support Equipment. Next step for the 12th CAB is Iraq.

Army aircrews are going to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other danger spots around the world with the Air Warrior system, new-generation aircrew gear that gives them better protection from bullets, chemicals, weather, and environmental hazards. This gear also improves their mobility inside the cockpit and greatly facilitates their ability to exit the aircraft and survive if they go down.

The December 14th ceremonial tapping of the 10,000th aircrew member to receive the specialized gear will begin with distribution of Air Warrior equipment to the 700 members of the 12th CAB at Landstuhl Army Base. Program Executive Officer Soldier Brigadier General Mark Brown and LTC Shannon Womack, Product Manager for the PEO Soldier Air Warrior program, will participate. Media are welcome at the event, and representatives of contractors who developed the Air Warrior System for the Army will be available to answer questions. Contractors include Armor Holdings, Aerial Machine and Tool, Aerospace and Defense Group, and the Individual Equipment Group.

LTC Womack describes Air Warrior as "an integrated ensemble that provides the Army aviator with all the survival and mission equipment gear he needs to execute the mission both in the cockpit and on the ground if the Soldier happens to land or crash in a hostile environment or a remote area." The reality is even more compelling. When an aviator goes down, the only thing taken away from the cockpit is what the Soldier is wearing. So, the Army has made it their mission to ensure that all the items needed are actually worn on the body.

"We give them a personal survival gear carrier that has all the different items the aviation Soldier needs. It's got signaling items, like a mirror, a radio, and a strobe light. It provides the needed medical gear in case the Soldier or buddies are injured," says Womack. "It also has an integrated extraction harness so if he needs to be extracted, the Soldier has that capability. We provide the aviation Soldier with a modular holster so he can carry the 9mm defensive weapon can be carried. And we provide the Soldier with a maxillofacial shield that protects against fragments."

The list goes on: a strap cutter to quickly extricate themselves; an attached mouthpiece they can use to breathe under water. Because some missions require aviators to fly over water they are also provided with a floatation collar and integrated life raft with canopy. A microclimate cooling system is worn under the flight suit and other Air Warrior gear.

Electronic Data Manager is Key in Afghanistan and Iraq

Also at the December 14 fielding, an aviator, a from the 12th CAB, will become the 1,000th Army aviator to receive an Electronic Data Manager or EDM. This light, portable touch-screen computer, which the pilot straps on his thigh, is a key Air Warrior component. Its GPS moving map capability and sunlight readability allow aircrews to quickly plan missions and react to mission changes while in-flight. The EDM is fielded to units before they deploy so that they learn how to use the equipment, how to maintain it, how to fit it, and how to service it in the field.

Air Warrior operates under the direction of the Army Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier at Fort Belvoir, VA.