Soldiers Defend Body Armor's Performance in Combat
July 13, 2007
By Debi Dawson
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, July 13, 2007) - Soldiers are volunteering dramatic personal accounts of lives saved and injuries avoided thanks to the Army's body armor. Their first-hand accounts of what happens demonstrate confidence in what the Army is doing to protect them.
Interceptor Body Armor is a modular system that features an outer tactical vest with hard protective plates. Spc. Gregory T. Miller, 101st Airborne Division, told Congress at a hearing last month that this body armor saved his life while he was on patrol in Kirkuk in preparation for Iraqi elections in December 2005. He was hit in the back by a sniper with what was supposed to be an armor-piercing round. Spc. Miller, who wound up with a bruised back, said he didn't even realize he'd been hit at first.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion, he said. The water bottle he was holding flew out of his hand; he thought his team leader had hit him on the back - hard. When he realized he'd been hit, he checked himself and then turned to return fire.
When the round was pulled from his armor back plate, ballistics tests identified it as a 7.62 armor-piercing round. "I trust my gear," he told the congressional panel. When asked why, he replied matter-of-factly: "It saved my life."
Staff Sgt. Jeremie Oliver of Fort Hood, Texas, has been in Iraq since October 2006, wearing his body armor every single day. "It works very well," he has reported. The husband and father of four children was shot on Father's Day this year.
"We were on patrol securing a site ... a shot rang out and I got hit in the chest. I was in a Bradley, standing up in the hatch, plotting a grid on my GPS. At first I didn't know what had really happened, but then I felt the pain. I sat down, realized what happened, and opened my vest. The bullet had not penetrated the vest, so we continued the mission and went after the enemy."
Sgt. 1st Class Jody Penrod described his combat experience with IBA: "I took a couple of IEDs and some shrapnel, and I had a fire bomb and it didn't light on fire. So I was pretty pleased."
Because the IBA vest protected his entire chest area, Sgt. 1st Class Penrod didn't have so much as a scratch from the shrapnel in the blast. He recounted how insurgents had made Napalm-type bombs with soap so that it would stick to Soldiers while on fire. "I got some on my vest, but it just went right out. So I was kind of happy that the vest didn't go up in flames."
Spc. Jason C. Ashline, an infantryman with Fort Drum, N.Y.'s 10th Mountain Division, survived a round from an AK-47 in Afghanistan in 2002 thanks to his body armor. He stated at the recent dedication of MIT's Institute for Nanotechnologies: "If it weren't for technology I wouldn't be standing here today."
Spc. Ashline was hit twice in the chest during a 12-hour firefight with al-Qaeda insurgents in 2002. The slugs lodged in his body armor. He was stunned but unhurt, and was pulled to safety by his buddies.
Documenting personal accounts of positive body armor experiences is difficult because the Army doesn't keep count of Soldiers not killed or injured. Still, there are more stories like these and Army leaders at all levels recount apocryphal tales by the dozens.
Capt. David Beard, now stationed at Fort Myer, Va., previously served in Iraq. "I remember a guy in Najaf got shot with an AK right in the chest," Beard said, "and his IBA plate saved him!"
Capt. Daniel Leard, also at Fort Myer by way of Iraq, called his body armor "a great protective asset." He said it routinely stop rounds. "In our own unit we had, on several occasions, Soldiers pulling bullets out of their body armor or helmet. It clearly saved their lives."
Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, Program Executive Officer, has repeatedly asserted that the Army is providing Soldiers with the best, most protective body armor - bar none. He particularly resents the fact that Soldiers' Families have been misled by conflicting media reports that left them concerned that the Army might not be doing all it can to protect its Soldiers.
"Force protection is the number-one priority of the Army. We value our Soldiers very highly and we do everything we can do to ensure they have the finest in force protection as they go into the battle," Brig. Gen. Brown said. "I want to assure the American public, the Soldiers and their Families that they have the best equipment when and where they need it."
PEO Soldier designs, produces and fields virtually everything the American Soldier wears or carries. The organization's Soldier-as-a-System approach ensures that equipment works in an integrated manner, thus preparing troops for peak performance.
For more information on Interceptor Body Armor and PEO Soldier, visit <a href="http://www.peosoldier.army.mil"target=_blank> www.peosoldier.army.mil</a> or contact Debi Dawson at (703) 704-2802.