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Canadian artillery team gives soldier one hell of a wake up call

Retired AF Guy

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Canadian artillery team gives soldier one hell of a wake up call

by Alex Hollings · April 22, 2019

Serving in the military forces you to develop a number of unusual skill sets that aren’t necessarily specific to war-fighting, and many of them involve sleep. The ability to go for extended periods of time without rest becomes paramount in uniform, as does your ability to catch up on that sleep deficit at unusual times and in unusual places.

Most of us who have traded some part of our lives to our nations for a uniform have at least a story or two about napping in seemingly impossible circumstances, whether it’s while holed up inside what’s left of a house in Iraq or in a steaming-hot concrete structure just off the rifle range in the desert of Twentynine Palms, California.
Author may be speaking from experience here.

The thing about service members and their uncanny ability to catch a few Zs in even the most unexpected of places is that it tends to leave them in a fairly vulnerable state. Napping on the job may not always be against the rules (if your unit is tasked with 24-hour responsibilities and someone on the team still has those responsibilities covered, for instance), but it does always leave you susceptible to practical jokes if your teammates are so inclined.

What kind of practical jokes? Well, usually the benign sort that might startle you, but won’t leave any lasting damage. Sometimes, you may need to change your clothes or wash your face (depending on whether or not shaving cream, baby powder, or markers are involved), but you usually end up no worse for wear. That is, unless you’ve been assigned to an artillery battery in the Canadian military, apparently.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of being near an M777 Howitzer when it’s fired, suffice to say that ear plugs aren’t really an option. The explosive power unleashed by this artillery isn’t merely something you hear, it’s something you feel as the air is compressed out of your lungs and your whole body finds itself temporarily stunned by how it was impacted all at once by a shockwave. When you know it’s coming, it can be a truly awe-inspiring experience. If you’re peacefully sleeping nearby, however, it’s probably just about the world’s worst wake-up call.

You can’t tell if this poor guy has ear protection in during the video, but if he doesn’t, at least he’ll have some solid evidence to go along with his disability claim.

Video Link: https://youtu.be/gOPEpsGJyCs

Article Link (with additional/photos/links):
 

brihard

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If he didn't have ear pro in, I hope they charge the **** out of every member of the chain of command who was present. And bill them for the eventual VAC claim.
 

Petard

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Hard to tell if he's wearing any hearing protection, but noticeable a number of them are bracing their ears with their hands, and a few inserting the old fashioned plug type just in time.

I hope someone can prove me wrong, but up until I got out of the Reg Force in 2014 the max number of rounds per day for the M777 still hadn't been determined, and it's evident they still haven't issued Cdn gunners with effective hearing protection; something that allows for hearing fire orders without removing hearing protection, as well as being able to withstand the blast over-pressure. If that's still the case, then it's not just that poor chap getting woke that's potentially getting long term hearing damage done

But they can be proud they'll soon be wearing the same colour beret they did when Gunners used to go without any ear pro at all, well, maybe cigarette butts if you believe the war stories
 

Teager

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Turns out a lot more people might have a hearing claim due to these faulty ear plugs by 3M. I was issued these back in 2006.


https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2019/02/14/hundreds-of-vets-are-suing-over-these-defective-combat-earplugs/
 

Old Sweat

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For at least the first ten years of my service, we went without any hearing protection except on one occasion when firing the 90mm AA in the ground role we were given wads of cotton batting to insert. On officer training we were told hearing loss was a badge of honour for a gunner officer. One of my Phase III classmates (who failed out) was berated by a senior officer for covering his ears and turning away during live firing. The ear plugs and/or muffs we were later issued really were more of a gesture than an effective form of hearing protection.

I consider myself fortunate to have only slight hearing loss after being on gun positions for a total of between ten and twenty thousand rounds going downrange.
 

Kirkhill

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Curiousity

Which is less damaging?

Option 1 - keeping your mouth open and hands away from your ears so as to allow the air pressure on both sides of the ear drum to equalize rapidly.

Option 2 - trapping a zone of low pressure air on the outside of the ear drum with an earplug while the inside of the ear drum is exposed to overpressure through the nose and mouth?

Old Sweat's comments prompted the question.  Apparently he can still hear. 
 

stoker dave

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I will further add that hearing protection in Her Majesty's Canadian Ships was generally woeful. 

Most older stokers never wore hearing protection. 

Pardon?  I said "Most older stokers never wore hearing protection."  WHAT?  Can't hear you?

I said "MOST OLDER STOKERS NEVER WORE HEARING PROTECTION." 

Yeah. 

The technology for integrated hearing protection and radio systems has existed for a long, long time.  I have no idea why such a small thing was never implemented for engine room and boiler room (there, now I dated myself) crews. 

   
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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But as a result, Dave, you have to admit that we developed a fairly extensive sign-language vocabulary.  :nod:

But, as woeful as it was on the steamers, they were quiet compared to standing four hours diesel main engines watches on the boats.
 

