Heads Up! Upgrading Your PASGT Kevlar Helmet Suspension System

Heads Up! Upgrading Your PASGT Kevlar Helmet Suspension System

“Concerned American” over at WRSA has asked me numerous times to post something about the upgraded suspension system available for the older PASGT kevlar helmet, which are generally still available on the surplus market. The reason he wanted me to do this is simple. Most people into preparedness (especially if you’ve done it for a while) probably already bought a PASGT helmet a while back, and it just makes sense to perform an upgrade to the suspension, rather than go buy a new ACH type (or worse, a MICH) kevlar helmet that is on the market these days.Helmet post20

Having started out in the type of Airborne units that usually don’t use helmets after the jump in, I didn’t use one a lot for a number of years other than on jumps and on some ranges.

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Early on, certain units I was in required us to use helmets when we conducted certain types of training. When I eventually ended up in an Infantry Company, that became an “All the time” affair while in the field.

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When we transitioned to the ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) helmet, it was hard to believe that it could be that much more comfortable. The only downside I ever had with the ACH was during cold weather.  The pads have a gel that has to warm up from body heat (a minute or two) before they stop feeling like rocks.

The upgrade I used on one of my old PASGT’s was from Oregon Aero, and it’s called the “BLSS Kit”. The BLSS is available on Amazon, but it’s definitely cheaper when you can get it off of Ebay.

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The upgrade was done to a standard PASGT kevlar helmet with the Parachutist pad and retention straps (Bunny Ears)

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This is the original suspension system. One advantage I found the PASGT had after we transitioned to the ACH was the PASGT’s ability to carry items, that could be immediately useful to a Team or Squad Leader, tucked above the suspension system.

The BLSS kit comes with instructions that are easy to understand and follow. It took me about 30 mins. to do the transition on the helmet. What I can tell you is that this system is as comfortable as the suspension system that came in my ACH helmet. I can also tell you the pads are the same as the ACH,  so the cold weather “warm up” issue I mentioned above, is there with the BLSS too.

As you can see from the pics, both helmets have practically an identical suspension system now. If I had bought both helmet and BLSS off of Ebay, it would have cost me about $130. If you already have a PASGT helmet, it costs you $40 from Ebay, and your PASGT is now as comfortable as an ACH.

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This is what came out of the PASGT helmet before fitting the BLSS. I kept the parachute straps (bunny ears) in the helmet for a goggle retention system, similar to what the ACH has.

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ACH on the left, PASGT with BLSS on the right

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PASGT on left, ACH on right. I usually don’t use the cloth cover unless it’s for snow. Krylon is the paint of choice.

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ACH on left, PASGT on right. Note how the parachute straps help retain the goggle strap.

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ACH on left, PASGT on right. Note that the PASGT has more coverage over the ears than the ACH. The PASGT also has a short brim on the front, and the ACH does not.

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If I’m going to camouflage my helmet, I will use a bit of camo netting, not a cloth cover.

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I just use earth toned shock cord to keep the camo net on. If need be, I can untie the cord and lace it through the camo net.

I know there are those out there who will say, “But the ACH is level IIIA and the PASGT is only II in ballistic protection. Sure, that is absolutely correct. Here’s my question, how many of you know of or have talked to someone who was SHOT IN THE HEAD BY SOMEONE WITH A RIFLE while wearing a helmet, and if you do, did it matter what “level” it was?

Those protection levels mentioned above (level 2 and 3A) are only supposed to stop pistol rounds, but there are examples of soldiers in Grenada (when the PASGT first was fielded in combat) being hit in the head by 7.62x39S bullets from AKs, and it stopped those bullets. Here’s the deal, helmets are designed to stop shrapnel, not bullets from rifles. If you’re lookin’ for a helmet that is guaranteed to stop a rifle round, good luck on your search. We’ll wait………….

Something else to note. Where does the Spec Ops community appear to be going in the coverage department? A lot less side coverage, that’s where. It kinda seems like it’s a diminishing returns kinda thing when you look at what the helmet is meant to do, but…it’s their skull. On another note, helmets will protect you from a lot more than just bullets and shrapnel in a real world encounter, especially if you’re in a vehicle.

