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Some Protective Vests Recalled, But Wearers Never at Risk

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2005 – The Army and Marine Corps are recalling about 18,000 protective vests, but officials emphasize that troops wearing them aren't at risk and that the recall has nothing to do with ballistic plate protection.

The recall, announced Nov. 17, affects 18,425 Outer Tactical Vests - 8,083 from the Army and 10,342 from the Marine Corps, defense officials said.

Officials call the recall a precautionary measure, ordered because the 14 affected lots of vests may not have met contractual specifications regarding ballistic performance when they were produced and fielded between 1999 and 2001. An administrative review conducted in September was unable to confirm that vests had met all the required specifications, officials said.

These specifications go above and beyond standards the vests did meet, including the ability to protect the wearer from fragmentation and 9 mm rounds, officials said.

Both services have enough replacement vests on hand that are known to have met all specifications in the contract to replace those being recalled, officials said.

The protective vest includes removable ballistic panels, interchangeable shells and system for mounting individual tactical equipment on the vest, and front and back inside pockets for inserting the Small Arms Protective Insert, or "SAPI."

The recall does not affect SAPI plates, high-tech ceramic plates that slide into the vest to protect wearers from direct fire by modern assault rifles, officials said.

Both the Army and Marine Corps require routine equipment checks to evaluate equipment issued to soldiers and Marines for potential flaws or sign of wear and tear from aging, officials said. These checks are particularly stringent for safety and protective equipment, such as the protective vests, they said.

The Marine Corps recalled about 5,000 protective vests last May due to questions about the ballistic protection they offered. That recall involved lots that had been accepted and put into use due to the urgent need for more ballistic vests, officials said.

Officials emphasized the waivers were based on two requirements: that the vests offered the required level of fragmentation protection and that they were used in conjunction with SAPI plates.

The protective vest has proven itself in sustained combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and offers far better protection than the Personnel Armored System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, flak vest it replaced, officials said.

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