NEWPORT CITY – On the morning of Aug. 5, 2004, the phone rang in the Greensboro home of former Vermont State Senator Mike Metcalf. On the other end was the youngest son, Keyes, who was serving in the Middle East. He told his mother that he had been shot in the head. Keyes told his family he wouldn’t have called but the Army made sure he notified his family.
With the exception of a headache and a few stitches, Keyes was okay, a miracle the family credits to his helmet – made by workers at the Revision Military plant in Newport City.
During a tour of the factory Tuesday, Mike Metcalf said that the round that struck his son entered the back of the helmet, partially delaminated the Kevlar as it came through, and cut his temple.
Metcalf is proud the Newport workers made the helmet, a senatorial district he represented from 1989 to 1994. Several months later, the Metcalf family went to the factory to thank the workers for saving his son’s life.
“It was pretty special,” said Metcalf. If it weren’t for the helmet, the story might have ended differently. “I think it [the bullet] would have gone through and killed him. This is a tremendous piece of equipment.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin, who toured the plant with Sen. Patrick Leahy and other local and state officials, thanked the employees for making the helmets.
“The story Mike just told is the reason that the work you’re doing is so extraordinary,” said Shumlin. “To save the lives of those who are fighting for us every single day.... We in Vermont are extraordinarily proud of you and we’re going to stand behind you every step of the way to make sure we continue to grow and prosper this company here in the Kingdom.”
Sen. Leahy echoed the sentiment. He said Vermonters are protecting military personnel. “Something we can be so proud of,” said Leahy. “It looks like you’re on your way to hiring more Vermonters.”
Revision Military plans to double its workforce from 40 to 80 by the end of the year, “a great turnaround” for a facility that was on the ropes only six months ago. Leahy was referring to the company’s new $21.6 million contract to build 90,000 helmets for the United States Army. That contract ends in 2013 and the company already has a bid to make several hundred thousand helmets.
Revision Military of Essex purchased MSA North America’s combat helmet division this summer, ensuring that the approximately 40 employees working at the plant would continue making Advanced Combat Helmets (ACH) – the lightweight, life-saving helmet worn by most of the country’s soldiers – for the foreseeable future.
Company CEO Jonathan Blanshay thanked Leahy, Shumlin and the agencies and organizations that helped the company obtain the contract, including the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Vermont Economic Progress Council (VEPC), the Vermont Training Program, and the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) to support the MSA-Revision deal. The deal included an initial approval of a $743,000 cash incentive from VEPC, participation from VEDA, and hours of technical assistance.
“What’s particularly rewarding is to see this facility so busy, because what we are making here are the very best helmets in the world to protect the very best soldiers in the world,” said Blanshay.
As for the employees, they are dedicated, happy to be employed at the plant and proud of their work, said plant manager Rudy Chase.
“We feel like a super heroes; we save lives,” said employee Teresa Locke.