Petard

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Chris Pook said:
Curiousity

Which is less damaging?

Option 1 - keeping your mouth open and hands away from your ears so as to allow the air pressure on both sides of the ear drum to equalize rapidly.

Option 2 - trapping a zone of low pressure air on the outside of the ear drum with an earplug while the inside of the ear drum is exposed to overpressure through the nose and mouth?

Old Sweat's comments prompted the question.  Apparently he can still hear.

I haven't the ref anymore for a study done on the effects of the 105 extended range ammunition (the C132), but I recall the recommendation was for the operators to have both ear plug and ear defenders to attenuate the over-pressure. At about the time it came into service, so too did ear defenders (made by Peltor) that had a small microphone that could amplify the fire orders but obviously not "shock" type noises. The daily max number of rounds a gunner was to be exposed to, in training, was very limited. That ammunition wasn't fired very often, and those type of ear defenders fell out of use, mostly because losing a set could be costly, and the gunners could get by with just ear plugs for the less powerful 105 ammunition. Without much demand for them, I don't think the system sustained the stock

For the M109, the max daily rounds for the higher charges were relatively low too, despite most of the blast effects being reduced by the turret; it gives you an idea of the significant blast over pressures being created by 155 ammunition. Which makes me wonder why more urgency wasn't given to finding out what the values should be for the M777, considering the Gun detachment is more directly exposed to the blast effects, and the MAC ammunition available is much more powerful.

The gunners, and a number of other trades from the sounds of it, need something like those Peltor ear defenders back in the system (UCRs anybody?)

In regards to "mouth open" or not, given the speed of the blast wave I don't think the gun det standing around like mouth breathers would help. Besides which it's not just the ears that are effected. Below is some info from a wpn design ref I had for the ATWO P, on the other organs affected by blast. I'm not sure what the Pressure (kPa) effects values are for say a M777 Gun Det firing MAC 5 from within the confines of a Hesco-bastion gun pit, but then again it doesn't seem like much is being done to find out what they are by anyone

...
Blast Injuries. 

The effects of blast on unprotected personnel are shown in Table 2-1 below.

PRESSURE
(kPa) EFFECT
35 – 105 From slight eardrum damage to 50% eardrum rupture
200 – 700 From slight lung damage to 50% severe lung damage
700 – 1250 From minimal deaths to 50% of victims die
1400 - 1750 The majority of victims die


Damage to specific Organs.  Blast waves usually act on tissue at areas the air-fluid interfaces of three areas of the body:
        a. Ear.  The ear is highly sensitive to blast waves, with a threshold for injury of 0.5 atmospheres.  The eardrum can be injured, and as pressure increases, the bone structure can
                be dislocated or the fine nerve endings of the inner ear can be damaged.
        b. Lung.  The next area most sensitive to blast is the lung, where small haemorrhages occur, making gas exchange more difficult.  Blood continues to circulate through areas where
                gas exchange is not occurring.  More severe injury results in bleeding into the air sacs and passageways, resulting in the coughing up of blood.  Finally, the blast can cause
                broken ribs, making recovery more difficult.
        c. Gastrointestinal.  Air in the gastrointestinal tract can cause haemorrhage into the intestinal wall, which may result in tissue death and perforation.  Air trapped in the confined
                spaces can cause localized perforation.  Bacteria can escape from the bowel and lead to serious infection and death.
 

Kirkhill

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Thanks for that Petard.  My curiousity has been satisfied.

Cheers.

With respect to the Engine Room noise, I believe that managing repetitive, high frequency noise is a very different problem than that of managing blast effects.
 

Old Sweat

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Shortly after we took delivery of our first M109s in Autumn of 1968 DRES came to conduct blast measurements in Shilo. They had a modified camper cab fitted on a pickup as their control centre. Anyway they deployed some sensors mounted or tripods around the gun with cables running into their control centre. We fired a Charge 7 round at an elevation calculated to cause maximum overpressure to the rear and sides on the gun.

The results exceeded their expectations, but not in the way the scientists had expected.The first round blew over their tripod-mounted sensors and ripped the door off their control centre. Eventually they managed to collect some useful data, but I am not sure what ever came of it.
 

Blackadder1916

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A couple of things that may interest some following this thread.

A US perspective
https://www.army.mil/article/123801/joint_army_navy_project_measures_effects_of_blast_pressure
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 10, 2014) -- The Army and Navy are working on a joint research project to measure the effects of concussion, traumatic brain injury and blast events on military personnel.

One area of research is the measurement of blast overpressure, especially related to field artillery during combat and training.

A research team recently visited Fort Sill to test and gather data from live-fire exercises conducted by "Big Deuce," 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery on East Range.

"We're working with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), to evaluate different types of blast sensors in the training environment," said Dr. (Lt.) Uade Da Silva, from the Naval Medical Research Center. "These type of sensors have been deployed in Afghanistan for about a year."

