MCEPP: Military Combat Eye Protection Program

In the 1970s eye injuries were recognized as a growing problem, indicated by experience in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973. Combat in Iraq in the early 1990s found the U.S. military facing desert conditions of heat and dust in addition to all traditional hazards of ground combat. They found that modern weapons had characteristics of blast, heat, and ballistic fragments that generated higher proportions of eye injuries than in previous times.

ESS Flight Deck goggles in use.  MCEPP is a tri-service program to provide proper eye armor for all personnel and to emphasize training to achieve high rates of adoption and use
ESS Flight Deck goggles in use. MCEPP is a tri-service program to provide proper "eye armor" for all personnel and to emphasize training to achieve high rates of adoption and use.

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MCEPP: Military Combat Eye Protection Program

Eye injuries can be significantly reduced by use of approved Combat Eye Protection devices
Eye injuries can be significantly reduced by use of approved Combat Eye Protection devices.

In the 1990s, the Army researched and fielded spectacles and goggles designed for the revised appreciation of hazards as well as to combat the laser threat. The eyewear adopted in 1994 and issued in 1998, the first fundamental redesign since World War II, was intended to provide eyewear that would share lenses, provide ballistic protection and support prescription lenses. However, the effort was unsuccessful. Among other issues, the eye protection did not look good or feel good to those who had to wear them, leading to high rates of non-use.

In Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, eye injury rates as a percentage of total battle injuries were found to be in the range of 11-14 percent. A formal tri-service goal was established to develop specifications for new eyewear devices to reduce the hazard and for the education of soldiers of the sight saving benefits of these devices.

The Military Combat Eye Protection Program (MCEPP) was initiated and funded by Program Executive Office- Soldier out of Fort Belvoir, VA. Noting that body armor has become almost universal, and soldiers have benefited from increased survivability on the battlefield, the MCEPP objective is to make "eye armor" similarly universal during field operations. Since soldiers should "train as they fight," protective eyewear will be worn by soldiers at all stages of their military training.

Under the Military Combat Eye Protection Program (MCEPP), the Army adopted several new types of commercial protective eyewear for sun, wind, and dust goggles (SWDG), for ballistic/laser protective spectacles (BLPS) and the special protective eyewear, cylindrical system (SPECS) protection. Additional eyewear choices became available as commercial, off-the-shelf items (COTS) after passing Army testing criteria, issued to deploying soldiers through the rapid fielding initiative (RFI) or ordered by a unit through the normal supply channels.

MCEPP's goal is for all personnel to receive one pair of goggles and one pair of spectacles with extra lenses. In addition to meeting performance specifications to protect from the identified battlefield hazards, they must provide comfort, acceptable appearance, and be able to work with prescription lenses to correct vision if needed.

See this linked page for an update on MCEPP as of March 2010.

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