Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead has seen the gruesome consequences when Soldiers chose to don eyewear that didn’t appear on the Army’s authorized list.
Deployed Soldiers have suffered severe damage to their eyes or lost their sight entirely.
“We have seen some really horrific injuries with roadside bombs,” said Whitehead, the product manager for protective equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier, Fort Belvoir.
Using eyewear approved from the list, which features 27 products that have undergone extensive testing, could mean the difference between saving a Soldier’s vision or them going blind, Whitehead said.
“The Soldier’s face is all chewed up,” Whitehead said. “But, when they pull his glasses off, where the skin is intact around their eyes, where you know, without a doubt, that eyewear saved their eyes.”
To help protect Soldiers from serious injuries during combat missions, PEO Soldier has tested several protective eyewear models in compiling the authorized protective eyewear list, or APEL.
The Army introduced a lens model on the APEL that adds a new capability to the Army’s Soldier Protection System: an advanced transition protective lenses. The Transition Combat Eye Protection, or TCEP lens, features sensors with a greater sensibility than traditional transitional lenses, responding to visible light instead of UV rays.
The transition happens in milliseconds, allowing Soldiers to go from sunlight to indoors quickly, without temporarily losing their situational awareness to see incoming projectiles or enemy attacks. Typically, commercial transition lenses can take up to 5-10 minutes to transition and adjust to changing light levels. Often, they don’t darken in bright sunlight if a Soldier sits inside of a Humvee. The TCEP lenses will.
“It’s a one-second button,” said Capt. Michael McCown, assistant product manager of head protection at PEO Soldier. “It’s not like your transition lenses that you get from your doctor that change as you go in and outdoors … it’s electronic.” It can also be set to transition automatically.
PEO Soldier also unveiled a cold-weather goggle that can resist fogging in colder conditions. Soldiers can access the Army’s APEL list at https://www.peosoldier.army.mil/equipment/eyewear/.