WRAIR is a subcommand of Army Medical Research and Material Command, which focuses on medical research, development, acquisition and medical logistics management worldwide.

Blast overpressure (BOP) is caused by a shock wave over and above normal atmospheric pressure. The source of the shock wave can be a sonic boom, an explosion or the firing of a weapon, such as a cannon.

"The effects of blast overpressure from firing a howitzer can have the same effect as an explosion or even a non-combat blow to the head," said Lt. Col. Chris Compton, 2-2nd FA commander. "We're shooting a mid-level charge today out of a 105mm gun, and you can calculate the greater effects of the higher charges we shoot from the 155mm guns."

. . .

And a Swedish perspective.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090119091112.htm
Blast Overpressure Is Generated From The Firing Of Weapons, And May Cause Brain Injury

Blast overpressure is generated from the firing of weapons and this may cause brain injury. The brain may be injured by the noise, which is produced when, for example, an anti-tank weapon (Bazooka, Karl Gustav) or a howitzer (Haubits) is fired. Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy demonstrated mild injury to brain tissue.

In response to this, the Swedish Armed Forces restricted the number of rounds per day Swedish personnel can be exposed to.

A number of reports, which have appeared during the last few years, have shown that the brain is sensitive to blast. This study determines whether the occupational standards for the highest levels of blast exposure were valid enough to avoid brain injuries. Traumatic brain injury is very common among war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and the majority has been exposed to explosions. The soldiers have symptoms of disorders of memory, mental processes, emotion, sleep, speech, vision and hearing. The symptoms may be similar to those of post traumatic stress syndrome, which may be caused by factors other than combat experience.

. . .

A quick google of "artillery blast overpressure" seems to indicate that relevant injury research has gone past the long ago focus of "hearing loss" (and the trivia question of why the cook trade had the greatest number of H4 members) to looking at other hazards of operating things that go bang loudly.


 

Navy_Pete

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Old Sweat said:
Shortly after we took delivery of our first M109s in Autumn of 1968 DRES came to conduct blast measurements in Shilo. They had a modified camper cab fitted on a pickup as their control centre. Anyway they deployed some sensors mounted or tripods around the gun with cables running into their control centre. We fired a Charge 7 round at an elevation calculated to cause maximum overpressure to the rear and sides on the gun.

The results exceeded their expectations, but not in the way the scientists had expected.The first round blew over their tripod-mounted sensors and ripped the door off their control centre. Eventually they managed to collect some useful data, but I am not sure what ever came of it.

Probably a follow on to this report; http://cradpdf.drdc-rddc.gc.ca/PDFS/unc285/p805421_A1b.pdf

Might have been done by the LCMM or something (instead of DRDC) but they may have something if you poke around a bit.

If you are curious you can search the DRDC archive below; got lost down a rabbit hole but didn't find anything myself.  Some interesting stuff though came around when the 280s came into service with the blast effects on gas turbines and other specific equipment.

http://pubs.drdc-rddc.gc.ca/BASIS/pcandid/www/engpub/SF


DRDC (previously DREA) does some pretty cool stuff, and are probably underutilized.

 

stoker dave

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Chris Pook said:
With respect to the Engine Room noise, I believe that managing repetitive, high frequency noise is a very different problem than that of managing blast effects.

I agree.  However, what appears to be a systemic lack of attention to assuring adequate hearing protection for all soldiers, sailors and air-persons is disconcerting. 
 

Petard

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Typically it is the Munitions Experiment Test Centre in Valcartier that would collect the data, on behalf of DRDC Toronto, funded by the project bringing the equipment into service or the LCMM later if it’s modified. In the case of the M777 that was the Light Weight Towed Howitzer Project.

In searching that DRDC database you’ll see there have been a number of experiments looking into the effects of noise on soldiers effectiveness, there’s even one on the environmental effects of howitzer propellant residue, but none that would result in acceptable daily number of rounds or recommend protection equipment when in the vicinity of the M777

BTW, I fought with VAC for over 12 years on whether or not my hearing loss after 37 years in the Artillery was service related. Besides the fact I had nothing (no CF98, and missing daily rds fired logs) in my doc’s identifying a specific incident that could’ve caused the significant hearing loss, which was evident in my hearing tests, part of the earlier push back was that if issued hearing protection was properly worn no damage would occur. I think one of the reasons my claim eventually succeeded, was in pointing out that since no daily limit of rounds has been established for the M777, and that the only values given in Training and Safety relate to the M109 using legacy ammunition,  how can it be known that issued hearing protection is effective or if daily round exposure limit had been exceeded. Then again, who knows what algorithm VAC operates by?

All that aside, Canadian gunners have been using the M777 for almost 14 years now, and high time those gunners got better hearing protection
 

Kirkhill

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stoker dave said:
I agree.  However, what appears to be a systemic lack of attention to assuring adequate hearing protection for all soldiers, sailors and air-persons is disconcerting.

Got it. Understood.

:cheers:
 
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