3-4-05 - It started out as a simple gift made of leather for an Army friend with orders to Operation Iraqi Freedom. But in a flash, Kyle Greenwood’s Cooper Sling Gunner Seat has become a hot item with hundreds of Humvee crews in Iraq, Afganistan and stateside.
“The idea behind the new Cooper Sling Gunner Seat is simple,” says Greenwood, 34, owner of Black Mountain Industries in Bryan, Texas. “It helps make gunners in Humvees and other tactical vehicles more effective soldiers and improves their chances of coming home alive.”
Greenwood designed the Cooper Sling for a close friend, SGT William Hartmann. His invention replaces current standard issue nylon strap seats intended to help turret gunners maintain a combat-ready posture.
“However, those straps are as uncomfortable as they are unsafe,” says Greenwood. “Gunners say they cause severe pain in their lower backs and buttocks on long patrols and make their legs go to sleep. They also do nothing to prevent the two leading causes of injury and death to Humvee gunners in Iraq—ejection from the vehicle due to the violent impact of mines and roadside explosives, and rollovers.”
Greenwood and Hartmann became close friends while selling office equipment in Bryan, Texas, several years ago.
“In late 2004, William was serving as a Humvee gunner and knew his unit would be sent to Iraq before long,” says Greenwood. “He called to ask if I knew anyone who could make something out of leather, since I have horses. That’s when he told me about the problem Humvee gunners have trying to sit on the standard issue straps—if I could make something to improve on them. He also said, ‘While you’re at it, find some way to tie me into this thing so I don’t get thrown out or crushed in a rollover.’
“I thought, ‘Sure, glad to do it,’” recalls Greenwood. “William’s a good friend and I have been looking for a way to help him while he’s in Iraq defending our country.”
Greenwood’s first problem was attaching an improved gunner seat in the Humvee turret. Once he solved that, he set out to meet four basic requirements for the gunner seat: durability, comfort, easy to move and safer than the standard issue straps.
“That’s how I came up with the original design of the Cooper Sling, with its 7x24-inch web seat made of saddle leather,” says Greenwood. “From there, I started thinking about a safety restraint to keep these guys from getting ejected or crushed.”
After several attempts, Greenwood settled on a leather waist belt with two aviation cable lanyards that snap into steel side rings on the web seat. “It’s easy to fasten and adjust, and easy to remove,” says Greenwood. “It doesn’t restrict mobility, but it provides an increased level of protection over what they currently have—which is nothing.”
In November, Greenwood took the gunner seat he’d designed for Hartmann to Fort Hood, Texas, to see how well it fit a Humvee gun turret.
“As I was demonstrating it to William a lot of G.I.s saw us and started asking questions,” recalls Greenwood. “Before I knew it, there was a crowd around the Humvee wanting to know where they could get a Cooper Sling. At that point I realized there was a need for this product that extended way beyond my friend.”
To help meet that need through official channels, Greenwood met with the command staff of the 3rd/112th Armor Battalion. That resulted in a two-week field test of the Cooper Sling in December during Urban Assault training at Fort Polk, La. After field tests, Humvee gunners and crew mates filled out evaluation forms.
“All the feedback was positive and helpful—I felt very moved after seeing, in their own handwriting, how excited these young soldiers were about our design.” says Greenwood. “They liked the improved comfort of the wide sling seat, which helps them stay alert and maintain proper position in the gun turret on long missions. They also said the mounting system helps them train their weapons on a target faster.”
In the meantime, dozens of G.I.s and family members have told Greenwood they want to buy Cooper Sling Gunner Seats themselves until government supply channels provide the devices. “Troops who see the Cooper Sling get word to the folks back home amazingly fast,” he adds.
A Texas National Guard unit purchased the first Cooper Sling Gunner Seats. Greenwood says 1,000 units are now in use in Iraq or awaiting shipment. The device fits major U.S. tactical vehicles equipped with gun turrets such as the HEMTT/PLS, M1025, M1114, FMTV and 5-ton truck.
Honors father in law
The Cooper Sling is named to honor Greenwood’s late father in law, Pat D. Cooper. “Although I didn’t get to spend much time with Pat, he had a tremendous impact on my life,” says Greenwood. “He loved God, he loved his family and he loved his country. I wish he were still here to be involved—he’d get a big kick out of it.”
Greenwood’s Black Mountain Industries takes its name from Black Mountain on Fort Hood, Texas, where he and Hartmann hatched the Cooper Sling concept.
“I haven’t served in the military, but as a Texas A&M graduate I served in the Corps of Cadets,” notes Greenwood. “So I understand some of the hardships faced by many of my fellow Aggies who are serving. I appreciate the sacrifices our service men and women make for my family and me.”
For information on how to order Cooper Sling Gunner Seats, go to www.coopersling.com