Ergonomic Pet Peeve

Back in the day, as a gunner on the Bradley, it was Standard Operating Procedure that whenever, wherever we were conducting a mounted movement, the gunner would scan his sector,  just as he would be expected to in a wartime environment. Train as you fight, and it is always the threat you don’t see that kills you. So I spent a lot of time with my face plastered to the Integrated Sight Unit, and my hands on the Gunners Hand Station, scanning back and forth, usually to the right flank of the platoon, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to spot anything more nefarious on Fort Carson’s tank trails than an antelope, or possibly a coyote. Given my druthers, I’d just leave the turret pointed straight ahead, and stand up in the hatch side by side with the Bradley Commander (BC) and enjoy the fresh air and nice breeze.* But the SOP was to scan, and so scan I did.

Now, I didn’t really mind this. It was boring, but even then, the view was a lot better than what the dismounts in back had. And while the ride was bumpy and the turret was a pretty snug fit, it wasn’t too bad. But what really made me angry was that for all the money the Army had spent on the design and layout of the Bradley, one little flaw caused me no end of discomfort, and could have been easily avoided.

Here’s the Gunner’s Hand Station that controls the turret of the Bradley.


You’ll note the careful lines of the actual hand grips. Looks like care has been taken to make them comfortable, no? Actually, they are not. You’ll notice they’re exactly parallel with one another.

Sit in a straight backed chair. Make fists with both your hands and hold them out in front of you, with your elbows by your sides, like a Rock-em Sock-em Robot. You’ll notice your fists are exactly parallel with one another. But they’re also about 18-20 inches apart. Now move those fists together until they’re only about 8 inches apart. You’ll notice that as you move them closer, your fists are no longer parallel, but rather at an angle of around 60 degrees. Now, with your fists still 8 inches apart, rotate your wrists until your fists are parallel with one another again. It is a very unnatural position, isn’t it?

Holding the GHS for more than a few minutes, or an hour at most, begins to cause significant pain in the wrists, and because of the way the hand fits to the handle, to the palms of the hands. And while it is easy to operate the GHS with one hand, that only provides temporary relief. Sooner or later, both hands hurt.

Here is what really, really irritates me about this. At the same time the Bradley was being developed, the M1 Abrams was being developed. And the Gunners Hand Station on an Abrams has it’s handgrips angled in, about 30 degrees for each grip. As an added bonus, the tops are tilted in a bit for an even more natural, ergonomic fit to most hands.

The mechanical complexity of both control systems is almost identical. In fact, I never understood why Bradley’s didn’t simply use the very same control. While the Bradley, in my mind, is primarily an Infantry branch vehicle, the folks in the Armor community were there for the development of the system. Armor branch had had folks struggling with gunnery controls for over 40 years by the time the Bradley came along. They knew what they were doing.

Even worse, the picture of the controls above? When the Army upgraded it’s Bradleys after Desert Storm and added Laser Range Finders, they had to upgrade the controls. And that’s what is in the picture above. So they had a second bite at the apple, and still didn’t fix the poor, pain inducing ergonomics of the GHS on the Bradley. It wouldn’t have cost a dime to ease some poor grunts lot in life, had only they taken a moment to add a tiny change to the plans.

And that still irks me.



*Except in the winter. I kinda liked being inside when the temps dropped below zero.

Whidbey’s Prowlers, Growlers, … and Airmen

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, on Washington’s Puget Sound, is home not only to the Navy’s airborne electronic attack (AEA) mission, but to the Air Force’s component of this mission as well. From here, electronic warfare officers of USAF’s 390th Electronic Combat Squadron provide this increasingly important capability—as they train and operate side-by-side with Navy aviators.