When do I plan on using a helmet? First would be during Defensive Operations such as a vehicle check point or overt observation post. The second would be while moving by vehicle. Those are also the only times I’d be using my Interceptor Body Armor or my plate carrier.

I hope this was helpful. If you’ve got a PASGT helmet and you plan on using it, I’d recommend you get the BLSS for it. Is comfort important in something like a helmet? You bet it is. Just like a holster that is comfortable to wear, you are more apt to use/wear it when you need it if it’s not like putting on a “masochist special” every time you wear it.

JCD

“Parata Vivere”-Live Prepared.

 

 

Force Multipliers: My Optics Of Choice For The LP/OP

Force Multipliers: My Optics Of Choice For The LP/OP

A few things should come to mind when you think of items that are considered “Force Multipliers”. Good Commo, Night and Thermal vision, and some good optics with special features. These all make things easier and more sure when it counts.  Use of those items along with other visual aids can help positively identify (PID) friend from foe. In a combat zone, PID is a must. Even more so would be the need for PID if you and yours are to survive a WROL situation.

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Burris XTS 2575 spotting scope on left, Armasight 7×50 with M22 Mil rangefinder reticle on right. Both are no longer available for sale, but other versions of these items are readily available.

When we think of having to occupy either a permanent or temporary Listening Post/Observation Post (LP/OP), what are some of the tools you think you’d need at your disposal? In the realm of commo, for me it would be a radio and a field phone. That way you have a wireless means of commo, but more importantly, with the field phones, you have a means of commo that can’t be intercepted unless it’s spliced into on the actual wire.

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Military TA-312/PT Field Phones with 1/4 mile of wire.

When it comes to optics for an LP-OP type post, they should be geared towards “overlap/confirmation” type devices. What do I mean by “Overlap/Confirmation”? Simply this. When it comes to overlapping or confirming something with optics, I’m talking about being able to easily transition from one system to another. This is either a more powerful optic, or a different systems such as night vision or a thermal imager, to confirm whether it is a friend or foe you are observing.

 

Scenarios:

As an example, we have “Sarah the Survivalist” who has the “fortune” of pulling LP/OP duty this morning ( midnight shift) for the retreat group she is part of. It’s been a boring shift so far, but just as she’s about to drink some coffee from the thermos, she catches movement out of the corner of her eye.

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FLIR Scout 240 thermal imager. $1500 but worth every penny as a night or DAYTIME viewer.

Scenario #1

Sarah puts down the thermos, picks up her binos, and although it is still early dawn and still somewhat dark, she is easily able to confirm it was just some small birds moving in the leaves approximately 50 meters away. Sarah is using a pair of 7×50 binos that are easy to use and are well equipped to see in low light, due to their large and moderately magnified lenses.

Scenario #2

Same as scenario #1 above, but Sarah can’t quite make out the movement’s source, so she pulls out a FLIR thermal viewer. Low and behold, it’s two individuals low crawling very slowly through low lying ground (shallow defilade) in the retreat’s perimeter. What the binos had a hard time making out with their non enhanced optical capability, the thermal showed very quickly what was what. Sarah calls in to the “Charge of Quarters” (CQ) desk, personnel are placed on standby and the infiltrators are engaged when they hit a trip wire flare.

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Baofeng UV-5R with handset in a UW Gear Swamp Fox 4 rig for FAL/M1A 20 rounders

Scenario #3

“Pete the Prepper” is pulling LP/OP duty one afternoon, and while scanning the treeline in his LP/OP’s area of responsibility with binos, he sees what appears to be a couple armed men approximately 500 meters away. Pete’s rifle of choice only has a 1-6x optic on it (and that won’t help with identifying the individuals at that distance), so he gets behind the spotting scope, turns it up to 40x, and sees it is a neighbor with his sons and they are carrying rifles and an ax. Although Pete could identify that they were armed while using the binos, but he could not positively identify (PID) those guys without the more powerful optical capability that the spotting scope provided.

