By Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson
41st Fires Brigade
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Capt. Darren McDonough knows from first-hand experience that the Army's improved outer tactical vest system saves lives.
"I am a big believer," said McDonough, operations officer for the 1st Battalion, 32nd Brigade Military Training Team.
McDonough and the members of a joint Iraqi army and coalition forces team were looking for weapons caches during a cordon-and-search operation in al Bashair. The team came under small arms fire as they approached a suspected location, and a round struck McDonough in the chest.
"It felt like someone had hit me in the chest with a really big hammer," McDonough said.
The round struck the enhanced small arms protective insert, which is an integral part of the IOTV system. The impact knocked McDonough backward, and he hit his head on a wall, causing him to momentarily black out.
"When I came around, the IA soldiers were returning fire on the enemy position," said McDonough. "After the fire from the IA stopped, I tried to move behind the cover of the wall, but my legs were not working so well."
That's when Capt. Tommy Karpuk, the 41st Fires Bde. Iraqi security forces coordinator, and Staff Sgt. Quatdreecus Nealon, the Forward Operating Base Delta military working dogs K-9 kennel master, exposed themselves to small arms fire in order to get McDonough to safety.
"We were able to get him behind the wall because of the fact that the IA soldiers continued to provide cover," Karpuk said. "Once he was behind the wall, it was obvious that he was a little out of it, but at the same time we were able to tell that at least the plate stopped the bullet."
Karpuk and Nealon moved McDonough to one of the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, where Sgt. 1st Class Dewayne Moore, 1-32 MiTT medic, assessed McDonough.
"I was relieved to see that his only injury was a concussion," said Moore. "The IOTV ESAPI plate prevented him from sustaining any other injuries."
McDonough was cleared to return to duty within two days of the incident.
"My opinion is that it [IOTV] works great. Whatever company designed and manufactured it did their job," said McDonough.
The Army began fielding the IOTV in April 2007.