How to set up your combat helmet isn't always covered in boot camp and unless your unit has specific SOP's you might be on your own there as well! We are fortunate enough to have several members of our team with extensive Special Operations experience who help put this helmet set up guide together! As with any gear, set up will be user-specific, but we will cover common set-ups for the basic "grunt" up to "I have way too much stuff on my ballistic helmet!"
First rule: Always look cool! While most books, shows, and videos about the community make most of us cringe the CBS show SEAL Team must have had a little help as the helmets are mostly set-up as they would be in combat in the teams.
Issued Helmet or Aftermarket?
The majority of you are working with an issued ballistic helmet that typically falls under the ACH/ECH or MICH category. This means you have the bare basics in pads, chin-strap, and a night vision shroud.
This is where you need to ask yourself, what do I need? Do you need the ability to mount a light on your helmet? Are you wearing the helmet for extended periods? Is most of the use with the helmet happening at night with NVGs? Do I need to use communications headsets in conjunction with my helmet?
An issued helmet can be upgraded to accommodate the majority of these needs and we will cover that, but you may be into it cost wise about the same as an aftermarket helmet at that point depending on accessory choices.
(Photo-Viper Modernization Kit from (https://www.revisionmilitary.com)
If you need to use full comms headsets with your helmet and are not issued a high-cut type helmet, we would highly suggest an aftermarket option. We have an awesome guide here on some of those options as well. https://www.hardheadveterans.com/pages/best-ballistic-helmet
ACH/ECH Initial Setup
ATE or FAST Helmet Initial Setup
Normally a high-cut style helmet from a good manufacturer will already include their top tier suspension and pad systems, but if they don't you can revert to the same guides above to improve them. Be sure to follow the manufactures recommendations on set-up to get the best protection and fit. For example, our ATE Ballistic GEN2 helmet has a pad system that is designed to be layered.
The "Grunt" Helmet Setup
Most of you have heard of the acronym KISS, but for those who haven't it stands for "Keep It Simple Stupid"! If you are a grunt, you most likely already know that you tend to walk for long periods in full kit, carry lots of heavy things, and seldom take your helmet off. All important things to consider when you are deciding what to stick on your brain protector.
This one is pretty easy, as the only thing that's going on your shroud is an NVG mount. There are other things you can stick there, but if you keep that mount attached you probably won't have to tell Sgt. Pecker or equivalent why you lost a 400 dollar piece of metal.
If you are using an ACH helmet you most likely don't have rails, but there is a solution! You can upgrade your ACH to add em with this product (https://shop.gentexcorp.com/ops-core-skeleton-arc-rails-ach/) or the many other options out there. If you are using an aftermarket helmet, it will already have some type of rail affixed for mounting accessories.
Your ACH/ECH might not have velcro already added as most aftermarket helmets do. If it doesn't, the easy solution is to add some!
The "cool guy" Helmet Setup (Common helmet set-ups found across Special Operations communities to include Navy SEAL's, SWCC's, Green Berets, Ranger's, MARSOC and PJ's)
(Photo from https://www.artstation.com/artwork/knQE6) We wish our helmets looked this cool!
We will be the first to admit that a tactical helmet setup with all the goodies looks pretty cool. We will also be the first to admit that lots of that stuff sucks to have to wear and should be avoided when possible. Cameras, nods, headsets, strobes, lights, etc all add weight.
Again, considering many of the operations are conducted in darkness the only shroud accessories going on your helmet is your NVG mount for nods.
In the early days of the GWOT, the majority of American Special Operations did not have high-cut helmets or helmets with rails on them. (It's the main reason Hard Head Veterans was even started!) Thankfully that has changed to the majority having them now.
Look at all this space to add more stuff! You might be seeing a pattern here with our negative view on more stuff, but unfortunately, it is the nature of the beast at times.
1. Again, strobes make marking and identification easy. We like the (https://coresurvival.com/hel-star-6-helmet-light/) Programmable with their Programming Interface Module.
2. Morale patches are vital as always but don't forget blood types, and call-signs. IR patches are especially helpful under NVGs. (https://www.refactortactical.com/collections/ir-patches/products/american-flag-ir-hybrid-field-patch?variant=29955246882891)
3. Counter-weight pouches are typically used to off-set the weight of NVG's, but many make for great storage of batteries, chem lights, and other small necessities. The rear of the helmet also makes for a good place to velcro in a tourniquet. Don't forgot items such as strobes can pull double duty as a counter-weight as well.
4. Helmet covers can double tap to help with wire management, as a counter-weight, and of course to change the color of a helmet without having to rattle can it.
Sgt. Pecker will be the first to tell you that the tactical helmet setup should always be specific to yourself and your team. Your 11B (Army Infantryman) setup is going to be much different than someone doing VBSS (vessel boarding search and seizure). Try not to be too quick to add accessories, and if you do add something and find you don't need it, don't be afraid to pull it off! All that stuff adds pounds you may not need. Check our helmet weight calculator to see exactly what you mean, you may be surprised how everything adds up.
We will continue to update this guide and always appreciate your comments and feedback below!