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Seeing is Believing

Seeing is Believing

U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory
Fort Novosel, Alabama

When I deployed to Iraq as a cannon crewmember with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), each Soldier in my unit was supplied with two pairs of goggles. One pair provided protection during air assault missions, while the other offered ballistic protection. Even though the unit leaders instructed us to wear our goggles, it was not strictly enforced. Therefore, some Soldiers placed their goggles on their helmet. As a result, several Soldiers suffered eye injuries, with a few even losing their eyesight.

During my second deployment, this time to Afghanistan as a combat medic with an artillery unit, my unit leadership, like my leadership in Iraq, instructed us to use military combat eye protection (MCEP). This time, however, the standards were enforced. All Soldiers were ordered to use their protective glasses, even at night. This meant we had to change the lenses in our glasses twice a day — gray lenses for daytime and clear lenses for nighttime.

Getting into the habit of wearing MCEP 24 hours a day and changing the lenses was difficult. Honestly, it was a pain. But as my deployment progressed and I witnessed firsthand what shrapnel did to the eyes of Soldiers who were not wearing MCEP, eye protection became extremely important to me. In no time, it became second nature. I knew the most important thing I could do to protect my eyesight and that of my fellow Soldiers was to wear approved MCEP.

According to the Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen (DCPH-A), many eye injuries are avoidable if Soldiers use common sense to protect their vision and leaders ensure appropriate eye protection is worn. Follow the tips below from DCPH-A to protect your vision at work and home.

At work

  • Follow eye safety signs and procedures.
  • Know what to do if a hazardous material splashes into the eye. Know where the nearest eyewash station is and how to use it.
  • Always wear approved eye protection for mechanical, chemical, biological or radiant energy (from such sources as welding, lasers or sunlight) hazards. According to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the industry code “Z87” must be marked on the side of protective eyewear. For training and operational duties, a ballistic standard is required. MCEP, approved by Program Executive Office Soldier and labeled APEL (Approved Protective Eyewear List), significantly exceeds ANSI Z87 standards and meets this requirement.
  • Make sure eye protection is clean and in good shape.
  • Do not wear contact lenses in areas where there is smoke, dust or fumes, or when training or deployed.
  • Report eye hazards to supervisors.
  • If an eye injury occurs, immediately call emergency medical services.

At home

  • When outside, wear sunglasses that absorb the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Both clear and tinted MCEP lenses provide UV protection. A broad-brimmed hat also helps protect the eyes.
  • When working on cars or around the house, be aware of eye hazards. Mechanical hazards such as rust or flying objects; chemical hazards such as battery acid; and radiant hazards are common in the home shop.
  • Wear approved eye protection. Safety glasses and goggles should have ANSI Z87 markings on the side. Remember, MCEP exceeds safety glasses standards and can also be worn when working at home.
  • Always wear appropriate approved eye protection when playing sports. For eye-hazardous sports such as racquetball, wear American Society for Testing and Materials-approved eyewear that contains protective lenses.

In addition to the tips above, it’s a good idea to have an eye exam every two or three years, or sooner as directed. Early detection and correction of eye problems are important. Above all, use common sense and protect your vision. The Army keeps moving forward to better fit Soldiers for battle. As Soldiers, we can feel confident knowing that when we wear MCEP, we are reducing the likelihood of sustaining an eye injury.

Did You Know?

March is recognized as Workplace Eye Wellness Month. According to the Vision Center of Excellence (VCE), two actions will shield against 90% of eye injuries: Wear appropriate safety and protective eyewear and ensure that the eyewear is listed on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL) approved by the Department of Defense. The VCE states, “Authorized Protective Eyewear List items are validated against military requirements for ballistic fragmentation and therefore provides the highest level of impact protection available. Other eyewear products, even if marked Industrial Eyewear Impact Standard compliant, do not necessarily ensure ballistic standards are maintained. APEL items are tested every two years. Eyewear not on the APEL are not authorized for wear during combat, training or when there is a risk of impact injury to the eyes.” Learn more about authorized eyewear at https://www.peosoldier.army.mil/Equipment/Approved-Eyewear-QPL/.

  • 3 March 2024
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 213
  • Comments: 0