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Fort Hood Soldiers field test new tactical helmet

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A new, lighter helmet may be on the way, and a group of I Corps Soldiers are among those who will help determine whether or not it ends up on a Soldier’s head.

The Soldiers partnered with members of the Fort Hood, Texas, U.S. Army Operational Test Command during a series of tests to collect data and feedback on the Army’s new Integrated Head Protection System and Tactical Communi-cation and Protective System Lite hearing protection during a pilot test at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Aug. 3-9.

Future scheduled record testing should be the final operational tests on the IHPS system said OTC test officer Zane Smith. For the IHPS, a decision on full-scale production would be made sometime next June, Smith said.

According to Capt. Matthew Nichols, Company B commander, 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, the 120 Soldiers of the testing element came from 11 different companies across I Corps.

The combined Company B is made up of infantrymen, combat engineers and military police.

“At a company level, it’s very odd to see a combined arms team, especially for an engineer company commander,” said Nichols. “So far, it’s been a pretty good opportunity to implement Soldiers from (I Corps) across three different branches, integrate, come together, build a cohesive team and train together.”

The Soldiers trained on basic warrior tasks and battle drills: emplacing and breaching an obstacle, traffic control point procedures and route reconnaissance, all while putting the new headgear to the test.

The IHPS is one of six components of the Soldier Protection System (body armor). When fully assembled, the headgear resembles a full-face motorcycle helmet. It provides a larger area of protection for the head and face and weighs less than the current Army Combat Helmet, Smith said.

The TCAP-L system, also in its final stages of operational testing, could be fielded to some units during the fall, said John Jimenez, OTC test officer.

Jimenez said the original TCAPS is already being used in some units but one difference with TCAPS-L is, it doesn’t hook up to a tactical radio. Built specifically for hearing preservation, it’s available as in-the-ear buds or over-the-ear muffs. It protects from steady-state noise, such as vehicles engines,
gunfire and explosions, while allowing for talk-through capability for verbal conversations.

“Once there is high impulse noise, the hearing protection automatically triggers to reduce hearing damage,” said Jimenez.

During the operational testing Soldiers were form-fitted for each piece of equipment they would test. Following each mission, Soldiers gave candid feedback to data collectors, who also followed Soldiers conducting missions at the squad and platoon levels.

Staff Sgt. Audrey Lespinasse, a team leader with Company B, 23rd BEB, 1-2SBCT, said the testing gave many junior Soldiers a chance to participate in small-group and platoon live-fire training.

Lespinasse said the Soldiers should feel a sense of ownership and service pride knowing the Army wants their input.

“I think it’s a great thing that the Army does to actually use the Soldiers to implement changes,” said Lespinasse. “It’s good for the Soldiers to see that their voices matter.” n