USMC bans Under Armour type clothing in Iraq




 
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April 15th, 2006  
Duty Honor Country
 
 

Topic: USMC bans Under Armour type clothing in Iraq


CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq, April 12, 2006 Marines conducting operations outside forward operating bases and camps in Iraq can no longer wear synthetic athletic clothing containing polyester and nylon, Marine Corps commanders have ordered.

he ban on popular clothing from companies like Under Armour, CoolMax and Nike comes in the wake of concerns that a substantial burn risk is associated with wearing clothing made with these synthetic materials, officials said. When exposed to extreme heat and flames, clothing containing some synthetic materials like polyester will melt and can fuse to the skin. This essentially creates a second skin and can lead to horrific, disfiguring burns, said Navy Capt. Lynn E. Welling, the 1st Marine Logistics Group head surgeon.

Whether on foot patrol or conducting a supply convoy while riding in an armored truck, everyone is at risk to such injuries while outside the wire.
"Burns can kill you and they're horribly disfiguring. If you're throwing (a melted synthetic material) on top of a burn, basically you have a bad burn with a bunch of plastic melting into your skin, and that's not how you want to go home to your family," said Welling.

According to Tension Technology International, a company that specializes in synthetic fibers, most man-made fabrics such as nylon, acrylic or polyester will melt when ignited and produce a hot, sticky, melted substance. This can cause extremely severe burns.

For these reasons, Marines have been limited to wearing clothing made with these materials only while on the relatively safe forward operating bases and camps where encounters with fires and explosions are relatively low, officials said.

These products have risen in popularity in the past few years and are now sold at military clothing stores. Some companies have come out with product lines specifically catering to military needs. This makes polyester clothing readily available to servicemembers, said Welling.

The Under Armour company, a favorite among many servicemembers here, advertises that the fabric used to make their garments will pull perspiration from the skin to the outer layer of the clothing. This, the ads say, allows the person wearing it to remain cool and dry in any condition or climate.

While these qualities have been a main reason for Marines to stock up on these items, the melting side effect can be a fatal drawback, said Welling.

This point was driven home recently at a military medical facility at Camp Ramadi, a U.S. military base on the outskirts of the city of Ramadi, arguably one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq. "We had a Marine with significant burn injuries covering around 70 percent of his body," said Navy Cmdr. Joseph F. Rappold, the officer in charge of the medical unit at the base.

The Marine was injured when the armored vehicle he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device, causing his polyester shirt to melt to his skin. Even though he was wearing his protective vest, Navy doctors still had to cut the melted undergarment from his torso. His injuries would not have been as severe had he not been wearing a polyester shirt, said Rappold.

Burns have become a common injury in Iraq as the enemy continues to employ IEDs and roadside bombs. Currently, these hidden explosives are the No. 1 killer of servicemembers in Iraq, said Welling.

For years, servicemembers with jobs that put then at a high risk of flame exposure, such as pilots and explosive ordnance disposal personnel, were kept from wearing polyester materials because of the extra burn threat. Now, with so many encounters with IED explosions, the Marines are extending this ban to everyone going outside the wire, officials said.

With the approach of summer, temperatures during some days are expected to hover around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. These blistering temperatures spur many to wear the the moisture-wicking, quick-drying clothing in an attempt to beat the heat and stay cool.

"I understand it gets to be 150 degrees in a turret during the summer time," said Welling. "My goal is not to make it more uncomfortable or harder on the servicemembers. My job is to make sure that when they hit an IED and are engulfed in flames, they have the best protection possible and the least risk of something (going wrong) that could have been prevented."

The directive is straightforward and simple, Welling said. "The goal is not to bubble wrap the warrior going outside the gate. The idea is to minimize the (hazards) we have control over," said Welling.

Commanders have expressed concern that troops will downplay the problem of wearing wicking materials in combat settings because they think their body armor or uniforms will protect them.

The camouflage utility uniforms are designed to turn to ash and blow away after the material is burned, but the burn hazard remains, said Welling. She recommends wearing 100 percent cotton clothing while on missions.
So far, Marines have been responding well to the new regulations.

