7 years ago
The Greenville News, of South Carolina, recently carried a story entitled “Soldier Seeks Funds to Buy Safety Gear.”
Furman University associate professor Matt Feigenbaum says a former ROTC student of his lost an arm and an eye to a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan, so he knows how dangerous a tour of duty can be.
Early next year, it will be Feigenbaum’s turn to ship out — and he’s asking for help to keep him and about 130 other Upstate troops as safe as possible.
A National Guard second lieutenant, Feigenbaum wants to raise $800 per soldier to buy helmet inserts, gloves and other gear.
“The Army does provide basic equipment,” he said. “But if you talk to the guys who are in-theater, there is better quality equipment you can get.”
Feigenbaum is the executive officer of Bravo Company, a part of the 1-118th Infantry Battalion. All of the troops under his command are from the Upstate and include sheriff’s deputies and a Woodmont High School assistant principal, he said.
They’ll be entering a combat zone that has become increasingly hostile, even as it has been overshadowed back home by the war in Iraq. Militants were launching 600 attacks a month as of the end of September, up from 300 a month as of March, according to The Associated Press.
“It certainly raises” the fear level, Feigenbaum said. “It’s a healthy fear. I would hope everybody would expect the danger we are going into.”
The helmet inserts can reduce the risk of serious head injury by 60 percent, he said. Soldiers can use high-quality gloves and socks because they expect to experience temperatures down to minus 30 degrees in the mountains, Feigenbaum said.
“Because the U.S. government often purchases its supplies from the lowest bidder and provides soldiers the basic necessities,” he wrote to potential donors, “Bravo Company’s Family Readiness Group is asking for donations so our soldiers can be equipped with the highest quality protective gear.”
He also wants to buy the troops phone cards and Web cams to make it easier to communicate with family.
The company will be away from the Upstate for more than a year starting in January, Feigenbaum said. Troops will head to Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Miss., for about three months of training and then spend a year overseas training Afghan police and army forces, he said.
The Army National Guard has been stretched increasingly thin since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Guard has transferred equipment from non-deployed units to deployed units, according to an October 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office.
As a result, non-deployed troops have fallen short of several kinds of equipment, including machine guns, night-vision goggles and Humvees, the GAO reported.
The helmet inserts are presumably the padding suspension system that I covered in “Old and New Body Armor for Marines,” and are intended to reduce the effect of blunt force trauma due to IEDs. Brain Injury is the signature wound of the Iraq war. Use of the padding suspension system has been ordered by Marine Administrative Message 480/06.
When my son recently trained at Fort A. P. Hill, the training caused the destruction of several pairs of Cammies, which of course, he had to replace out-of-pocket. I am cataloguing the equipment we have already purchased at the MCX: more boots, ballistic glasses (because the issued pair are worse than second-rate), Cammies, etc., etc. Prior to deployment I will publish a list of equipment my son and I have had to purchase out-of-pocket, along with an estimate of the cost. The innovative Second Lieutenant above had a praiseworthy idea: appeal to the people on whose behalf they fight.
In the mean time, we should collectively query ourselves: Do we really support the troops?