Archive for the 'Body Armor' Category



More on Battle Space Weight

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 8 months ago

Continuing with our compulsive interest in battle space weight, we learn some interesting things about the potential future use of technology to help reduce battle space injuries and carry more weight.

Assistant Commandant Gen. James F. Amos told a House committee Wednesday about “Big Dog,” a robotic quadruped that can carry 300 to 500 pounds of gear.

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, joined Amos to testify before the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense. He said Big Dog and other alternatives might reduce injuries that have contributed to an increase in “non-deployable” men and women.

The number of soldiers who can’t be deployed rose from 17,000 or 18,000 to 20,000 over three years . Half have less serious injuries, including those caused by heavy loads. That has led to research in lightweight body armor, lightweight machineguns and lighter food rations.

According to an Army statement, soldiers may carry loads that start at 63 pounds and exceed 130 pounds. Extra protective gear or body armor can weigh 41 pounds. The typical combat load increased from 93 pounds in 2001 to 95.1 pounds in 2009.

The statement cited a study that proved “cumbersome” individual body armor caused pain, reduced performance and increased fatigue. Soldiers carrying 101 pounds for 12.5 miles had a 26 percent decrease in marksmanship.

“We are working very hard to lighten the load,” Chiarelli said. “One of the things we are looking at is civilian off-the-shelf solutions.”

Big Dog is one of many projects from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency started in June 2007. A small, remote-control helicopter might deliver loads to soldiers. Another alternative is to use an “organic load-carrying asset,” or leaving some gear in soldiers’ Humvees or amphibious assault vehicles.

Ah, those DARPA dollars.  Here is one thing those dollars have bought.  The Big Dog.

Now if we can just get it not to sound like a million angry Africanized bees, we’d be much better off since we don’t want to telegraph our location to the enemy.  Seriously though, it seems that it would be a much better solution to invest dollars into lighter weight body armor SAPI plates.

The biggest difference in the weight carried by the Soldier or Marine today versus in WWII is from body armor.  The total weight of the soft panel ballistic armor, SAPI plates and carrier vest is around 32 pounds.  This is 32 extra pounds that the Soldier or Marine in WWII didn’t have to carry.  Body armor is the low hanging fruit.  But it seems that we’d rather design cool robots that sound like a million angry bees.

University of Virginia Student Designs New Body Armor

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

Reader Brett Turner kindly sent the following story our direction.  Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know that we have harped on the weight of body armor – and in particular, ESAPI plates – in just about every article (on body armor) we have written.  We have strongly recommended government money be spent on designing new and improved ESAPI plates that don’t weigh as much as the current generation of plates.  The total weight of the MTV comes to around 32 pounds.  We have recommended that experts be engaged, from materials engineering to fracture mechanics practitioners.  Now comes a University of Virginia student who has led the effort we recommended, except that there is no government money involved – yet.

The most stalwart medieval knight probably griped about the crippling weight of his shining armor.
The metal’s inflexibility left plenty to complain about as well. And there was its nasty tendency of allowing sharp edges and pointy-tipped projectiles through cracks and creases.

Things haven’t changed much.

The nation’s combat forces continue to deal with these same shortcomings, despite tremendous advancements in modern body armor. U.S. Army Sgt. Jeff O’Dell saw vivid examples of body armor saving American lives during his deployment in Iraq.

The University of Virginia second-year student also knows how Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts can restrict movement and fail to stop multiple bullets. The four bulky ceramic plates now in use in protective vests used by American forces are also heavy, bringing the weight of a vest to nearly 30 pounds.

“I was deployed in Iraq as a fire support specialist from August 2005 to December 2006,” said O’Dell, who is serving in the National Guard while attending UVa. “Our armor vest had single ceramic plates in the front, back and on each side.

“The vest has saved the lives of some of my buddies, but having worn it a lot I know it can be improved upon. It’s too heavy, it doesn’t stop multiple rounds and it doesn’t flex.

“The Army has had a lot of issues with the body armor being recalled, and a lot of the troops have been complaining about its effectiveness, weight and so forth. I really think it’s something that needs to be fixed.”

Last September O’Dell seized upon an opportunity to possibly help save countless lives in the future — maybe even his own. As a double major in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, he took a Design Discovery class that introduces second-year students to conceptual and practical design work.
The class educates students on how to come up with novel products and ultimately market them. The class is broken into small teams of students who work together on projects they originate.

