Attrition: Ballistic Underwear Conquers Afghanistan


April 17, 2011: U.S. Marines in Afghanistan are awaiting the first shipments of "ballistic underwear." They learned about the value of this stuff from British troops, who began receiving the "ballistic boxers." These Kevlar underpants have several layers of Kevlar around the groin and thigh area. This protects troops from genital damage, and projectiles that might sever the femoral arteries (which run down each leg, close to the inner thigh.) Bleeding from the femoral artery is a major cause of combat deaths, as it is very difficult to stop the flow of blood.

The "blast boxers" sell for about $100 a pair, and the idea was suggested by the troops themselves, and the medics that treat many of these wounds. The increased number of groin injuries come largely from the growing use of roadside bombs and mines by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It was thought that many troops might not want to use the Kevlar undershorts. For one thing, they restrict movement a bit, and are hot when worn during warm weather. The mobility issue discouraged U.S. Marines from using a Kevlar flap that was added to their protective vest, to prevent groin injuries, but the blast boxers were seen as less of a bother.

It turned out that there were a lot of troops who found these two issues as non-problems. These are the guys who drive the roads of Afghanistan, delivering supplies, or aid to Afghans, or just searching for roadside bombs. Mobility on foot or heat is not what these vehicle bound troops are concerned with, but the impact of roadside bombs or ambusher's bullets is.

The blast boxers proved popular with most British users, who received over 15,000 of the sturdy boxer shorts. The American marines have 120,000 pairs on order or on the way. Each marine will receive four pair of blast boxers, and wear them with confidence.

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