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U.S. Troops Equiped with Lightweight Body Armor

In the extensive drive to equip military personnel with superior gear on the battlefield, the U.S. Army has introduced a lighter body armor that allows soldiers to swiftly shed it in emergency situations. This new body armor is currently being deployed to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, accompanied by innovative combat rations designed for consumption on the move.

The Improved Outer Tactical Vest, priced at $2,600 and manufactured by Armor Holdings, is equipped with a quick-release mechanism reminiscent of a parachute rip cord. A simple pull on a canvas loop located just below the neck splits the vest into sections that can be reassembled within minutes. During a demonstration, Lt. Col. Robert Myles, an Army product manager overseeing soldier survivability, emphasized that this quick-release feature enhances the survival odds of soldiers trapped in burning vehicles or submerged in canals.

Informal data compiled by the well-regarded icasualties.org website reveals that at least 16 soldiers have drowned in Iraq. Myles pointed out that the new bulletproof vests weigh around 30 pounds, in contrast to the 33-pound weight of older models currently in use. Moreover, the new vests offer increased protection to the groin and armpit areas. The 49th Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Iraq is currently conducting trials of these new vests, and the entire military force in Afghanistan and Iraq is expected to be equipped with the latest body armor models by April of the following year.

In addition to the improved body armor, the Army and Marines are swiftly deploying thousands of new Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (M-RAP) vehicles to Iraq, each with a price tag of $1 million. These vehicles are being accompanied by enhanced food choices for troops engaged in combat.

While the meal, ready-to-eat (MRE), remains the primary food source for combat soldiers, a new lightweight alternative is set to be introduced in Iraq and Afghanistan during the fall.

Unlike MREs, which rely on a chemical heating element, the new First Strike Ration (FSR) features entrees such as French toast and honey barbecue beef pocket sandwiches that can be conveniently consumed on the go with minimal preparation.

The FSR offers three complete meals within a single packet, all while being half the size and weight of three MREs. This is a significant advantage for soldiers who already carry substantial loads of ammunition and equipment. The FSR menu includes chunk chicken, protein bars, teriyaki beef snacks, as well as high-energy items like maltodextrin-infused “Zapplesauce” and turbo-caffeinated chewing gum.

Special Forces units and other troops operating in remote regions have already been issued the Unitized Group Ration-Express, a solution from the Pentagon that feeds 18 soldiers using a box roughly the size of a computer printer.

The UGR stacks four trays containing entrees, vegetables, starch, and dessert, all placed between heating units. Pulling a single tab initiates saline solution delivery to the heaters, resulting in an authentic hot meal in just 35 minutes.

These UGRs, which have undergone successful field trials in Iraq and Afghanistan, have proven so popular that troops are eager for immediate access to them.

Kathy-Lynn Evangelos from the Pentagon’s combat feeding program humorously remarked, “We have 2.2 million warfighters, and they all carry weapons, so we don’t like to antagonize them.”

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