"The policy is good because it's designed for safety and is about keeping Marines in the fight," said Cpl. Jason Lichtefeld, a military policeman with the 1st Marine Logistics Group, who plans to ensure his Marines comply with the new rules.

Even Marines who never venture off base should be aware of the risks associated with wearing the wicking fabrics, officials said.

For example, a Marine's high-performance undershirt recently started smoking when an electrical current shocked him. Fortunately, it didn't catch on fire or melt, but the potential was there, said Welling.

Officials acknowledged that high-performance apparel may be the best way to stay cool when working in a low-risk environment with a minimal chance of exposure to flames or intense heat. "We've got a great piece of gear, but when you put it in the wrong environment, it could cause more problems than it's worth," said Welling.

http://www.emilitary.org/article.php?aid=6223
April 15th, 2006  
5.56X45mm
 
 
Strange, becasue the Under Armour type shirt is now standard issue in the US Army.
April 15th, 2006  
PJ24
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 5.56X45mm
Strange, becasue the Under Armour type shirt is now standard issue in the US Army.
ACU has polyester as well. I have seen a few cases with the sleeves and trousers melting to skin.

UA will definitely shrink wrap itself into your skin when it burns. It's an ugly mess. I still wear it sometimes, though.

As an alternative, I've spent a few hundred dollars purchasing these shirts lately:

http://massif.com/nomex_clothing/cool_knit_t-shirt.php

They're not cheap, but they work and it's worth the money.

You can always go with silk, as well.
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April 15th, 2006  
bulldogg
 
 
Does Nomex have a better resistance to burning?

As for silk, hell, that's damn sexy.
April 15th, 2006  
Marinerhodes
 
 
Yes, the Nomex material is more burn resistant. It has a higher flash tolerance. This means it takes a longer time for certain amount of heat to be applied (up to 800F for several seconds I think) before it will melt/burn.

Below are some links to nomex gloves. The USMC also had some nomex hoods made because the current cold weather hoods we have are made from synthetics as well.

Military.com Shopping

DuPont Website
April 15th, 2006  
C/2nd Lt Robot
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bulldogg
As for silk, hell, that's damn sexy.
The cons for silk is it tears easily and clinges to you when wet. But that's better than an extra layer of skin.
April 15th, 2006  
bulldogg
 
 
Cheers Marinerhodes.

I still think silk is sexier though.
April 15th, 2006  
Marinerhodes
 
 
My Sgt was reading an article yesterday about this same subject and was peeved off because they were putting restrictions on what a Marine can and can not wear to combat. He made some pretty ignorant (uninformed) comments. My computer was down so I was unable to link the article. My computer is now up so when I get back to work Tuesday I will have to show him this link.


PJ24 do you have any firsthand experience with this kind of thing happening (The synthetic material melting to skin)? If so could you toss me an e-mail or a PM regarding generalities?

My Sgt is in supply and has never seen combat or come under fire or been near explosions when they have gone off. He apparently does not think about what all is involved when an explosion happens. (Shrapnel, Heat, Sound, Blast Wave, etc) I guess he thinks that if an IED goes off and you are out of the "kill zone" that you won't be harmed.
April 16th, 2006  
5.56X45mm
 
 
Well, from my experience.

The synthetic material shirts do melt into the skin. But so does the ALICE Gear, MOLLE Gear, and PAL Gear. All of the modern day combat gear is made out of synthetic materials. Boots, socks, uniforms, web gear, and just about everything else.

I have been in the fryer and luckly nothing melted to me.
April 16th, 2006  
Marinerhodes
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 5.56X45mm
Well, from my experience.

The synthetic material shirts do melt into the skin. But so does the ALICE Gear, MOLLE Gear, and PAL Gear. All of the modern day combat gear is made out of synthetic materials. Boots, socks, uniforms, web gear, and just about everything else.

I have been in the fryer and luckly nothing melted to me.
But that gear (aside from the socks) is not usually worn aginst the skin. I wear a cotton boot sock as do most Marines. As for the utility uniform, if you read the article you will see that it has been designed to turn to ash and blow away from the body. Not turn into a gooey, tacky mess that will drape and conform itself to your body when it melts.