If you have never served in the US Army, or any other branch of the military, the term “eye pro” may seem a little foreign to you. In short; the term means eye protection. We all know that protecting our eyes is important while doing anything dangerous. Most of us probably remember having to wear some sort of eye protection during experiments in high school science class. However, active-duty Army soldiers face more extreme and dangerous circumstances than most civilians do, every day. They can’t wear the same sunglasses as any civilian might. So, what constitutes a pair of eye pro as Army approved?
Qualifications & APEL
The US Army doesn’t allow you to walk into combat or training wearing any old pair of wire framed prescription glasses, and for good reason. They have a set of standards and rigorous ballistics testing that a pair of glasses must go through before they are approved. The APEL (Approved Protective Eyewear List) shows all army approved products. This list contains every approved eyewear make and model of spectacles, goggles, transitional eyewear, and cold weather goggles (not skiing goggles).
Types of Eye Pro
The APEL separates army approved eye pro into 4 main categories. Even in those 4 categories, we can separate all eye pro into 2 different categories. The first category would be eye pro that allows for prescription lens integration, or UPLC (Universal . Spectacles are the largest category of all, containing 15 options for active soldiers. 7 of the 15 are UPLC. Goggles are the second largest category containing 12 options, of which 11 are UPLC. Cold Weather Goggles is the third largest category containing only 4 options, with 3 UPLC. The last, and newest category is Transitional Eye Wear. This category only contains 2 pairs of eye pro, one goggle, and one spectacle, both of which are UPLC. E-Tint makes both of these models using liquid crystal technology. Since these 2 pair of eye pro were only recently accepted onto the APEL, many people don’t know about them.
This liquid crystal technology, mentioned earlier, allows for a whole new breed of eye pro! Instead of carrying 2 lenses on their person, a soldier can now have a clear and tinted lens all in one. How is this possible? At the press of a button, the lens will instantly tint or un-tint. However, it’s not always reasonable for a soldier to be reaching to their eyewear in the midst of combat. This is why there is an auto mode, that allows the lenses to instantly tint when in direct sunlight. That is why they are “transitional”. No more waiting 10 minutes for your photochromic lenses to adjust to the sunlight! Even more importantly, no more changing lenses!
Eye Pro In a Nutshell
All eye pro in all categories of the APEL will do their job, and save your eyes from shrapnel. However, some are better suited for certain situations. Cold Weather Goggles are obviously better suited for cold weather situations. Transitional Eye Wear is better for changing light conditions and saves time in combat. Normal spectacles and goggles will do the job if you are alright with changing out lenses between clear and tinted whenever the light conditions change.
Picking Your Pair of Eye Pro
Do you want to be more comfortable with them on? This might mean spending a little extra. Do you want them to be reliable and meet your needs? Spending a little extra for that better pair of eyewear will get you that too. Though, if you are only trying to save your bank account, there are options there too. When it comes to military eye pro, you get what you pay for. All items on the APEL list get the job done, but some do it better than others.