Saving comrades' lives by design
November 7, 2007
MOSUL, Iraq — Sgt. Mabon Briola has always enjoyed tinkering with things.
So after two of his buddies, both Humvee turret gunners, were shot in the face by insurgent snipers, Briola decided to do something he hoped would prevent more gunners from getting hit. Although both soldiers survived, he didn’t want to see any more of his friends share the same fate.
The 36-year-old native of Yigo, Guam, took a glass and metal plate from a bulletproof shield originally designed to protect the commander of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He then modified a night-vision sight so the shield could be fitted onto any Humvee turret gun, from a M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and up.
“It’s designed to save the soldier’s life,” said Briola, a soldier with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, from Fort Bliss, Texas. “Once the sniper sees this then, hopefully, he’s going to pick another target, and by that time, we’ll be out of there.”
Call it an example of old-fashioned GI ingenuity.
Essentially a thick glass in a steel casing, Briola’s “bulletproof face shield” has already received extensive field testing on his own Humvee, and he’s made several more for other vehicles in Company A.
At least two soldiers have escaped serious injury after their shields stopped 7.62mm rounds, soldiers said.
Spc. Gabriel Hernandez, 22, of San Antonio is a .50-caliber machine gunner on Briola’s Humvee. He said that having the shield mounted on top of the gun makes him feel a lot safer.
“Usually, when a shot is fired, your first instinct is to dive for cover,” he said. “But with this glass, you’re able to keep your eyes on the target.”
A Humvee turret gunner is the most vulnerable soldier on the truck.
“I just want to give the soldier the edge in combat so he can strike first at the enemy, rather than giving the enemy the opportunity to strike first at him,” Briola said.
Briola said he hopes the Army will take notice of his work and make the shield standard issue on all Humvees.
Since his gunner started using the device, Briola said his Humvee has gotten shot at a lot less than before.
“It has been a big improvement,” he said.
Describing himself as an “avid inventor,” Briola said he’s always looking for ways to improve the flaws that can be found in almost every piece of equipment. He’s designed and made his own deer call; he also created a gun lock for firearms.
He is also designing on an individual cooling system for soldiers operating in hot climates such as Iraq. He hopes to enter it into a contest the Army has announced seeking new designs for such a system.