Combat eyewear preserves sight

| May 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

Robert N. Kang
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Today’s Soldiers understand the importance of mission readiness. We prepare our equipment and we train to ensure we are ready to go. But, how about your eyes – are they ready to go?

Here are the facts: eye injuries are a large part of combat injuries and can lead to blindness. Your sight is important and the Army’s Military Combat Eye Protection, or MCEP, program wants to protect your eyes.

The Army has teamed with commercial manufacturers to develop, test and field combat eyewear. The spectacles and goggles are tested to meet not only the industry standard, but also the even more stringent military standards.

For example, the military ballistic fragmentation standards are five to six times stronger than industry standards for impact protection. Program Executive Office Soldier then places all approved eyewear on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List, or APEL. Units and/or Soldiers can choose spectacles and goggles to suit their mission needs. This provides Soldiers the opportunity to check proper fit and to ensure the product can accommodate their prescription inserts.

APEL provides assurance that the items have been certified to meet military and industry standards and have been approved by users downrange.

In a 2009 survey of MCEP users, 33 percent indicated personal experiences where they felt the combat eye protection saved their eye(s) from injury. Another report showed MCEP users had nearly 10 percent less eye injuries in combat operations.

The same report also showed significant decrease in the severity of eye injuries in MCEP users. The USAPHC monitors battlefield data on eye injuries and the results clearly show that ballistic eye protection works.

The current APEL has six goggles and nine spectacles. They all come with both clear and neutral gray tinted lenses that are interchangeable and replaceable. The products and all replacement parts have national stock numbers and can be obtained through normal logistic channels. The program also has products that protect from lasers.

For Soldiers who need vision correction, four of the goggles and seven of the spectacles are compatible with prescription inserts, similar to the gas mask inserts.

Unfortunately, not all the prescription inserts are interchangeable between brands. However, the program office is working to create a universal prescription inserts. Until then, it is important to know what brand of military combat eye protection you are issued, so that your local optometry clinic can order the correct prescription inserts.

Even though different prescription inserts may look alike or be of similar size and shape, any “work around” is not recommended. The APEL items are tested as a “unit” with matching inserts to ensure proper protection. Testing has shown that unapproved inserts may shatter upon impact. The shattered pieces can get into the eyes and can possibly cause injury. Starting August 2011, to make identification of authorized products easier, an “APEL” logo will appear on the left temples of all APEL goggles and spectacles.

Keep it simple: look around, ask around, and make Military Combat Eye Protection a part of your readiness. Use it in training and preserve your sight to fight!

Military Combat Eye Protection

Learn more about this program and see the latest authorized protective eyewear list at

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Category: Army News Service, Community, Health, Safety

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