By David VergunSeptember 26, 2016
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Sgt. Daniel Malm took two enemy slugs to the stomach in Afghanistan, but he recovered and returned to the fight.
Surviving those two shots was more than just a matter of luck, said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment, Program Executive Office-Soldier, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Malm was wearing his life-saving enhanced small arms protective insert, or ESAPI plate, inside his soldier plate carrier, a type of ballistic vest.
The plate stopped both rounds, but the kinetic energy of the rounds was great enough that several ribs were broken and dislocated, she said. Still, it probably saved his life.
Malm, who is now with the 110th Chemical Battalion, based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, was serving in the 10th Mountain Division's 425th Field Artillery in 2011.
The artillery unit he was assigned to was participating in an action to push the Taliban back across the Arghandab River, Malm recalled.
Malm was showing a young private how to emplace claymore mines to protect the unit's temporary encampment. But unbeknownst to him, a pair of enemy snipers had set up near a wall beneath the cover of tree branches.
When Malm stood up to examine the Soldier's emplacement, he was struck by a bullet in his stomach. "It was a like a punch to my gut, and it knocked me to my knees," he recalled.
"For some reason, my first instinct was to stand back up," Malm said a little sheepishly. "Then they shot me again. The second round laid me out flat on my back and cracked my ribs.
"I heard the pop of the rifles, and by that time, we had been in so many firefights, I knew what a weapon pointed at me sounded like, so I thought, 'Well, I just got shot,'" he remembered.
"One of the other NCOs in my platoon came out and dragged me back into the patrol base. The rest of my guys returned fire, then got up in the trucks and used the .50-cals to lay them waste. We got them," he exclaimed.
"We were kind of laughing about it before I got a Medevac," he continued. "I was okay, but I was trying my hardest not to move very much because it was pretty painful after the adrenaline wore off."
After a medical checkup and a spell at the wounded warrior center, Malm was back in action within a couple months. "I kind of wanted to get a little payback," he told fellow Soldiers.
During a ceremony, Sept. 19, held at JBLM, Malm was presented with his battle-damaged plate by Brown.
Brown joined Malm's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jason LaCroix, to return the plate to Malm, and thanked him for his service. She explained that when Malm's armor plate had been sent to Fort Belvoir, it went through detailed technical analysis to determine how the plate performed in actual combat.
This kind of analysis, she said, teaches scientists and engineers lessons that will lead to the development of even more effective protective equipment. It's just one example of how Soldier feedback is used to develop and field superior clothing and equipment, she noted.
She said Soldiers at JBLM have also participated in user evaluations that have contributed greatly to the design of new body armor called the modular scalable vest, a vest that's even more advanced than the Soldier Plate Carrier.
This vest provides the same level of protection as current body armor, but with a significant weight savings, she said. It is also adaptable, so Soldiers can modify weight and protection levels to meet mission requirements. The vest is part of the new integrated soldier protection system, or SPS, which will integrate head, pelvic, torso and extremity protection.
Malm, accompanied by his wife, Vanessa, was thrilled to get the plate back. He displayed the photo of the battle-damaged plate he took in Afghanistan shortly after the incident.
"I keep it on my cell phone all the time," he said. "When people complain about the weight of their body armor, I show them the picture and tell them, 'This stuff works. I am proof!'"
Since that near-death experience, Malm is has become an explosives ordnance technician.