Vests Saving Lives On Battlefield

New body armor gives greater protection to soldiers from explosive devices.
Sgt. Michael Lubinski was on patrol in a truck in Iraq when he was suddenly ambushed by a roadside bomb.

As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the single-greatest killer of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

"There was blood everywhere," says Lubinski. "I knew we had been hit."

All three soldiers in Lubinski's truck lived, saved by the Army's latest protection against IEDs: a vest made of body armor, redesigned for soldiers, by soldiers.

In Iraq, U.S. soldiers were wearing body armor designed to stop enemy gunfire front and back, not enemy explosives that typically came at them from the side and could cut right through them.

Under repeated attack from this unexpected threat, soldiers were needlessly dying, and medics were seeing devastating injuries.

In Iraq, medics Lt. Dave Cox and Capt. Chris Van Winkle re-configured the standard vest on a cardboard box.

They moved the groin patch under the armhole.

"It's kind of like a shingle," said one of the medics. "If you overlap it, it's not going to leak."

They also added more armor over the shoulder then ran their design up their chain-of-command.

"It's really an example of soldiers being innovative, using the tools that they have and seeing a need and then trying to do something about it," says Col. John Norwood, soldier equipment project manager.

Now, every month 10,000 new vests roll out of a Florida factory.

By next spring, every U.S. soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan will wear one.

In the IED attack on Lubinski's truck, the vest saved the life of one soldier in particular.

"If he was not wearing it, it would have sliced and diced every vital organ in his body," said Lubinski.

"There's a lot of guys alive because of that piece of equipment right there," says Van Winkle.

It's proof that what often really protects U.S. soldiers in combat is their own ingenuity.