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U.S. forces in Iraq now fully armored for first time

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Sunday, February 29, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. Army has succeeded in providing armor for all of its combat troops in Iraq.

U.S. officials said tens of thousands of combat troops in Iraq have been supplied with body armor over the last few months. In addition, they said, combat and other vehicles have also been provided with armor to protect against small-arms fire and mortars.

"We've put our soldiers in Interceptor body armor, 100 percent of them now," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Boles, commander of the U.S. Army's 3rd Support Command, said. "And we've also adapted our vehicles and gun trucks and our soldiers have made gun truck out of their own devices and put additional protection on, and additional ballistic armor on our vehicles to kind of help us."

Officials said the army has armored the Humvees and other platforms in Iraq. U.S. contractors outfitted these vehicles with armored doors and windows while army troops reinforced the platforms with metal and sandbags, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Our own soldiers have their own skunk works, which over time they've developed," Boles told a briefing. "They'll put sheet metal on, put sandbags in certain places, put additional sheet metal on. And we have instances where that's saved lives for our soldiers."

In Washington, the Defense Department awarded O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt Armoring Co. a $13.2 million contract for the procurement of 1,500 armor protection kits. The work will take place at the company's facility in Fairfield, Ohio through Sept. 30, 2004.

A Pentagon statement said the award represented a sole-source contract initiated on Jan. 21, 2004. The project will be overseen by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, based in Warren, Mich.

"We have done a lot to upgrade our equipment in the past three or four months with respect to armored kits on soft-skinned vehicles, with respect to radios, and with respect to up-armored Humvees," Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, said.

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