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Always on Duty

Transcript

MG Bob Hedelund

Hello, I’m Major General Bob Hedelund and I’m the Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing here at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. And I’m here today to talk to you about hearing conservation and hearing protection. I’ve been in the Marine Corps for thirty-one years and over that time I have lost a significant amount of my hearing due to a damaging noise environment. Even though I protected my hearing in many cases, I still lost some of my hearing due to the noise environment I was in.

So while you’re on active duty, and while you’re in the local community, and while you’re just doing everyday activities you have to be conscious of your hearing as a sense that is an important part of every day living. That sense is one that you can’t get back once you’ve lost it. Your ability to interact with those around you is affected deeply by how well you can hear. So please, take the opportunity now to protect your hearing and help those who are around you to protect their hearing by leading by example. Thank you.

Serviceman #1

Everything’s loud. Everything is loud.

1st Sgt Clint Summers

The noisiest environment is in a helicopter.

Serviceman #2

I don’t know how many on line all firing the weapons at the same time.

Serviceman #3

Fork lifts running, machinery, compressors.

Sgt Sean Morris

Very large generators operating 24 hours a day.

Serviceman #2

A lot of air tools.

Serviceman #4

The diesel engines are actually right behind you.

Serviceman #1

I had a 50 cal go off by my head.

MG Bob Hedelund

And the officer staterooms, on the ships that I’ve served on, are right below the flight deck. They pretty much land right on your head.

Serviceman #5

An IED went off in the ground near me. It was close enough to knock me unconscious.

1st Sgt Clint Summers

One weapon in particular, the mini gun that we fire in the helicopter, creates so much vibration and so much noise that it used to actually vibrate the visors off the pilots’ helmets.

MG Bob Hedelund

If you can’t hear, it makes life real challenging.

1st Sgt Clint Summers

Twenty-three years ago when I first joined the Marine Corps, to no fault of their own, I don’t think anyone ever said, “Hey, it’s gonna be really loud today. You probably should put in hearing protection.”

Serviceman #3

It’s high pace, high tempo, so it’s whenever you can get two seconds to put in your hearing protection.

Serviceman #5

I think it is a prevalent opinion that it’s inevitable that you will have hearing loss.

Sgt Sean Morris

It was an acceptable level of risk for the job that we were trying to do.

Serviceman #5

Situational awareness is very important to survivability. You need to be aware of where the threat is coming from.

1st Sgt Clint Summers

But you’re attuned to those sort of things, so you hear something different … it can be a key to something wrong with the aircraft or a change in something that’s going on.

Serviceman #1

You wanna be aware of what your team is saying to you. You wanna be aware who’s talking around you. Who’s around you.

Serviceman #2

Something happens behind ya, you gotta be able to react to it, too.

Sgt Sean Morris

They’re not worried about not hearing later. They’re worried about not hearing right now.

MG Bob Hedelund

I started flying in 1984-85 timeframe. So during that time, you go through these series of hearing tests to get into the flight program. And so you, as an aviator, you have a pretty good idea every year from there on out, how you’re progressing with your hearing. You get tested yearly.

Mrs. Hedelund

We were married maybe 10 years, and I could tell a difference in him being able to know what I was saying. He’d have to look at me sometimes.

MG Bob Hedelund

When they showed me that the shift had been significant and that they were gonna have to re-establish a baseline for me, I had just asked a question “So what does that mean? Am I deaf?” “Well, no sir, you’re not deaf.” “Well, does that mean I’m not gonna be able to fly?” “Well, no sir, it doesn’t mean that either.” “So what does it mean?” “Well, we’re really just documenting your hearing loss.”

1st Sgt Clint Summers

A significant quality of life change happens when you lose your hearing.

Jennifer Summers

I was in one part of the house and him and Clinton were outside playing, and he got knocked down and he was crying. And I thought, “Well, Clint will get him.” He just kept crying so I went running out there, of course, mad. He’d just got knocked down. He was fine, but it was the fact that he didn’t know that Clinton had got knocked down. I try not to get mad because I know, obviously, it’s not on purpose that he just can’t hear. And it’s a constant battle with us.

Serviceman #1

My daughter, at one point, went out the front door and I’d had no clue. I was upstairs and she went straight out the front door and a neighbor picked her up.