O’Dell teamed up with Ann Bailey, Adam Rogers and Dan Abebayehu. When the student-soldier proposed the idea of creating a better armor vest the others quickly signed on.

“I had family members in the military so this hit close to home for me,” said Bailey, who is from Elkton. “And I like the idea of working with something that will actually be beneficial to someone.

“This project has been a real opportunity to work on something that will actually make a difference. I also like the fact that we’re at a school with so many resources and where the professors are so willing to help.
“When we were in the research phase we needed to figure out a particular thing, and I went to talk to a professor in the materials science department. He dropped whatever it was he was doing, pulled up a Web site and explained to me exactly what we needed to know.”

The armor vest project quickly became more than an exercise in how to get a passing grade. Inspired by O’Dell, who will likely be deployed to Afghanistan later this year, the team began working feverously on a new design that would eliminate the historic shortcomings of body armor.

A few months ago examples of the students’ new vest were put to the test at H.P. White Lab in Maryland. In the company’s ballistics testing facility, round after armor-piercing round were fired into the vests.

The team’s radically new design proved so successful and groundbreaking that a second round of testing will take place on Thursday. This time Army representatives will be present to evaluate the students’ system firsthand.

“The Army is interested because we’ve come up with a design that offers flexibility and more capability for stopping multiple armor-piercing rounds,” said O’Dell, who was born and raised in Martinsville. “A lot of it has to do with our design, and a lot of it is the material we’re changing.

“When the results came out so well during the first round of testing we made contact with a possible commercialization partner, which is an armor company in Pennsylvania. They got in touch with the Army and set up the testing for later this month.

“We actually came up with a concept for vehicle armor as well. During the first test it was hit by 10, 30-caliber armor-piercing rounds and stopped all 10.”

The new vest presents a classic example of what can result from a well thought-out course that emphasizes creativity and cooperation. O’Dell lauded the fact that the class was structured to give students step-by-step guidance during each stage of the project.

The students were made aware of available resources and professors who were experts in areas that could be helpful. One expert was Haydn N. Wadley, Edgar Starke Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He gave the four students a crash course in body armor materials and how they work.

William F. Walker continues to guide and mentor the engineering students. He said his main goal in the class was to motivate students to go out and find their own problems to work on.

“I want the students to find something they’re passionate about, and will throw themselves into fully,” said Walker, associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering at UVa. “Some students will accept the challenge like this team has done, and will go like mad.

“What Jeff and his team members have done is really not in my area of expertise, but the data they’ve gotten in testing so far really speaks for itself. Experts I’ve spoken to who do know this field haven’t seen anything like this before.

When the defense contractors have nothing else to gain because they already have a fat contract and thus no incentive to design something better, a young warrior-student steps into the gap.  What a story.  God bless this effort, and God bless these students.

This information is proprietary, so they will be unwilling to go into too much detail concerning the materials and design specifications.  But we will contact them to see just what we might learn about the effort.  We will be tracking this very closely.

Prior: Body Armor (category)

DoD Testing Requirements for Body Armor and Army Recall

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 10 months ago

On January 29 we learned that the Army was issuing a recall of more than 16,000 sets of ESAPI (or enhanced side arms protective inserts) that had been issued to its soldiers.  By way of description, the SAPIs are ceramic plates that are designed for stopping 7.62 mm rounds, while the soft panel armor (with more coverage, but less weight) is designed for protection against 9 mm rounds and shrapnel.  The plates and soft panels are fundamentally the same for both Army and Marine body armor, but the carrier vests are slightly different.

The Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office released the report over which so much speculation occurred.  Report No. D-2009-047, DoD Testing Requirements for Body Armor, was written at the behest of certain members of Congress.  The report is the third in a series of reports on DoD body armor and armored vehicles issued in response to requests from Representative Louise M. Slaughter, 28th District, New York, and Senator James H. Webb, Virginia.  Since the Inspector General’s investigation was prompted by speculation of problems and since the SAPI plates of such importance to the success of the overall system, we analyzed the findings of the report with eager anticipation.  This anticipation was heightened by the introductory paragraphs of the report.  They found that:

… testing facility officials did not consistently follow the test plan or COPD requirements for the fair shot determination, measurement of BFD, or plate size, and that the PEO Soldier scoring official could not provide adequate documentation that explained why certain plates were selected for scoring and others were disregarded during the scoring process.

