Cpl. Brandon Blair from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment’s Weapons Company was hit in the chest by a sniper’s bullet and now says “Everyone needs to wear their protective gear.” The 23-year-old Leatherneck adds, “It will save your life. I’m a testament to that. I’m living proof.”
Cpl. Blair and other U.S. Marines were conducting vehicle checkpoint operations around a fueling station near Garmah in Iraq when he was struck by an insurgent’s 7.62×39 mm round. This happened as he stood waving a vehicle into the checkpoint. the round hit him in his chest where it was stopped by the protective SAPI plate in his Interceptor vest. Immediately after the moment of impact his fellow Marines responded by moving Humvees in front of Cpl. Blair to shield him from additional enemy small arms fire. “It knocked me off my feet when it hit me,” Blair states. “As soon as it hit me, it hurt. It felt like a train hit me.” Soon after the incident, the young Marine was transported to Iraq’s trama center in Camp Fallujah. After a full medical examination, it was revealed that Blair had suffered just two fractured ribs.
The E-SAPI or “sappy” plate is issued to U.S. Marines when they first arrive in Iraq along with their Interceptor vest. Made by Point Blank, this body armor has two pouches that hold a plate each, one for the chest and one for the back. Designed to stop nearly any round from small arm in the insurgent’s arsenal, the weight of this effective armor brings many complaints about the heavier E-SAPI.
“I think the extra weight is worth it,” said fellow Marine Cpl. Kurt Vogler. “If Blair had the older SAPI, he might be dead.” The same can be true for hundreds of other military men and women fighting the war on terror.
Besides coming home with his war story, Cpl. Blair was allowed to keep the SAPI plate that saved his life. “I’m glad it was me and not the person next to me. I can’t wait to get back out there with my Marines.”
TW FACTOID: The Interceptor system weighs a total of 16.4 pounds (7.4 kg), with the vest weighing 8.4 pounds (3.8 kg), and two plates inserted weighing four pounds (1.8 kg) each. This is considerably lighter than the previous body armor fielded in Somalia weighing 25.1 pounds (11.4 kg) that most troops complained was too heavy and unwieldy for combat operations.