Soldiers Protected by Homemade Armor

ByABC News
August 30, 2004, 2:44 PM

F O R T   R I L E Y, Kan., Feb. 17 -- In Iraq, Sgt. Derrick Hurt was well-armed and supplied with the best body armor. But his Humvee was designed to travel light with not an inch of armor on it.

That worried him and the men who rode with him. They tried makeshift ways of strengthening the vehicles' flimsy undersides. "We filled the floorboards with sandbags as much as we could, except for the gas pedal and the brake," he said. "You know, you have to operate the vehicles."

The efforts didn't stop the grenade that ripped through the opening between the gas pedal and the brake and ripped away most of Hurt's right leg. "It just kind of bounced on the road, and I just drove over it and it exploded," he recalled.

His father, Larry Hurt, a veteran himself, was surprised when he visited Derrick at a military hospital to find so many other soldiers who also were wounded in their unarmored vehicles. "Burn victims, loss of hands, lots of other injuries, too," he remembered. "It really brings it home to you walking down the halls."

His son agreed. "[They had the] same sorts of injuries, from an I.E.D. or a land mine."

I.E.D. is military shorthand for "improvised explosive device" the makeshift bombs that, almost weekly, are killing and injuring soldiers in Iraq. In training exercises, the Army now teaches soldiers to recognize and respond to roadside bombs.

Soldiers Seek Alternatives

Rather than training, what many soldiers really want is armor to protect their vehicles from the bombs they can't see. When reservists in the Army Reserves' 428th Transportation Company showed up at Fort Riley, Kan., to prepare for deployment, they were warned by their buddies already in Iraq that without armor on the vehicles, they'd be in danger.