Name: Ernest Engman (AKA SGT Rock)
Height: 5' 8" (1.73 meters)
Weight: 155 pounds (70.3 kilograms)
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
City and State: Fort Polk, Louisiana
Date: 9 December 2002
Manufacturer: Clear Products, Inc.
369 S. Main St.
Moab, Utah 84532
Year of Manufacture: 2002
Other weights - Lanyard: 0.5 ounces (14.2 grams); Headband: 0.8 ounces (22.7 grams)
Similar products used: Photon Microlight II, Laserlyte Minibrite, Krill Light.
Military usage testing
When the test call for the LazerBrite came up, my immediate thoughts were how well suited this product could be for military usage. The ability to have a bright, reusable chemical light stick replacement would be worth quite a bit. In a lot of training and tactical situations, we use quite a lot of chemical light sticks (we call them Chem Lights). Chem Lights cost quite a bit - about $1.00 each. We have 40 tactical vehicles in just my troop, often they are required to mark their position with a Chem Light, so the cost for illumination the Troop for one night can be $40.00. That $40.00 is not recoverable - once the chem light is broken, it stays on until it burns out. Sometimes a vehicle may need as many as three because the intensity goes down as the light is used. There are cases where you only need the light for a short time, or want to conserve light, and there is no way to turn off a chem light once it is activated. Because of this, the cost of a 2 week training exercise using chem lights can get very expensive.
Sometimes the chem lights are used in a manner where you pop them and drop them with no interest in recovering them. They are still the best for that kind of usage, but to have the ability to use a chem light, or a substitute, that could be shut off or could change colors - very exciting.
My first test was a machinegun qualification range. To qualify, the gunners must engage targets in the night as well as in the daytime. At night, noncommissioned officers (NCOs) are on the firing line to serve as coaches, trainers, but most of all as safeties. Safeties at night usually need a red and a green chem light to display to the range tower which controls the range. When the safety has checked all machineguns and they are ready to continue to the next phase of training, he will display the green chem light. If there is a problem, he will display the red chem light. With eight safeties on the range, you use a total of 16 chem lights ($16 worth) just for a two hour training event.
My intent was to have one chem light that the safety could turn on and off, as well as change the color as needed. Having the red/green LazerBrite was perfect, well almost perfect. When the red was on, it was very easy to be recognized and was about as bright as the rest of the chem lights. The green however, was very bright. It was much brighter than a high intensity chem light when it is first broken. To solve that, I ended up covering some of the tube with my hand, which solved the problem. If I had enough LazerBrite lights for my NCOs to use, I would have saved some money that night. And in the long run, I could save my unit a lot of money using them in this situation.
Something else I should add. When a machinegun has a problem, like a misfire or jam, the safety will have to try and clear it using just the chem light as a light. Often the chem light will get dim as the night goes on and this makes it very hard to work with. The safety must hold the chem light close to the weapon while trying to work with one hand on the weapon - very awkward. Another option for them is to carry another flashlight - but this also puts them in the awkward position of trying to hold a flashlight while working with one hand. I brought the LazerBrite head band with me and placed it on my Kevlar helmet; it fit very well. When the first machinegun malfunctioned, I put the green LED LazerBrite into the band and was able to work on the machinegun, with both hands, with sufficient light to do the job.
Overall, the LazerBrite was successful for use by range safeties. They just need to cover the tube up about 1/2 way when using the green light.
My troop went to a two week gunnery training exercise. Gunnery training is a series of exercises for crew weapon qualification that are mainly done mounted on a combat vehicle. Our Troop is equipped with HMMWV (Known as Hummers) with .50 caliber M2 machineguns, 40mm MK19 automatic grenade launchers, M240B 7.62mm machineguns, and TOW II anti-tank missile launchers. These weapons are fired over a series of nights and different ranges. Each vehicle must be equipped with a red and green light to signal the weapon status. When a weapon is clear and safe, a green light is displayed. When the weapon is ready to fire, or "Hot", a red light is displayed. Most often a red and green chem light is used during night fire to signal weapon status. With 28 combat vehicles in our Troop, the cost could be $56 for one night of training.
With the LazerBrite, we were able to simply use one light and maybe pennies in battery cost to mark the vehicle. The light's color could be switched from red to green as needed and remain in position on the vehicle antenna. This is a great improvement over chem lights which must be removed and replaced by the vehicle gunner from its position on the vehicle antenna, which necessitates him climbing around and standing on top of the vehicle during the exercise.
