The Corps is fielding a new headset for grunts, meaning infantry Marines can soon ditch their earplugs and both protect their hearing and actually talk during a firefight.

Marine Corps Systems Command began fielding the hearing enhancement devices in July to infantry Marines. Upcoming officers at The Basic School used them during anti-armor anti-personnel weapons system live fires at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

“This hearing enhancement device protects Marines from noise levels that are above safe hearing levels,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Tomlinson, Systems Command’s infantry weapons officer, said in a press release. “It also allows for sound localization, which means you can tell where a voice or noise is coming from.”

The fielding is starting with the Corps’ East and West Coast experimental battalions and will roll out to all infantry and “infantry-like” battalions across the force during the next two fiscal years, a Systems Command spokesman said.

“Every infantry Marine within a BN gets a set.”

The ruggedized headset can work in extreme cold or in jungle heat, according to the release.

Two versions are being fielded. Both allow for users to hear messages coming via a connection to their communication device, be that a handheld or man-packable radio system. But only one allows the user to talk on the network with a push-to-talk adapter and cables.

One feature allows Marines to listen to radio traffic even when the system is powered down, staying linked into comms while saving batteries.

“A major goal of this system is to increase communication in loud, noisy environments so Marines can continue to do their job,” Tomlinson said.

Noise, especially during a firefight, has been getting a lot more attention in recent years in all areas of military training and operations.

Both protecting hearing and enabling better tactical communications have led to the adoption of suppressors for rifles. Headsets like the HED allow for hearing protection and talking.

Suppressors, which Marine Corps Times reported on in recent years, including widespread fielding that began in December 2020, allow for units to retain a tactical edge by maintaining lower noise signatures when engaging an adversary.

Often the target won’t know where the shooting is coming from, putting them off balance for a quick response.

A different headset with some of the same capabilities as HED was fielded to fill an urgent priority to artillery and reconnaissance Marines in late 2019 through early 2020, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

That was a smaller fielding effort that had a planned delivery of 4,519 headsets produced by the company INVISO. Those were also communications-enabled headsets, Systems Command confirmed.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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