Scenario #4

“Pete the Prepper” is pulling night duty at the LP/OP and it is raining with a bit of light fog. The 7×50 binos that are in the LP/OP don’t do much except show ghosts. Pete has been using the PVS-7 night vision goggles with a 5x magnifier screwed on the objective lens for the last couple hours. The Night Optical Device (NOD) works ok to a point for this night, but Pete sees something moving in the distance, and he can’t make out what it is, due to the light fog. It is about 175 meters out, and he only sees fleeting images of it as it moves from left to right towards the perimeter wire.

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Polish flare pistol with colored (short) flares and white illumination (long) flares in holster/case. Illumination flares are getting hard to find.

 

Pete gets out the FLIR thermal viewer and is immediately able to see it is a lone gunman creeping towards the perimeter of their retreat. Pete calls his security counterpart sitting at the CQ desk, over the field phone, and a “Stand To” is alerted. When all security posts are manned, he fires an illumination flare which catches the individual out in the open. At that time, the individual opens fire and is engaged by the members of the retreat.

 

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5x magnifier screws directly into the front of a PVS- 7 and 14. On the 7’s it’s like 5x binos at night.

Scenario #5

One evening, “Isaac the Idiot” is “pullin’ security” as his buddies call it. His group has all the latest high end rifles from SCAR’s to Knight Armament SR-25’s to LWRC piston guns. Of course all of them have high end Nightforce or Leupold scopes or ACOG optics on their rifles, so when it came time for other, more boring items like quality binos and night vision, they all bought the $25 Walmart specials and $125 “Gen 1” goggles because they spent the coin on what looked good in their “Tacti-selfies” on social media.

As Isaac is sittin’ there, he thinks he sees movement in the clearing in front of him. He looks with his binos…nothing. He looks with his night vision and all he sees is an unidentifiable, dark blob. He pulls up his high end, super deluxe Leupold MK4 LR/T 10×40 Mildot scope mounted to his SCAR-H, and what does he see? He sees a dark blob running directly towards his position! Holy Cow! No one is supposed to be back from the patrol for another day or so! INTRUDER…..BANG!

Isaac just shot a member of his group. That member was part of a reconnaissance patrol they sent out the afternoon before to see what was going on in their area. That patrol had been ambushed, and “Louis the Lucky” had been wounded and was the only survivor of that patrol……until Isaac. Isaac had nothing to be able to positively identify anything in his LP/OP area of responsibility at night. Just like their lack of planning to have the optics needed for situations like this, Isaac’s group had not gone over a “Challenge and Password” or what a running password is, and how to use it.

Optics play a big role during the day, and special optics can play an even bigger role at night (when you should expect an attack). The basics for night observation start with a good pair of 7×50 binos. It has been shown that the 50mm objective lens size, combined with no more than a 7 power magnification, make for an extraordinary combination to see in very low light.

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M-22 Military rangefinder reticle available is some binoculars

7×50’s also work well during the day, and combined with a good spotting scope, will positively identify objects out to, and beyond, realistic engagement ranges. a good 20-50x spotting scope will get the job done, and there are many on the market. Another advantage of binos is the availability of a built in range finder scale (M22). By the way, If you are at a fixed location or even a temporary one, you should have a Range Card (post for another day) made for every position on the perimeter.

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Older commercial Coincidence style range finder from Bushnell that I’ve had since ’94

Even if you are in a temporary patrol base, a basic range card should be developed. A nice to have for doing this is some type of range finder. Whether it’s a “no batteries required”, “coincidence” type (Bushnell) or the battery operated old or newer laser type (Leica, etc.) range finders. Both will do the job.

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A Lieca LRF 1200 rangefinder I bought in 2002, and a pair of Apollo 10×40’s I bought in 1989. Both are durable and have been through a lot.

Night time LP-OP duties can be difficult in many ways. You’re probably fighting off sleep. If you’re tired, you will see things that aren’t there. Worst of all is if it is bone chilling cold, since this just adds insult to the other issues you are already dealing with. Having quality gear to positively identify what you are seeing is crucial to make sure you don’t engage an innocent.

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You don’t always have the opportunity to use your rifle optics for detailed observation. The rifle on the left only has a 1-4x scope, while the one on the right has a 4-16x.

