Kyle Greenwood's friend was headed to Iraq, assigned to the turret of a humvee, a vehicle which has rolled through the Middle East with one noticeable issue.
"They'd done a lot of training in the humvees in particular," Greenwood said. "He's a gunner, so he sat on this nylon strap."
The equivalent of a standard car safety belt was what troops were solely supported by for their 10, sometimes 15-hour rides behind the gun each day.
"Because you're so distracted by the pain in your body, you're not as effective as you can be," Greenwood explained. "Because of the way the strap is placed, it cuts off blood flow to your legs, to your lower extremities. It also pinches the sciatic nerve. It can lead to long term health problems."
So Greenwood used his ingenuity to engineer a better seat for soldiers, a prototype of which he took to his friend near the end of his training.
"Before we could really even finish trying it out, there was a group of people around the humvee," Greenwood said. "They had come out of the barracks. They were interested in it."
The tools of Greenwood's former successful trade, home construction and remodeling, now sit at the back of his warehouse. At the front is the Cooper Sling, his solution to the strap. It's a thicker, leather seat that distributes the gunner's weight more easily, and dramatically reduces their pain. It also provides another nuance the nylon can't.
"Besides the fact that it's so uncomfortable, there's no way to hold the gunners in," said Greenwood of the nylon strap. "The gunners are getting killed because they're being ejected out of their vehicles."
But an added piece of leather on the Sling prevents that from happening. So impressed was an Atlanta-based brigade, they ordered 300 Cooper Slings. Individual soldiers, families and friends are placing orders. On the Cooper Sling website, you can even send one to a nameless soldier in need.
"They can't say enough good things about it," Greenwood said. "It's such a dramatic improvement over what they've got."
For Black Mountain Industries, the Cooper Sling is just the first in what they hope will be a very long line of products. Greenwood is already contracting with other military organizations on future projects, ones he hopes will continue to save lives.
"I've always been patriotic, supported our country, supported our troops, supported our president," Greenwood said. "This makes me feel good inside to know that I'm doing something to help our troops rather than just being in support of them."
But it is support Greenwood's provided. It's support of a very different kind.
Greenwood named the sling after his late father-in-law, who was also an entrepreneur and inspired him in his business endeavors.
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