For gunnery, the LazerBrite was highly successful.
General utility use.
Next, our Troop went to a maneuver and live fire exercise. During this exercise, we operate in a tactical environment like we would for combat. No white light use. Noise, light, and litter discipline enforced. During this time, there wasn't a lot of need for marking of vehicles. But at this time, we move our vehicles at night on and off road using night vision devices. Map reading at night usually necessitates the vehicle commander to keep a colored lens flashlight or chem light so he can read the map while the vehicle is moving - and not interfere with the driver using night vision goggles. Vehicle commanders are also required to ground guide at night in assembly areas: walk in front of a moving vehicle with a marking light to ensure they don't run over a piece of equipment or sleeping soldier in a unit camp.
During night maneuver, I would put the head band on my Kevlar helmet and then put the night vision adapter over that. I could wear my night vision goggles to watch where the driver was going, then flip them up and use my green LED on the helmet to read the map while both hands were free. I kept the red LED in the tub and used it as my ground guiding light when entering assembly areas.
As Troop First Sergeant, my responsibilities (among many) include supervision of ammunition distribution and feeding of soldiers. In these two areas I found the LazerBrite to be a great help. I could use the head band on my Kevlar helmet with the green LED when distributing ammunition so that both hands were free while doing the paperwork and counting ammunition. When serving chow in a tactical environment at feeding sites, I could set up the chow in the back of my HMMWV and hang the LazerBrite in the back and turn on both the red and green LEDs which provided plenty of light.
The LazerBrite was such an obvious improvement over chem lights to the soldiers of my unit. Many of them wanted to see what it was and how it worked. They were absolutely amazed by the amount of light it produced from the small batteries and how long it could last on such small batteries. LED lights have been replacing the Mini Mag light as the light of choice for soldiers in my Regiment for about the last year, and many wanted to know where they could get one. My commander was so impressed by them, and the money it could save the unit, he told me to look into getting some for the unit.
For general use, the LazerBrite is head and shoulders above everything else. It can replace so many other ways of lighting.
Ordering LazerBrites for the unit.
With my commander's permission, I looked into buying a bulk quantity of LazerBrite lights. We wanted to get one for each soldier (117 authorized strength), but decided to get enough for every vehicle at first, and if they work out - to get more later. We also decided to get a custom logo put on them since it is an option; this was to make theft a little harder and show unit esprit de corps. I contact LazerBrite to order 40, and found that with an order of 50 or more, I could get a discount. I also found that there was a $50 one time fee for a custom logo to cover the cost of the stamp. We were able to get approval for purchase on the Government credit card for the entire package of 50, for a cost of $15.50 for each light.
I also found out that LazerBrite makes the military version with opaque pieces to prevent light leaking to the sides and also offers IR LEDs for use with night vision.
The logo I originally sent was something we had been using at the troop for a while, but was too small for the printer. To do a logo, you must have an image at least 300 dpi. This is the new logo I came up with using Corel Draw and Power Point.
At the time of this review, the shipment had not arrived for evaluation. This will be covered in the long term test.
I've been backpacking and hiking as long as I can remember. My first overnight backpacking trip was in the late 70's on the Appalachian Trail. Places I've hiked: 350 miles of the Appalachian Trail - sections in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Bankhead Forest, Alabama. Sipssey Forest, Alabama. Pinhoti Trail, Alabama. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. Desert of New Mexico and Texas north of El Paso. Kistatchi National Forest, Louisiana. Slick Rock/Joyce Kilmer Forest, North Carolina. Cradle of forestry in America, North Carolina. Standing Indian Trails, North Carolina. Many more. My current gear selection is in the lightweight realm with a summer base weight of about 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) and a winter base of 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms).
I'm including this since I consider it important to the tests I intend to do. Over 17 years of active federal service as a 19D Cavalry Scout, which is a reconnaissance specialty, and a forward area combat specialty that often works inside enemy area of operation. I have served in scout platoons for an Infantry battalion, an Armor battalion, a heavy armored cavalry regiment, and I'm currently in a light armored cavalry regiment. I have extensively used chemical light sticks, filtered lenses flashlights, electronic light sticks, and LED lights in tactical situations.
Similar products used: Photon Microlight II, Laserlyte Minibrite, Krill Light, chemical light sticks.
Location: Tests were conducted in the Kistachi National forest and Fort Polk training area.
Description of location: 90 meters (295 feet) above sea level in pine forests with some hardwoods.