ARLINGTON, Va. — Marines are now required to wear padded helmets that provide better protection against head trauma, according to new rules released by the Marine Corps this week.

Officials have already delivered 50,000 helmet pads to Marine Expeditionary Forces, which will have about 140,000 such pads by the end of December, Marine Corps Systems Command officials said.

The Marine Corps started issuing the pads in August, weeks after lawmakers pressed service officials about why thousands of Marines were turning to the private charity Operation Helmet for pads and sling systems. In contrast, the Army has been issuing padded helmets to its soldiers for years.

The latest decision came after both the Army and Marine Corps tested padded helmets and found that they provided greater protection against blunt-force impact, according to a systems command news release.

“In light of this, the Marine Corps announced that the pad suspension system is now the only authorized suspension system for Marine Corps Helmets,” the news release said.

On Friday, Corps officials said they already have begun to procure enough pads for all combat helmets. Each Marine Expeditionary Force will be responsible for issuing the helmet pads.

Only helmet pads issued by the Marine Corps can be worn, according to the officials administrative announcement regarding the new helmet regulations. Marines will be required to exchange their old sling suspension systems and any helmet pads they have that were not issued by the Marine Corps.

Dr. Bob Meaders, founder of Operation Helmet, said he was pleased at the Marine Corps’ decision to make padded helmets standard issue. Meaders and singer Cher both appeared before Congress in June to lobby for the Marines to begin using the helmet padding.

Additional information on the helmet pads is explained in Marine Corps administrative announcement 480/06.

In addition to the helmets, Marines downrange can expect to start receiving a new type of body armor in January that is designed to feel lighter and provide more protection than current Outer Tactical Vests, officials said.

The Corps systems command has awarded a $33.6 million contract for 60,000 Modular Tactical Vests, according to the Defense Department.

“The MTVs will optimize ballistic defense with increased protection to the side torso, lower back and shoulder,” officials said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

While the vests’ weight will vary depending on their size and missions, they are designed to distribute weight better than current body armor to feel lighter, officials said.

The typical Marine carries now a combat load of 75 pounds of armor, ammunition and other gear.

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