It’s not everyday a manufacturer will ask a customer in front of a crowd of people whether he was satisfied with a product. Not unrehearsed and unscripted, anyway.
But that’s what Frank Dlubak did Oct. 26 at the Association of the US Army conference in Washington, after hearing Army Spc. Jim Mata tell of being wounded in Baghdad by an explosively-formed projectile that entered through his back and exited his abdomen, bursting open his body armor. Mata, a gunner in an armored vehicle, had been in a Suspended Ergonomic Adjustable Tactical sling-seat when the projectile tore through the turret and his body.
“If the seat would have been better, could it have stopped some of the damage?” Dlubak asked Mata, who was speaking to the AUSA audience by satellite link from Iraq, where he was once again deployed.
After a few seconds delay while Dlubak’s words reached him, Mata replied: “Actually, they said that it was a very good seat. They said two things. They said if I would’ve been standing up I would have been split completely in half [by the EFP] …. Also the seat, as soon as the EFP hit, it did the right thing by just breaking away. I’m not sure how they described it but they said the seat actually helped me a lot by taking some of the impact.”
“I make the seat,” Dlubak said.
Mata looked surprised when the words reached him after the few seconds delay, then he smiled and laughed. “Thank you so much, sir,” he said.
For Dlubak, president of Dlubak Corporation in Pennsylvania, Mata’s words were absolute validation of the seat, which was designed by retired Army Lt. Col. Lou Gaston, a partner in the company.
“To hear him say it!” Dlubak told Military.com in a brief interview following his exchange with Mata. “Did you see how excited he was about that seat?”
Dlubak said the seat was designed so gunners could “get out and get down fast.”
Dlubak now has about 47,000 of the seats out in the field. But he also said the company is making new version of the seat that will provide additional protection from shrapnel underneath. The newer seat is currently going through testing at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., he said.
“The goal was to make something for the Soldier’s comfort, and also for safety,” he said. “I believe in what we do so much it was nothing for me to say what I said. We build it for the Soldier. It’s a big deal. It’s a good product. It’s all American made.”
— Bryant Jordan