When we see pictures of soldiers headed off to the battlefield there is a level of protection we can see — helmets and bulletproof vests. Both are critical to protecting our troops from mortal head and chest wounds. The Army has been trialing a level we can't see, called protective undergarments (PUGs) and has recently made improvements in these "super shorts."
Talking about Kevlar undies may sound funny, but it is vitally important to our troops. Wounds to the pelvic region can range from sterility to loss of life through infection or damage to the femoral artery located towards the inner thigh.
The U.S. Army has developed a "Pelvic Protection System" modeled on versions of "Blast Boxers" in place for British troops. The U.S. Army system has two levels of protection — the Protective Under Garment (PUG) at a Tier I level and a Protective Over Garment (POG) at Tier II.
The PUG unit is worn under the soldier's uniform. Like a tough pair of bicycle shorts, they are meant to be worn close to the skin. The PUG is snug, made of moisture wicking material on the outside and knitted Kevlar along the groin and the inside of the thighs to protect the femoral artery.
The POG is made of more rigid Kevlar and offers a greater level of ballistic protection. Both units are meant to be worn together to offer the highest level of protection. In fact, standard issue generally uses three PUGs underneath the POG.
In addition to protecting to the femoral artery, together the units provide another level of protection for the wounded. If a soldier is hit and the injuries are serious, the protective layers help keep the wound free of dirt, gravel and shrapnel that can require multiple surgeries to clean up the affected areas; the heat resistant material can also be more easily removed after a blast prior to surgery.
According to Lt. Col. Frank J. Lazano from Program Executive Office Soldier, when the system first trialed with some 15,000 troops in the field in June 2011, soldiers reported chafing and "poor thermal management."
In non-military lingo, that means hot and uncomfortable.
The Army collected the feedback from the field and over six to nine months has redesigned the Pelvic Protection System. And that's a good thing.
In a post on the Army's website, Lt. Col. Lazano sums it up, "… it's more comfortable and breathable and Soldiers are more willing and apt to wear it."