"This research is absolutely critical to our deployed soldiers, because having an ineffective tourniquet is just as bad as not having one at all," Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army surgeon general, said in testimony before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
A committee of surgeons and medical specialists throughout the armed services issued a report in February 2003 calling for every American soldier in combat to carry a tourniquet, and in December 2003 that report was published as a chapter in a book sanctioned by the American College of Surgeons to train trauma specialists.
In July 2004 the Army's Institute of Surgical Research issued its own recommendation that every soldier in the Army carry a modern tourniquet, and the U.S. Central Command issued a directive in January saying every soldier deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan should carry one.
Despite those directives, compliance was left to individual units, and tourniquets have only now been designated a standard-issue item by the Army.
The number of tourniquets in the war zones has increased the past two years, but many of the roughly 170,000 soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan do not have one.
First Lt. Jeremy B. Hyldahl, medical supply officer for the Army's 1st Infantry Division, estimates he bought about 80,000 tourniquets from a North Carolina manufacturer during a recent one-year tour in Iraq, and says he was hounded by Navy, Air Force and civilian units once word spread that he could procure the devices.
He also estimates that more than half of those tourniquets are no longer in Iraq, having been carried home by people rotating out of the combat zone.
Kiley told the congressional committee last month that 112,697 of the Army's approved tourniquets had been shipped to Iraq before the latest delivery effort began. He did not speculate how many are still there, but he said any shortages will soon be resolved.
"Every soldier in Iraq will have a tourniquet by the end of June or sooner," Kiley told a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. "And every soldier in the Army will receive a tourniquet as part of their new first aid kit, beginning this fall."