When it comes to the many "life-changing" injuries that can result from an IED blast, the loss of a limb is probably the first one that springs to mind. But injuries to the pelvic region that leave soldiers with the inability to have children can obviously be just as devastating. That's why the U.S. Army has developed a Pelvic Protection System - dubbed "Kevlar boxers" or "combat underpants" by some soldiers - to protect dismounted soldiers patrolling Afghanistan roads.

The U.S. Army developed the Pelvic Protection System after taking a lead from British forces that employed "Blast Boxers" made by Cardiff-based military accessories provider BCB International. The U.S. version consists of two layers of protection - a Tier I protective under-garment - or "PUG" - and a Tier II protective outer-garment - or "POG."

Worn like shorts, the PUG is worn under a soldier's ACU (Army Combat Uniform) pants and can be worn over the top of, or in place of underwear. It has a breathable, moisture wicking material on the outer thighs and knitted Kevlar along the inner thighs to protect the fleshy parts of the thigh and the femoral artery. Additional knitted or woven Kevlar is located over the groin. The fabric has been tested to ensure it won't melt or drip when exposed to extreme heat.

The POG is more rigid and offers more ballistic protection. While the PUG can be worn on its own, Lt. Col. Frank J. Lozano, PEO Soldier protective equipment, says the POG should always be worn with the PUG.

"If you wear the Tier I under the Tier II, it prevents chafing. It also provides the maximum amount of coverage together with the maximum amount of protection, without restricting your movement."

According to Lozano, the first soldiers in theater to wear the gear reported chafing and "poor thermal management," leading to subsequent redesigns. The Army first put the Pelvic Protection System into field use in June 2011 and have now fielded it to some 15,000 soldiers. The system, which typically includes three PUGs and one POG, is currently being fielded to soldiers in theater and Stateside.

Source: U.S. Army