More Than a Memento

Fort Belvoir, Virginia (March 6, 2017) – Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment (PM SPIE) seeks to return life-saving personal protective equipment to Soldiers. PPE_Return

The program has been successful, not so much for its outreach, but for the closure it brings the recipients who are reunited with the equipment that saved their lives, according to Project Manager Col. Dean Hoffman, who said the program has a lasting impact.

“These are more than mementos, and the recipients we return this equipment to are living testimonials that our stuff works,” Hoffman said Feb. 23.

The most recent recipient of an armored plate return was a Soldier from one of our elite forces whose name and unit cannot be published.

The colonel oversees PM SPIE at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He noted there are several partners in the Personal Protective Equipment Lifecycle Team who deserve credit and makes a day like this possible.

“The scientist, the engineers, research labs, acquisition personnel and countless people down the line just doing their job play a key role in making these moments happen,” Hoffman said.

The most recent recipient of an armored plate return, said that when faced with almost certain death all Soldiers can rely on is their training and their equipment.

The Soldier told his story. It was March 2007, and Soldiers were on a night mission in Iraq. It was dark and the young Sergeant, a squad leader took the initiative and kicked down a door, as part of clearing procedures.

“When I kicked in the door there was a guy with an AK-47 maybe eight to 10 feet in front of me, and he just opened fire,” the Soldier said. “The impact knocked me to the ground. With only muzzle fire as a reference, I kept firing.

“When the shooting had stopped I realized the attacker was deceased, and I thought I was dying as well because I took so many rounds,” the Soldier said. “When the medics arrived and ripped everything open I was bruised on the chest but that was about it.” That night’s actions led to the Soldier being awarded the Silver Star.

Stories like this are common within the PPE Return program. Many Soldiers complain about wearing the armor because of the weight. After an incident where it saves their life, they become an instant advocate.

“I’ve always been taught to not profile yourself when entering a room but to present the body armor,” the Soldier said. “I teach younger Soldiers that today. It worked once; it will work again.”

PEO Soldier’s PPE Return program helps bring closure to Soldiers who faced down their fears. It also instills confidence in that the equipment they deploy with is up to the task.

About Debra Dawson