82nd Airborne soldiers leave their forward operating base with safety on their side.
PANJWAI DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN - Army Sergeant First Class James Hargrove knows the dangers of war. The platoon sergeant -- currently on a year-long deployment with the 82nd Airborne -- says he's been worried about maintaining combat effectiveness since casualties have been so high.
His soldiers have seen increasing attacks from small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and countless improvised explosive devices (IED).
"I was really concerned about whether or not we could keep this up for another five months," says Hargrove. "I mean, how the fuck can you take the fight to the enemy when you're losing guys like we are?"
"So I brought up the issue to my chain of command, and believe it or not, they did something about it."
The grizzled platoon sergeant smiles and holds up the latest addition to a soldier's protective gear when going outside the wire. A bright yellow reflective belt.
"When the CO called us all together and told us about the new policy, I was like holy-shit, why didn't I think of that?"
Years of Army research of course has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that soldiers who wore reflective belts during low light hours were 75% less likely to get hit by cars, motorcyclists, pedestrians, small arms fire, explosions, lightning strikes, or fat wives in base housing.
The only question soldiers are asking is "why wasn't this implemented sooner?"
As Hargrove's platoon gears up for another combat patrol into the heart of an enemy village, the men are all smiles, helping each other adjust the neon-yellow straps to ensure maximum visibility during the dark hours of the night.
"There's no way we're going to take casualties with these babies!" exlaims PFC Lance Detwiller.
As the Americans exit the compound with their Afghan partners, the ANA seem to hang back, shying away from the US soldiers in formation. When asked about this, SFC Hargrove believes it to be a simple answer.
"It's probably just jealousy. I mean, there's only so many reflective belts to go around, and our guys come first, ya know?"