WASHINGTON — The Army recall of 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets that were issued to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is the result of a Department of Justice investigation as well as independent tests that show the helmets do not meet Army standards, military officials said today.
Army officials say the recalled helmets are not a “direct risk” to soldiers.
Army Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller told reporters today that while the helmets failed to meet Army standards, there is no evidence that any soldier was ever harmed from their use. The recalled helmets provided a safe degree of protection, Fuller said, but they were “just not up to our standards.” The Army, he said, is withdrawing the helmets from the field.
Fuller heads up Program Executive Office-Soldier, a Fort Belvoir, Va.,-based organization that oversees the development and testing of Army equipment.
The recall involves about 4 percent of about 1.6 million Advanced Combat Helmets that are in the Army’s inventory, PEO-Soldier officials said.
Fuller said the Army issued a May 13 directive to combatant commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan calling for the immediate turn-in of helmets manufactured by ArmorSource, the contractor.
The recall, Fuller explained, is the result of a Department of Justice investigation, and individual tests conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., which proved the helmet did not meet Army standards. The general said he could not elaborate on the DOJ findings because of the ongoing investigation.
“Our number-one mission is to ensure every soldier’s lethal survivability equipment can survive in any environment, and a helmet is a personal piece of equipment that provides that survivability,” Fuller said. “We want to make sure they never have any question as to whether or not this will be able to stop what it needs to stop.”
Fuller said the Army began the recall process immediately upon notification of the DOJ investigation and after the results of independent testing revealed flaws in the ballistic capability of the helmet. In January, the Army was notified by the DOJ of the investigation after the paint on some helmets began peeling. The helmets were then subjected to further tests by the Army, which determined the ballistic defect.
The recall notice was issued as a precautionary measure, Fuller said.
So far, none of the recalled helmets have been found at the Bagram Airfield Central Issue Facility, the main supply hub for troops deployed in Afghanistan, PEO-Soldier officials said.
Mike Brown, the director of supply for Army logistics, said helmet inspections are currently underway in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recalled helmets are being turned in, he said.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bernard C. McPherson, the PEO-Soldier senior enlisted advisor, said the Army is working at every level to ensure all affected helmets are accounted for.
“Helmets in the field will be detected during pre-combat checks and inspections by sergeants and [other] leaders,” McPherson said.
Army Col. William Cole, the project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said ArmorSource had manufactured roughly 102,000 of the Advanced Combat Helmets. Of that number, he said, 55,000 helmets remain in the warehouse supply system, with about 3,000 having been issued to other services through the Defense Supply Center, Philadelphia.
The Army is committed to finding and obtaining all of the defective helmets, Cole said. “That’s why we are doing this through diligence, right now, to find them,” he said.
The Army has three other helmet manufacturers. They are: MSA North America, BAE Systems, and Gentex Corp.
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