Battling for Better Troop Helmets

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

A mid-Michigan woman is spearheading the state's "Operation Helmet" -- part of a national effort to upgrade the helmets of U.S. forces overseas.

(Information on how you can help the effort appears below.)

"My brother's in the 144th MP (military police) Company and they're headed out to Iraq ... My boyfriend's in the Marines," 22-year-old Brittney Briggs told News 10 in an interview Friday afternoon.

Two clear reasons for Briggs to lead the battle to upgrade soldiers' helmets -- helmets she says just aren't safe enough.

"This won't crack," Briggs said, pointing to a standard military helmet. "But inside the helmet, your head's going to rattle around. There's been a lot of internal bleeding, head injuries, concussions. Things like that," she added.

To stop all that, the national Operation Helmet has been shipping out these cushion kits to create a snugger fit.

"[The pads] just velcro in, so it's real easy for them to do," Briggs said.

Briggs is the program director for the Michigan chapter. She's hoping to send one kit with each member of the 144th Military Police Company -- her brother's unit -- when those troops leave for Iraq in late July.

Some soldiers already back from the recent conflict say their helmets could use extra padding.

"We call them doughnuts. We went out and got those. They sell them at the PX (on-base store) cheap," Sgt. Jeremy Doerr said, explaining that he and others purchased more basic padding upgrades for their own helmets.

In fact, the military knows about the issue: Troops now headed for service in conflict zones will get helmets with more snug chin straps.

"So what we're sending out are just the cushions," Briggs said.

But first, they need to raise the money. The kits for army guard soldiers cost about $70.

"We've got about $1,200. We need about $14,000 more," Briggs said.

That's $14,000 to send troops something this veteran -- Brittney Briggs' father -- says is critical.

"It's not a box of girl scout cookies and stuff. They love all that stuff. But this is something that could actually help them come home," Retired Air Force Maj. Rick Briggs told News 10.

Sentiment echoed by this daughter, sister, and girlfriend of American servicemen.

"It'll help physical health. It'll help mental health. It'll help get our troops home safe," Brittney Briggs said.

A spokeswoman for the Michigan National Guard says she can't comment on the kits, because they aren't official Department of Defense equipment. That may change in the coming year.

Still, she says, the guard appreciates any efforts to help Michigan soldiers.

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To donate to the local effort:

Michigan Operation Helmet
P.O. Box 1856
Brighton, MI 48116

Questions? Program Director Brittney Briggs: (810) 923-5675
By email: Promotions Director Rick Briggs: rvbriggsjr@yahoo.com

National Operation Helmet website:
www.operation-helmet.org


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