Of all the items mentioned in this post, I recommend you at least have a good pair of 7×50 bino, and a thermal imager. The binos are good for the majority of things you will need to observe in an LP-OP setting, and the thermal viewer will help discriminate the difference between a friend or foe whether day or night.

Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas of what scenarios you should plan for, and what you will need to survive them. We have the benefit of many durable, quality “Force Multipliers” available to us these days. It makes sense to at least minimally equip yourself with a few to give yourself every advantage possible.

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Night vision on rifle and helmet, IR laser on the rifle for use with the goggles and good commo. These are force multipliers that are not only available to Soldiers, but are available to you as a civilian.

JCD

“Parata Vivere”-Live Prepared.

BTW, if you’re wondering why posts have been light for the last few months, I have been spending most of my time posting older posts from here over at American Partisan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Difference Between A Garden Hose And A Fire Hose-A Commo Class AAR

 

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The majority of my 14 years was spend using conventional commo like this.

A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was in a unit whose mission requirements dictated that everyone down to the lowest ranking “Joe” knew how to make improvise antennas for use primarily with our PRC 74 or 77 radios which was then slaved to a DMDG (Digital Message Device Group).

We (the “Joes”) sat through a number of classes concerning radio use. Considering the unit’s mission required that we be well out of range for regular mil commo, EVERYONE had to know how to make the antenna required for effective commo.

At that time, the classes consisted of a “Fire Hose” dump of info that would have been difficult for most to digest, let alone have a basic understanding of. Like many things I learned in the military, The initial “Dump” of info was through the “Fire Hose” technique.

We learned how to go through the motions to accomplish the task, and we memorized what needed memorized, but the understanding of the reasons for doing it that way, or in this case, the theory of the “Why” and “How” an improvised antenna worked was lost to many of us.

My good friend NC Scout and I have a lot in common, from some very similar background In certain types of units, to our philosophy as Survivalists. He was tellin’ me on the phone one night what his class consisted of, and we hadn’t gotten together for a while, so I said, “What the Hell” (after clearin’ it through the “First Sergeant” of course) and decided to go check out his class a few weekends ago.

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My prep for the class over the next couple days consisted of going back and finding my old notes from those classes 27 years ago (which I had transcribed into a “Write in the Rain” notebook a number of years back), and square away my radio and field gear. I reviewed my notes over the next couple days, packed up my vehicle and left, the Friday afternoon before the class, on my 5 hour drive to NC Scouts teaching site.

Something that I’ve noticed (it’s pretty obvious to most who are observant) while putting on classes for Mason Dixon Tactical, is that classes such as we put on are as much a networking event, as a learning event. Upon my arrival, I met a number of guys that I knew of, but had not met. I got to know them over the next couple days and am glad to say they are now part of my “Network”.

As an aside, I’ve found a number of times over the last decade or so, you can neither count on, trust, nor believe many that you will meet through the internet. Two “Well knowns”  in particular come to mind that were given a high level of trust based on the Mil background they told me. One proved to be a snake and a liar, the other, a thief and a liar (go figure). What’s the saying….. “Caveat Emptor”?

So Saturday morning, after a kick ass breakfast, we got to the classroom work. NC Scout started with different radios, their positives, and for some, their negatives. Along with that, he discussed power supplies in the field. Next up was creating an SOI (Signals Operating Instructions) for our group. This is an important step. Since everyone there was involved in doing this, they now have experience in doing it for their own groups. NC Scout didn’t just tell us how to do it, he had the class actually make an SOI. Along with the SOI instruction, the class received a block of instruction in putting together an OpOrd (Operations Order), and where the SOI is included in that OpOrd.

Next up were report formats, and the “when”, “where” and “why” of their uses. Certain reports (“CRACK” in this instance), he modified the format slightly to fit the Prepper/Survivalist needs. After report formats we went on to using the radio, and how to speak on a radio (‘You, this is Me”) to be understood and verify that your message was received correctly.

We then covered the uses of radios with HF, VHF, and UHF frequency coverage, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Unless you realize what you have, and how best to utilize it’s potential, your ability to relay info will only work if there is some luck involved. NC Scout covered the radio freqs, and the “How” and “Why” of there ability or inability to work in certain environments.

