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New body armor finding its way to Marines

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/13/2004

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.(May 13, 2004) -- Coinciding with President George W. Bush's proposal for a larger U.S. military and expanded force protection measures, military suppliers and Congress are rushing to get new body armor to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For many Marines, the old flak vest is giving way to the new Interceptor body armor-an effective and highly valued piece of gear in the global war on terrorism.

"The Interceptor body armor is saving lives," said Thomas Raleigh, satellite Consolidated Issue Facility manager. "The Marines coming back from Iraq have been telling us that the Interceptor body armor is as good as gold. Wearing this will make the difference between life or death sometimes, and the added neck, collar and groin attachments make this an effective protection system."

Designed to help provide Marines and other servicemembers with the tools they need to get the job done, the Bush administration's new defense budget calls for an additional $25 billion to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and, in particular, more body armor and armored vehicles for U.S. troops.

Recently the House Armed Services Committee issued a press release applauding the president's announced defense budget plans.

"I applaud the administration for recognizing the needs of our troops," said U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman, House Armed Services Committee. "In my meetings with (President Bush) and (Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) they have always expressed the belief I share: we will not hesitate to provide our military personnel with all the tools they need to prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The congressman from El Cajon, Calif., also said his committee plans to review the Bush administration's request this week and work to provide soldiers and Marines with new force protection measures, including more body armor to meet new threats and better surveillance capabilities, according to the release.

But because the Interceptor body armor is still in relative short supply, deploying servicemembers are getting priority at their points of issue.

"All (I Marine Expeditionary Force) and (3rd Marine Aircraft Wing) Marines deploying within 60 days who come here to be issued gear are being issued the newer body armor first," explained Raleigh. "(At Miramar) we've already issued the Interceptor body armor to almost 2,500 Marines from this facility so far."

Raleigh added that the new unisex body armor is equipped with removable throat and groin protectors, as well as front and back removable plates, that are capable of stopping 7.62 mm rounds.

"With the inserts, it weighs 16.4 pounds so it's lighter than the older flak vest," Raleigh said. "Each of the two inserts weighs 4 pounds, and the outer tactical vest weighs 8.4 pounds."

"The (Interceptor body armor's) lighter weight provides more mobility than the older flak vest," Raleigh said. "The new armor also has an outer tactical vest made of Kevlar weave that's capable of stopping a 9 mm bullet, plus the webbing on the front and back of the vest permits attaching other small pieces of equipment. The small-arms protective inserts are made of a boron carbide ceramic with a spectra shield backing that's an extremely hard material."

Recognizing the importance of keeping troops safe in the global war on terrorism, U.S. authorities have been working diligently to field the new equipment for Marines and Soldiers on the ground in foreign lands.

Last fall, Congress approved a supplemental appropriations bill to buy more body armor, with 30,000 destined to complete gear issue for troops in Iraq, according to a recent White House press release.

"We will quickly pass this (new) funding because we must and will prevail in Iraq and elsewhere in the war on terrorism," said Hunter.cellence at Miramar and strive to take care of all the Marines, Sailors, civilians and their families here."

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