Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes items that must be worn in combat and in training. Personal protective equipment is not just there for your military appearance it there to protect you and wearing your PPE should be taken seriously. The items I list below are the major ones you need to know about.
Different Types of Protective Equipment
A few years ago, after all the eye pro companies showed up, the Army really cracked down on what type of eye pro you had to buy. Here is what I suggest: first, always, always, always have two or three pairs. You’re probably going to lose a pair or leave it somewhere. The honest thief will take it because you left it in the gym, and because somebody else took theirs two days before. You should have one really good pair that’s on the higher-priced side for important ceremonies and formations, then have two cheap pairs that are going to get so scratched up you won’t be able to see out of them in a month.
The main purpose for eye pro is obvious: to protect your eyes at the range or while firing your weapon. I don’t see the purpose of wearing them while at the chow hall or gym, even though you will see people wearing them in the gym. On a 2009 deployment, we were required to wear eye pro 24/7 from the day we got there until the day we got back.
The army does a great job with ear pro and fits all their soldiers during the hearing test. However, they don’t tell you how to keep from losing them. If you do lose them, you can purchase similar ear pro at gun stores.
The army has a standard issue for these. Once again, do not pay $200 for gloves because you’re going to be really upset when you lose them or leave them on the bus on the way back from the range. I suggest you do like I did with eye pro and have 3 pairs. Reserve one pair for formations or ceremonies, then wear the other two pairs until you lose them or until they wear out.
Elbow Pads and Knee Pads
You get issued a pair of elbow and knee pads early on. As long as they are the right size, why would you buy different ones? I’ve seen PFC fobbits go out and get the special Chuck Norris-edition elbow and knee pads only to stand outside in the chow hall to click how many people came in for lunch. Let’s be realistic; unless you’re going to low-crawl your way through Baghdad or kick in doors, you should simply focus on the standard-issue ones. As with the rest of your PPE, you’re probably going to leave your pads on the bus, and somebody else is going to end up with them. The most important thing to remember with these is that you need to have the right size. If you have small knees, then don’t wear large sizes because they’re just going to fall down.
The IOTV is an important piece of personal protective equipment. IOTV stands for Improved Outer Tactical Vest. Your vest should be worn at all times while firing your weapon, whether you’re in training, combat, or potential combat situations. You should wear your IOTV the way it is supposed to be worn. Make sure the plates are in correctly and that the IOTV is the correct size. For example, if you are 5’6” and weigh 150 lbs, do not wear a large.
ACH stands for Advanced Combat Helmet. This is your helmet and it should be worn at all times when firing your weapon, training, or in any combat situation. The Army also requires you to wear the ACH while driving or riding inside any military vehicle. The ACH is one of if not the most important items of PPE you will wear. But I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have been on a range and have watched a soldier constantly adjust their ACH because it was the wrong size. There is a simple fix for this: if your patrol cap is a medium, then wear a small ACH. When you are issued your ACH, make sure it’s the right size before signing for it. Lay down in the prone position and hold your weapon as if you were going to fire it. See if the ACH slides down and affects your visibility. If it does, first check your straps and adjust them accordingly. If this does not fix the problem, get a smaller size! If you can’t see what you’re shooting at or your visibility is affected, then how can you aim and fire your weapon accurately?
You Will Sign for Your Personal Protective Equipment
You will sign for all this equipment, so you will need to be responsible for it. You must keep it clean, in proper working order, and you must wear it correctly. That means wearing all your sappy plates in your IOTV as well. Personal Protective Equipment is designed for your safety and it could save your life. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!