Company makes clothes for warfare

Richmond_As an Army surgeon in the Middle East, Dr. Keith Rose watched a colleague bleed to death when a truck in his convoy was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Rose could not get his comrade a tourniquet, which could have helped control the bleeding on his wounded leg, and sat along the mangled wreckage and talked with him as he took his last breath.

"It really kind of frustrated me," Rose said.

Once he returned to the U.S., Rose approached BlackHawk, a provider of military and law enforcement gear, with an idea to create clothes with built-in tourniquets.

The system being tested for use in military uniforms, called Warrior Wear, has eight tourniquets - two in each sleeve and pant leg.

A tourniquet fashioned from straps that look like those on backpacks are sewn into the clothing, and the straps are concealed beneath a fabric fastener.

"No matter how good the tourniquet is, if you can't get it on the person at the right time, it doesn't work," said Rose, who does tactical medicine consultation and medical work overseas.

"It's something that is so basic, so cost effective and so overwhelmingly life changing," he said.

The Norfolk-based company said the clothing should be available for retail around the end of March. It is expected to retail for less than $200, but the cost to the military would depend on things like volume.

Military officials agree having readily accessible tourniquets is important.

"Tourniquets have allowed many people with devastating injuries to come back that in another time and another place would have died," said Col. Patricia R. Hastings, director of the Army's Department of Combat Medic Training based at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

"If you can save a medic a few minutes of time so he can concentrate on saving your life ... it has great possibilities," Hastings said.

And with the concept of battlefields changing, Rose said the system is more vital than ever.

"The way wars are fought now ... there's no defined lines of engagement," Rose said. "The average cook could be hit with a rocket attack while he's carrying potatoes to the mess hall."

Advances in body armor have made protecting the core of a body easier, but more than 60 percent of injuries in military and law enforcement conflicts today are to the extremities, said Terry Naughton, director of industrial security at BlackHawk.

Naughton said 10 percent of deaths are from injuries where blood loss was uncontrollable.

"We are confident that the day that this hits the field, that lives will be saved," Naughton said. "And if we save one person, we've done our job."

BlackHawk was founded in 1993 by Mike Noell, a former Navy SEAL who fought in the first Gulf War.

The company, which has developed more than 2,500 products for military, law enforcement and the outdoor sporting community, has grown to about 250 employees and is expected to add 100 more within the next year.


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Michael Felberbaum, AP Writer © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.