The MC Armor firm was based in Colombia within the Nineteen Nineties as drug violence elevated throughout the nation.
Now, staff at its plant within the capital Bogotá are working nonstop to make bulletproof vests and helmets that might be shipped off to Ukraine.
Because the conflict in Ukraine enters into its second month, demand for this lifesaving gear has skyrocketed. And physique armor firms, in addition to people, on the alternative aspect of the Atlantic are hustling to fill the necessity. MC Armor is without doubt one of the largest producers of bulletproof gear in South America, and it’s additionally joined the hassle to assist out.
“On this second, Ukraine is below assault,” mentioned MC Armor founder Miguel Caballero. “We’ve got the capability and the data right here to assist them.”
Over the previous three many years, MC Armor has made varied varieties of protecting gear, together with bulletproof shirts and pants, for dozens of heads of state within the Americas. It has additionally provided physique armor to the navy forces of many international locations, together with Peru, Guatemala, Chile, Qatar and Nigeria.
However whereas the corporate has expertise with giant orders, its founder says that it’s working at a busy tempo now to fill the sudden want for physique armor amongst Ukrainian civilians.
At one level within the second half of March, the manufacturing unit labored from Sunday to Sunday, with three shifts of employees per day. Caballero even had so as to add extra employees to the meeting line.
The corporate dispatched a complete of two,500 bulletproof vests to Ukraine by the tip of the month. And now, it is engaged on a further order of two,000 heavy-duty vests which have been paid for by donors from Spain and the UK.
The vests have thick, ceramic plates that may cease machine-gunfire, identified within the trade as Sort 4 vests.
“Usually the manufacturing of any such order [of bulletproof vests] takes 120 days. Right now we’ve got to extend the capability in manufacturing to cut back that to 12 days.”
“Usually, the manufacturing of any such order takes 120 days,” Caballero defined at his firm’s store in an upscale district of Bogotá. “Right now, we’ve got to extend the capability in manufacturing to cut back that to 12 days.”
Caballero mentioned that a few of his bulletproof vests will go to medical employees engaged on the entrance traces. Others may very well be despatched to Ukraine’s Territorial Protection Forces.
It’s a brand new department of Ukraine’s navy that’s made up of civilians being educated for city warfare. Greater than 100,000 volunteers have joined these protection forces across the nation, and lots of are nonetheless in want of protecting gear.
In Arizona, the Spartan Armor firm mentioned that it additionally ramped up manufacturing in March and despatched 1,500 vests to Ukraine, most of them Sort 4 vests.
However making new batches of vests can be changing into a problem, mentioned Todd Meeks, the corporate’s president.
“It’s laborious to get the ceramics, and it’s laborious to get the uncooked supplies to make them,” mentioned Meeks, whose firm normally makes round 500 Sort 4 vests a month.
Meeks mentioned that ceramics suppliers have hiked up their costs by round 25% because the conflict broke out.
“I feel these firms know that they will cost extra now for it. So, they’re charging extra for it,” he mentioned.
As factories battle to maintain up with demand, volunteers are additionally pitching in.
In San Diego, a cultural group referred to as the Home of Ukraine has collected greater than 100 secondhand vests from native residents and has purchased 200 new ones.
They’ve flown the gear to Poland on industrial flights, with volunteers carrying the physique armor, together with dozens of kilos of medical gear, of their suitcases.
Mira Stephanyak is the Home of Ukraine’s president. She grew up in Ukraine and has lived within the US for about 20 years.
“We really feel like that’s one thing that we can assist with. As a result of exporting ammunition or weapons is an entire completely different story, and that’s not one thing I’m going to be taking over myself,” Stephanyak mentioned.
Stephanyak explaiend that by sending vests, helmets and tourniquets to Ukraine, she will be able to a minimum of assist the members of the Territorial Protection Forces “to reside in the event that they get shot at.”
She’s obtained an export license for physique armor in order that she will be able to ship larger shipments of bulletproof vests within the coming weeks.
Again in Colombia, Caballero mentioned that that his firm has sufficient uncooked supplies in inventory to make round 5,000 extra vests.
He’s stored them on the identical value as earlier than the conflict. In his firm’s Bogotá store, he’s put up a poster with the Ukrainian map on it as an necessary reminder.
“Not every little thing in enterprise is about cash,” Caballero mentioned. “Our mission proper now could be to save lots of lives.”