The helmet that stopped a sniper’s bullet or the SAPI plate that deflected shrapnel from a roadside bomb can take on profound significance for service members wounded on the battlefield. Now, U.S. lawmakers want to ensure that combat-wounded troops can keep the gear that saved their lives as mementos.
At the beginning of August, the civilian world lapped up a titillating piece of military news: Britain’s elite Special Air Service warfighters are currently experimenting with the Devtac Ronin Kevlar Level IIIA Tactical Ballistic Helmet, a skeletal bulletproof mask enthusiastically dubbed the “Boba Fett” helmet by the British tabloids. A cross between Iron Man’s streamlined helmet and Maximus Decimus Meridius’ ghoulish mask in Gladiator, the Ronin looks designed to make the enemy shit his pants — and according to The Daily Mirror, that was enough for elite Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators reportedly among the first to test the futuristic new kit.
Anyone who’s served in the military since the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops was introduced in 1985 knows the value of Kevlar. While the Lightweight Helmet and Advanced Combat Helmet have slowly come to replace the drab olive gear that came to define American troops at the end of the Cold War, the PASGT virtually made Kevlar synonymous with tough, lightweight armor that can take a beating in even the worst situations.
One of the most iconic pieces of equipment worn by American service members is the combat helmet. From the flat-brimmed “Brodie” M1917 helmet worn by doughboys in World War I, to the M1 “Steel Pot” that troops wore throughout World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, helmets have come to represent American troops at war. Historically, these helmets have mainly been about protection against bumps, exploding shrapnel, and debris; until recently, helmets were not even rated to stop handgun bullets consistently. But in the past 15 years, helmets have evolved far past simple protection.