Journalist wear-tests “combat diaper” with Marines

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Marines (and journalists) in Afghanistan have a new piece of armor to protect their groins from blast injuries. (James J. Lee/Staff)

KAJAKI, Afghanistan – It’s time to make a confession: I’ve been wearing a diaper in combat.

Not because I can’t handle being in Afghanistan, mind you. Bad things can happen here, but you have to make peace with that before you step on the plane.

No, I’m wearing an armored “diaper” because it has become a requirement for many Marines in theater. When I asked Lt. Col. Kevin Trimble, commander of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., about the new gear fielded to protect Marines’ groins from blast injuries, he issued the armor to photographer James Lee and I, too.

As you can see in the photograph above –- and yes, I decided to have fun modeling –- the most significant piece of the armor is worn on top of the pants. That’s “Tier 2” protection for blast injuries. It includes a thick, flexible pad wrapped in fabric that folds in between the legs over vital areas. The new ones issued have Marine pattern camouflage, but many of the infantrymen with 1/8 are wearing British camouflage because the Brits fielded the gear first and the Corps wanted to get the item in the field as quickly as possible.

A Marine – or a journalist, for that matter – puts the armor on by using loops to hang it from his belt around his backside. The item is then pulled forward around the bottom and clipped with a buckle and straps around each hip. Two Velcro straps on the front side are then looped around the belt near the zipper.

The item is issued with a “Tier 1” blast-resistant undergarment. It’s mostly polyester and reinforced with silk, and feels almost like thick spandex. It comes down to the knee underneath the pants – “blast boxers,” essentially.

The battalion requires Marines to wear the item everywhere outside the wire, including in convoys and on foot patrols.

“I’m a fan,” said Maj. Kemper Jones, the battalion’s executive officer. “It’s a pain in the neck and it’s hot and sweaty, but it’s keeping us safe.”

I was initially concerned the gear would slow me down while out with foot patrols. However, after wearing it outside the wire twice, it’s not as bad as I expected. Considering I was already wearing a vest with armor plates and a helmet, it kind of all felt like one package.

There’s also a certain peace of mind that goes with wearing it –- I don’t have any children, but I’d like to someday.

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About Author

I’m a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

11 Comments

  1. momof2marines on

    I’m ALL FOR anything that protects any part of my Marines or any Marine, for that matter. Especially those parts whose functionality is involved in the production of my future grandchildren! 🙂

  2. Hooray for the “Package Protector!” Thank you Dan so much for what you’re doing out there for all of us over here. I look forward to your writings everyday. Can’t wait till you get to 1/7! Praying God’s blessings and protection for all of you Marines.

  3. Codysmom is right! We’ve had conversations about the Ballistic undies and many of us moms don’t think they’re gonna wear them! So when you get to 1/7, tell those men (and women ?)that their moms say “put ’em on Marine”!! Thank you for your coverage and we can’t wait for pics and news from the 1/7 Marines (especially 2nd Plt, 1st Squad) :)We love each of you as our own and pray for all of your safety!

  4. Why don’t they just issue athletic supporters with a cup. $5.00 Dollars at Walmart. Do the Females wear them too? How do those feel when your humping 10k 15k plus miles?

    What is the unit cost of these?. Are the Battalion and Company Commanders wearing them in the field? If your gonna get blasted by a IED or landmine I don’t think they will help much ,Just wondering!!!!! Not ragging on them.

  5. @eric: an athletic support will not stop shrapnel…period. This isnt to save your man bits from a direct explosion but if you are in a vehicle or farther away from the blast, it could potentially save vital parts. Not to mention that your femoral artery is in your thigh, an artery, if punctured, would completely bleed you out before you could reach help. To address if Battalion and company commanders would wear these, of course they would. Marine always lead by EXAMPLE. As far as the mothers go, dont worry about if your sons or daughters will wear these, PPE- Personal Protective Equimpment isnt a choise, it is a mandate. Before every patrol, fire team leaders, squad leaders and patrol commanders should all conduct PPE inspections prior to departing the wire……source 9 years in the United States Marine Corps, 2 combat tours between 04 and 06

  6. Good point about the jockstrap and cup Eric I do tend to feel sexy when I put one of those things on. While on Patrol too, never thought about that. Damm I would be on top of the world. I’ll keep a look out at the P.X.!!!!!

  7. Thank you Marine Corps for protecting our young men. If they all have to wear it then there is no reason for others to laugh & make them not want the protection. I think its one of the best things you have come up with.

  8. Pingback: Battle Rattle » New glimmers of hope for wounded warriors with blast injuries

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