Serviceman #2

I thought everything seemed normal, you know. And, and I came in and was told that, you know, I keep failing these hearing tests.

Serviceman #4

I knew that hearing loss was permanent before they told me that it was. But, looking back, I didn’t figure that it would get any worse. But it progressively got worse, and that’s what kind of scared me.

Serviceman #2

For the first time in my life seeing that, you know, I’m losing something that I’ve always had and will never get it back. You know, that’s a big eye opener.

Serviceman #3

I was told I was a candidate for hearing aids.

1st Sgt Clint Summers

You know, it goes from watching TV, not being able to understand what’s happening on a show that you might want to watch. Not understanding what’s happening in a phone call. Not understanding what’s happening with your kids. You know, it just overall degrades everything that you do.

MG Bob Hedelund

This is an important topic. This is something that has to happen all the time. You have to keep focused on it. We ask a lot of our commanders and our senior enlisted advisors out there. But this in particular is one that, really, for the long-term health of the individual and for our Corps, we need to focus on.

Sgt Sean Morris

My uncle was an artilleryman and he retired as a gunnery sergeant, spent twenty years in the Marine Corp. I knew he had significant hearing loss.

Jessica Morris

I think hearing loss can have a huge impact on a person’s life. There’s social aspects. There’s work aspects. There’s academic. If they want to get out of the Marine Corps and get into academics, you know, a lot of these classrooms at big universities and colleges are huge. And if you aren’t lucky enough to get at the front of the class, sometimes their PA systems don’t work. So you’re stuck at the back of the class. And how are you supposed to hear that instructor if they don’t have a loud voice?

Serviceman #1

I’m starting to lose concentration. I wanna go back to … I want to go back to school. I want to go to college. I want to get a degree and everything. And like, just at that point, like just losing all concentration on that path I was wanting to take. And I was getting really depressed about it, cause I was like, “Okay, I just feel dumb now.”

MG Bob Hedelund

This is a loud environment. This is something that, I can’t, you know, rely on them to help me with 100 percent. I need to take ownership of this myself and make sure that I’m asking the right questions about environments I’m going into, so that I can protect my hearing when I get there.

1st Sgt Clint Summers

I tend to forget that I’m in my forties now. I’m surrounded by eighteen, nineteen, twenty year olds. That separation in age is sort of lost on them, too. So when they see me, I’m gonna go “Hey man, this is what happens.” They go, “Wow. 1st sergeant’s not that old, you know, and here he is with hearing aids.” And I think they equate that to a much older person. And I think it had an impact on them.

MG Bob Hedelund

The time you begin to think about it is after it’s gone or after it’s been degraded significantly, like me. So when you go into this environment called the United States military and you realize that all the things they’re asking of me, you have to yourself say, “Okay, I have to take care of my hearing in this environment.”

1st Sgt Clint Summers

Pay attention. When people tell you to wear hearing protection, and use your own initiative. If you’re not sure if that environment is one that you should wear hearing protection, then do it anyway.

Jennifer Summers

We all want to watch what we’re doing, especially the little ones. Because we are out there mowing the lawn, messing with the lawn equipment. It’s a constant reminder how deaf he is, how deaf we don’t want to become, especially the little one. So even, he’ll come out there and ride the mower with us, and we make sure he has his hat on and his earplugs with him.

1st Sgt Clint Summers

In my personal life, off duty, I use hearing protection a lot because I shoot and hunt a lot. So, although it’s not comfortable to sit in a deer stand or to go out to the range and shoot and use hearing protection, I always do now.

Sgt Sean Morris

Knowing then what I know now, I definitely would have been far more diligent.

Serviceman #5

Yeah, I’m concerned that my hearing loss will get worse to the point that it outpaces the hearing aid technology.

Mrs. Hedelund

I think, it’s extremely important for family members, all family members — wives, children — to encourage the military member to take care of their hearing. To do everything they can to help prevent hearing loss.

MG Bob Hedelund

Your hearing is a one-shot deal. If you don’t take care of it, and we don’t watch you and make sure that you’re taking care of it, you’re going to end up outside of your Marine Corps experience with hearing loss that lasts a lifetime. So whether you’re in the Marine Corps for four years or forty years, that you have hearing at the end of that time, is really up to you.

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