The NYT, via the indispensable War News Updates
One factor in the survival rates for American troops wounded in recent years has been the improved protective equipment, including armor and fire-retardant uniforms and gloves. The effects of the explosion last May 27 bring us to a piece of equipment that is relatively new to the grunts’ war but has become essential to preventing certain types of wounds: ballistic eye wear.
Way, way back in 1986, as a young PFC in Hawaii, my battalion was selected to take part in a test evaluation of ballistic eye armor. Every soldier in the battalion was issued two pairs of Gargoyle glasses. Gargoyles were currently quite in vogue as the sunglasses of choice worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. We each received a pair of bronze tinted glasses, and a pair of clear ones. They were straight off the shelf, with no modifications. We were encouraged to wear them both on and off duty (this at a time when unit Sergeant Majors would get pissed if any troops wore sunglasses during daily formations).
It turns out, they were awesome. I don’t normally like to wear sunglasses. And indeed, I rarely wore the tinted Gargoyles. But the clear ones were another matter. One of many, many minor irritations of moving through dense foliage at night is “the swat.” When the guy in front of you moves past a branch along his path, he pushes a branch out of the way. As he passes, that branch snaps back to it previous location, which just happens to be where your face is right now. Wearing the clear Gargoyles might not stop the branch from smacking you in the face, but it did mitigate the worst of getting poked in the eyes.
The Army, being the Army, fiddled around with the basic design of the Gargoyles, and managed to eventually make them heavier, less comfortable, less stylish, and more expensive. They also added a laser filter that would protect against some of the many lasers on the modern battlefield, but the laser filter also grossly distorted the vision through the updated eye armor and was therefore never worn. Indeed, being heavier and less comfortable, the updated sets of eye armor were usually signed for, then locked away somewhere, and only retrieved when it was time to turn them in.
It seems the Army is being a little more sensible about eye armor today, and focusing on saving eyesight from the most likely threats today. And lets face it, the modern eye armor just looks cool.