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Army bans commercial body armor

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 3, 2006) – Soldiers may no longer wear body armor other than Army-issued Interceptor Body Armor, Army officials announced last week.

In a safety message sent to all commanders March 17, the Army warned that commercial body armor may cause “death or serious injury to Soldiers.”

“I think the mothers and fathers that are currently having Soldiers deployed, whether they’re female or male, ought to feel comfortable with the fact … that we have provided the best body armor that is available anywhere in the world,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army secretary’s deputy assistant for acquisition and systems management, at a Pentagon news conference March 31.

Of main concern with officials is “Dragon Skin,” produced by Pinnacle Armor. While the manufacturer has received close to a million dollars from the Army to produce lighter-weight armor, Dragon Skin’s capabilities do not yet meet Army requirements, and is not certified by the Army to protect against several small arms threats currently being encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Advertising for Dragon Skin implies that it is superior to IBA, but Army officials say there have been no tests to validate the claim.

“They have not been tested. They have not passed the rigor that we put into standards determining whether something is safe, effective and suitable,” Sorenson said. “And until they can do that, we will not give them, if you will, the ‘good housekeeping seal of approval.’”

Many Soldiers interviewed by Stars and Stripes last week said they were fine with the Army’s move to ban privately purchased body armor.

“It’s been proven to work, so why should I go out and have to buy my own?” Sgt. Davaras Bronson of the 3rd Corps Support Command told a reporter.

Body armor currently being issued to Soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has gone through seven improvements since the beginning of the war, according to Sorenson. More than 200,000 sets of the latest iteration are now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Commanders have 30 days to ensure their Soldiers are in compliance with the directive. Additionally, commanders may tailor the IBA configuration to meet threat and mission requirements. Components include the outer tactical vest and ballistic plates, throat protector, collar, groin protector, Deltoid and Axillary Protector, side plates and side plate carriers.

Soldiers may dispose of unauthorized body armor through their local Central Issue Facility, who will ship the items to PEO Soldier.

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