MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Body armor can be traced back to before the Roman Empire, when war was waged with sword and spear and the battlefield rang with the clash of steel on steel. Since then, mankind has upgraded its self-preservation skills, and the steel armored suit is replaced with Kevlar and flak jackets.
Lance Cpl. Steven A. Garner was chosen to try out the next generation of body armor. Marines have used flak jackets for years and now it is time for the next improvement, the Modular Tactical Vest, or MTV. Garner was part of a group of Marines selected from various units, world-wide, to test new flak jacket designs.
In the early stages of development, there were 19 designs, and one-by-one they were eliminated in favor of prototypes which better suit the Marines’ needs. Three designs remain.
“The new flak designs are definitely an improvement,” said Garner, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. “You feel safer because it provides a larger area of protection.”
Garner has tested the flaks by participating in hikes, and simulated jumping out of “crashed” helicopters, planes, amphibious assault vehicles, and going through obstacle an obstacle course while firing at targets. These tests were designed to represent various needs of the Marines in combat.
The new flak designs feature integrated side SAPI plates, increased load-bearing capabilities, rifle holsters and a quick-release.
“The exercises definitely represent a broad range of the Marine Corps,” Garner said about the large scope of needs a flak jacket must meet.
Garner, as well as the others, was paired with a flak to test in all the events, and gave it a rating based on how it met the Marine’s needs. The next week the Marines tested a different prototype and rated it and did the same with the last prototype and rated it. This schedule allowed each Marine to test every design in every event, and provided a more accurate rating of the improved flak jackets.
“About 96 Marines and sailors from each Marine Expeditionary Force and every Military Occupational Specialty have tested the new flaks in order to provide a good example of what will work and what won’t,” said Capt. John T. Gutierrez, the project officer-in-charge of the testing.
Garner and the other Marines put themselves through the rigorous testing over the course of three weeks in order to save lives. There will always be a need to upgrade body armor to protect warriors as long as people continue to wage war.