Jenkkisotilas sai henkensä pelastaneen luotiliivin takaisin

John Hilly

Jenkkisotilas sai henkensä pelastaneen luotiliivin takaisin

A decade after being shot, Soldier gets lifesaving armor back

By Sean Kimmons

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Army News Service) -- As the Army sergeant led a
night mission into a hostile Iraq compound in March 2007, a barrage of
bullets rang out and hit the Soldier's body armor and weapon, causing him to
fall down.

About 10 feet away, an insurgent hidden in a room continued to shoot his
AK-47 rifle, sending lethal rounds over the sergeant's head. A bit
disoriented after also having his night vision goggles fall off, the
sergeant picked up his damaged M4 carbine and killed the shooter.

"It knocked me completely on the ground like a sledgehammer hit me in the
chest," the Soldier said about being shot in his protective plate.

Only suffering a bruised chest and some shrapnel in his neck, he said the
small arms protective insert (SAPI) saved his life after it stopped two 7.62
mm rounds and thrusted him to the ground, helping him to avoid being shot

Almost a decade later, the Soldier was given back the plate on a plaque
Friday after it was analyzed by Program Executive Office Soldier, which
works to improve equipment and capabilities for Soldiers.

"It was a crazy couple of minutes," he said of the mission in Iraq, which
also earned him a Silver Star medal. "When the medics got down [to me], they
basically told me, 'You're one lucky [guy].'"

The Soldier's name, unit and location of the ceremony are being withheld due
to security concerns at the request of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

The NCO had originally kept the plate until recently when Col. Dean Hoffman,
project manager of Soldier protection and individual equipment for PEO
Soldier, first heard of the damaged plate and requested to have it looked at
by his team.

"The fact that this was the original SAPI and it stopped [AK-47 rounds] just
shows you the kind of equipment we have out there, especially at that close
of range," Hoffman said.

The Army has since rolled out two other types of plates, and this year
expects a full production of the new Soldier Protection System's vital torso
protection plates, which are lighter than the predecessors, according to the

"We're making sure that we still stop existing threats but also do it with a
much lighter plate," he said.

With each weighing about 2 to 5 pounds, the vital torso protection plates
are up to 14 percent lighter than the current plates, according to PEO

Lighter plates are important, he said, since personal protective equipment
tends to be the heaviest burden for a Soldier to carry into combat.

"It says a lot about industry and the engineers and testers doing all they
can to not only make sure that Soldiers have the best equipment when they go
into harm's way, but are able to be faster … to execute their mission
as quickly as possible," he said.

Even being shot twice in the first version of the SAPI, the NCO said his
plate still held up and he continued that day's mission of clearing
structures within the enemy stronghold.

Soon after his close call, one of his best friends in his unit was shot in
the buttocks and head. If his friend wasn't wearing his Kevlar helmet, the
NCO said, the bullet would have likely killed him. Instead, the helmet
deflected the path of the bullet and he survived.

"The equipment that they're putting on Soldiers isn't just a bunch of
fluff," he said. "The stuff actually works."

Despite the timing, Hoffman and his staff still wanted to present the plaque
to the NCO during a low-key ceremony. Most people, the colonel said, would
be deterred to stay in the Army after almost being killed -- but this
Soldier is different.

"He didn't want any formal ceremony," Hoffman said. "He's truly a quiet
professional, so it's an honor for us to be able to recognize him and
provide him back a token that he can appreciate."