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Armor for legs, arms cited as example of business innovation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A new type of body armor designed at Oklahoma State University and produced by a Pauls Valley company protects soldiers' arms and legs from the shrapnel that has been such a danger in roadside bombings in Iraq.

The so-called QuadGuard, which was displayed at a news conference Monday in Stillwater, is worn like pants and a coat to shield areas of the body not covered by helmets and vests traditionally used in the military.

Emily Stover DeRocco, U.S. Labor Department assistant secretary for employment and training administration, joined Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., university officials and business leaders to praise the research and development that produced the new body armor.

In a telephone interview, DeRocco said American innovation is key as businesses struggle to compete in a global economy.

``The research and innovation coming from Oklahoma State University is translating into business opportunities and job creation in Oklahoma,'' she said. ``This is the kind of development we'd like to see all across the nation.''

The U.S. Marine Corps is using 4,900 units of the protective armor, primarily in Iraq.

``Roadside bombs filled with shrapnel not only kill American soldiers, but they can also cause such terrible wounds to the arms and legs of survivors that they require amputation,'' Istook said. ``This technology is designed to protect those exposed areas and make sure that when our soldiers survive an attack and come home in one piece.

``OSU has found a way to extend protection to a soldier's arms and legs without losing flexibility or adding too much weight.''

The armor, which includes a protective layer of ballistic cloth called Dyneema, is being produced at Covercraft, a Pauls Valley company that primarily makes car covers.

``What we possess is the industrial sewing capability needed to manufacture a product like this,'' said Covercraft representative Martin Lichtmann. ``This gave us something a little different from what we do now. Also, our employees feel good about doing something for soldiers protecting this country.''

The suit was designed by OSU professors, including Donna Branson, head of the Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the university. They worked with the Naval Research Laboratory, the Army Research Laboratory, and FS Technologies of Texas. The research was funded in part by a $3 million federal grant.
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