Featured News

Marines testing new Kevlar shorts in Iraq

5 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Marines here from 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment are currently testing lower body armor developed by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va.

The Kevlar shorts were designed to repel razor-sharp shrapnel from improvised explosive devices detonated by anti-Iraqi fighters along transportation routes throughout the country.

According to Lt. Col. Lance A. McDaniel, battalion executive officer, the artillery unit received ten pairs of the shorts from the Warfighting Lab. The shorts arrived nearly a week ago and were distributed amongst the battalion's batteries.

"The gunners in our vehicles seem to be the most exposed to shrapnel," McDaniel said.
"We've had a lot of Marines receive injuries to their buttocks and upper thighs."

He said these shorts make the gunners, who man crew-served weapons on top of the vehicles, less vulnerable to serious injury during IED attacks.

"The Marines wear flak jackets which protect their backs and chests," McDaniel said. "It only makes sense to have protection for the legs,"

The one-size-fits-all shorts are worn over a Marine's uniform and are held up with built in suspenders. Each pair of shorts weighs close to 5 pounds.

Lance Cpl. Mike C. Suchevich and Pvt. Luis R. Mejia have both tried the shorts a few times.

"The other Marines made fun of me the first I put them on," Mejia said. "I guess they thought it was a joke. They are really funny looking."

The shorts have already acquired a few nicknames from the battalion. One Marine referred to them as "lederhosen," and others call them "fishing shorts."

Still, the two Marines said they are grateful to have the new gear.

"They're not very comfortable and they're hard to move in," Suchevich explained. "But
I do feel a lot more protected than before and that's definitely more important than comfort."

So far, the shorts have not been put to the test during any attacks, but the Marines believe it's just a matter of time.

"I think all gunners should have a pair," Mejia added.  "I feel safer wearing them. They can't stop bullets, but they can stop shrapnel."

Several of Mejia's fellow gunners have been injured during IED attacks and he wants to avoid earning a Purple Heart here.

According to Mejia, the shorts take about a minute and a half to put on and the same to take off. He said if he could, he would make a few modifications.

"They're not too bad to wear," he said. "But if I could change anything, I would have quick release straps for the suspenders."

He also said the pants fit comfortably around his waist, but they are too loose near his knees.

McDaniel said the Warfighting Lab will solicit input from the Marines for an undetermined amount of time.

"If the idea proves to be a success," McDaniel explained, "I suspect they will be mass produced and sent out throughout the Marine Corps."