The 390th ECS shares space with a Marine Corps support squadron in a building just down the way from Whidbey’s hangars and runways. Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Karl Fischbach acknowledges it’s an unusual setting: airmen flying missions aboard Navy jets. He’s frequently called away from Whidbey to give briefings about this unique unit, and he likes to open with a good sea story—usually about learning to land an EA-6B Prowler on a rolling and pitching aircraft carrier during a dark and stormy night.

via Whidbey’s Prowlers, Growlers, … and Airmen.

Interesting post on XBrad’s hometown. First time I saw AF bluesuiters in town, it was a bit of a trip.

Cool things to find – Curiosity Rover

Well, JPL is still holding onto whatever news was supposed to be earthshaking. In the meantime, Cinesaurus made this cute parody:
(Aww, Curiosity killed the cat – look out Sox!)

If you don’t get the joke, this is the original. Public service announcement with an earworm of a song.

US Navy moves ahead to replace presidential helicopters | Reuters

WASHINGTON, Nov 26 (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy is moving forward with a long-delayed effort to replace the aging fleet of Marine One helicopters that transport the U.S. president, with the first of the new aircraft slated to enter service in 2020.

The Navy’s last attempt to buy a new presidential helicopter ended in 2009, when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates cancelled a program run by Lockheed Martin Corp after numerous requirement changes threatened to double the cost of the program to more than $13 billion.

via US Navy moves ahead to replace presidential helicopters | Reuters.

The VH-71 program was a fiasco because neither the Navy nor the White House was willing to exercise any discipline at all in trimming the requirements. Seriously, does the President really need live, secure video teleconference capability in Marine One? Voice coms, sure. But for a platform he’s rarely in for more than 30 minutes at a time? Or a fully equipped galley for hot meals? Dude, pack a thermos and a damn sammich!

Sadly, I expect this current pledge for a reasonable, disciplined buy to again succumb to bloat, contractors lowballing then coming back for money, and the usual contractor protests to GAO and the courts. I guess the only way the Marine One fleet will ever get a reasonably priced replacement is when the President gets killed in a helo crash.

Pic O’ the Day

Flashes of lighting are seen over the horizon as the aircraft carrier the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower operates in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, Nov. 19, 2012. The Dwight D. Eisenhower is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Greg Linderman

Via War News Updates

Veterans Affairs Makes Life Easier For Vets; Modifies, Loses Records | The Duffel Blog

OAKLAND, CA – A local Veterans Affairs office is leading the nation with an innovative approach to veterans issues, by helping military members transition to civilian life by modifying their records without their knowledge, a VA spokesperson said today.

“A lot of our employees were getting bored with staring at their desks for 20 straight years,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Erik Shinseki, “so to raise morale I told them to start helping veterans in any way they can. Military life is tough, so we want to make civilian life easier for them.”

VA Claims Processor Roger Carder says he’s eager to help veterans by working on their specific issues.

“Yeah I’m doing this guy a big favor,” said Carder as he rifled through the file of a former Army Specialist. “He got out with an honorable discharge so he deserves a break. I changed his records to indicate he was fully disabled so he wouldn’t have to get any kind of strenuous job. He called up a week later saying he got fired because his boss thought he was cheating the system. I told him I didn’t have the authority to change his records and couldn’t help him.”

“He’s much better off now. He shouldn’t have had to work so hard.”

via Veterans Affairs Makes Life Easier For Vets; Modifies, Loses Records | The Duffel Blog.

Sometimes, TDB is just a little too on the nose.

Of course, as part of this program, the Army is doing its part by proactively losing soldier’s medical records, so there is no way to validate disability claims.

Guest Artists of the Moment- Big Head Todd and the Monsters

So,  as I was washing and waxing the old Beemer, as is my wont, I had the headphones cranked to drown out distractions. And this tune popped up on the playlist. It’s a great song by a band that only had one good album, but what an album! BHT&M was popular when I happened to live in Colorado (where they’re from) and I was lucky enough to see them a few times. There are few better venues than Red Rocks. And it’s a very rich sound for only a four man band. 


Plus, I can’t have you guys thinking girl-pop is the only thing I listen to.