The next part of the class was where I received the most “real world” info. Everything else we had covered in the class was either familiar to me, I had a pretty good working knowledge of, or I had used it a lot (SOI and OpOrd for instance). Antenna theory was something that I was force-fed as a “Joe” and “learned” it (remember my “Fire hose” analogy), but I didn’t understand it. I now understand it, and am not only able to implement it, but feel comfortable with using the info.

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Using the “Cobra Head” we attached wires and insulators to create a “Jungle Antenna”.

NC Scout covered Di-Pole and Jungle Antennas in the class. We learned the theory behind their use, The history (including the Japanese and German answers to the same problem) and the reason they worked so well in their niche. Then we built (he had supplies for everyone to build one) a Jungle Antenna for use with a specific freq for OUR radios, using the formula we were give in the class. Imagine that, they worked……

NC Scout was able to make things we knew of such as the “Old School” TV antennas we had on our houses years ago, relevant to what we were doing in class (They are “Yagi” antennas, which was the Japanese answer to the “Jungle Antenna” question). He also made relevant why an antenna such as that has so many  forward cross pieces (we learned the are called “Directors”) by advising of the “Gain” achieved with the different number of “Directors”.

We learned about digital radios, and some really cool advantages of the different ones available. BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight) was covered, as well as NVIS (Near Vertical Incident Skywave), and the radio categories and freqs used with the previously discussed antennas and also the advantages (range and security), of their use, and the “How” and “Why” they work so well.

Some of Saturday and most of Sunday was spent in the field practicing radio use. Saturday afternoon was spent actually transmitting messages from one group to another using the different formats (SALUTE, SALT, ANGUS, CYRIL, CRACK, BORIS, UNDER) the class had been taught, along with using radio security measures with those reports.

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Most of Sunday the students spent in teams (that were flip flopped occasionally) in the field sending back reconnaissance (to the Tactical Operations Center) info gleaned from actual sightings of OpFor in the field. They put up the “Jungle Antennas that were built in class, and utilized the different reports they had been taught for various scenarios. From what I saw, the students became pretty comfortable with doing what was needed for relaying the info.

From my perspective, the AAR would go something like this:

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What was the mission/task?

Teach basic radio/antenna theory, the types of radios and antennas available, their use, and conduct practical exercises.

Items needed for the class?

A notebook and a pencil or pen, a radio was not required. This was not a HAM only class, and was relevant to anyone wanting to learn the basics of the above mentioned “”Mission/Task” for the Prepper or Survivalist.

Was the mission/task accomplished?

Yes

What should be sustained?

The method of delivery, the area the class was taught, and the info put out was excellent, and needs to be maintained. The time was used efficiently. The classroom was sufficient (dry with tables to work on) for what was needed. The supplies given to us for building an antenna were a bonus. We were fed some awesome home cooked meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Supper/ Breakfast, Lunch) and I was stuffed in a good way after every one. The class took the theory taught in it and put it into practical application, and everyone (even the two young girls who came with their parents) got to participate. The chance to network with those of like mind and make new friendships can not be understated as a “Sustain”.

What should be improved?

Nothing, given the time constraints of a two day class. If we had more time, maybe more field time, but referring back to “It was only a two day class”, yeah, that’s not an option.

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To NC Scout I want to convey a “Well Done Brother!”. To put it mildly to those reading this, I wish he had been the guy with the “Fire hose” 27 years ago teaching the antenna class to us “Joes” in the detachment. You made some things learned, all those years ago, not only understandable for this “Non Commo” guy, but I now feel comfortable with the improvised side of radio/antenna use.

To those I met in the class I want to convey that you guys made it a quite enjoyable time, and I plan on keeping in touch with a number of you. I know I said this in the class, but it stands to be reiterated that you guys are very lucky to have a guy like NC Scout putting out this info in such an easily digestible manner.

Great class taught by an outstanding instructor, Good people with the same goals and mindset, what could be better?

Ruckin' with the FAL

By no means am I a “commo guy”, but I always carry a radio in the woods. Now I know I can carry a conveniently compact antenna with me and get info out over a lot longer range than the standard antenna would have let me in the past. 

JCD,

“Parata Vivere”-Live Prepared.