We were also concerned that the contracting officer technical representative (COTR) made an unauthorized change to Contract 0040 by instructing the testing facility officials to deviate from the COPD and use an offset correction technique (a mathematical formula used to adjust the BFD). The PEO Soldier COTR communicated this change by e-mail to the testing facility without approval from the contracting officer.

COPD is “Contract Purchase Description,” PEO is “Program Executive Officer,” and BFD means “Back Face Deformation.”  This last concept becomes important in the overall picture.  Turning to the specifics of the report, several key findings are outlined below for the purpose of providing examples of the investigation.

The inconsistencies that we identified concerned the treatment of over velocity shots.  During first article testing conducted on February 20 and November 7, 2007, shots on six of the plates were over the required velocity. Because none of the shots resulted in a complete penetration, the shots should have been considered fair, and the test should have proceeded, according to the COPD. During the November 7, 2007, test, the testing facility official complied with the COPD and correctly proceeded with testing. However, even though the scenario was exactly the same for the February 20, 2007, test, the testing facility official conducted retests on additional plates. The testing facility official documented all of the shots, including the retests, and provided the test results to PEO Soldier for scoring.  When scoring the test results for the February 20, 2007, first article test (design M3D2S2), the PEO Soldier scoring official chose to use the test results for the retested plates when he computed the test score. Use of the retested plates resulted in a score of 5.5 points, and the contractor passed the first article test. Had the scoring official followed the fair shot acceptance criteria as stated in the COPD and used the initial plates that withstood the over velocity shot, the contractor would have accumulated an additional 1.5 points (complete penetration on the second shot) and would have failed the first article test with 7 points.

Translation: When an over-velocity shot is taken on a plate, the testing may proceed if the plate is not penetrated under the assumption that a lower velocity shot would not have penetrated either.  This is a reasonable assumption.  However, if the plate is penetrated by the second shot it fails the testing, even if weakened by the initial shot.  The PEO made the decision to exclude the plates that had sustained over-velocity shots on the initial testing and to perform retests, but not consistently (as later records show).  A second example of the Inspector General’s findings pertains to measurements of BFD (back face deformation).

PEO Soldier instructed the testing facility to deviate from the COPD and use an offset correction technique (a mathematical formula used to adjust the BFD) when measuring the BFD. The testing facility official used this technique during 2 of the 21 first article tests conducted under Contract 0040. The COPD required that the testing facility officials measure the BFD at the deepest point in the clay depression after the bullet impacted the plate. However, PEO Soldier officials stated that contractors complained that the BFD measurement was not fair if the deepest point in the clay was not behind the point of impact. Therefore, a PEO Soldier official instructed the testing facility in an April 25, 2005, e-mail to use the offset correction technique if the deepest point in the clay depression was not behind the bullet’s point of impact.

Translation: The contractors complained when the measurement of deepest penetration was made at any point other than the point of bullet impact, which is the point of highest risk to the Soldier.  Therefore, the PEO made a decision that a correction would be applied to account for this effect and bring consistency to the program.

The Captain’s Journal initially concurs with both of the program deviations discussed above, since it isn’t fair to penalize one plate as compared to another if an over-velocity shot happened to be taken against it, and also since the highest risk to the Soldier does happen to be the point of bullet impact.

And it is also fair to point out that these aren’t the only problems discussed in the report.  But there are deeper problems that discussed even in the report.  With respect to the over-velocity shots, our judgment is that not enough SAPI plates are being included in the test samples (i.e., the sample size is not large enough) and the boundary conditions (such as shot velocity) are not being well-managed.  With respect to the deformation, the question naturally arises why the most severe deformation is occurring anywhere other than the point of bullet impact?  What’s happening to the ESAPI plates that is causing deformation in other than impact locations?

These questions (and other such technical questions) are not posed or answered in the Inspector General’s report, since the investigation is done by a government office.  The investigation focuses on programs, QA, adherence to procedures, consistency of application of rules and the like.  True enough, there are problems with some of the above.

But Senators and Representatives who have infinite trust in the power of government to solve problems leave the technology to the experts when a government office is the the sole arbiter of the strength of any technical program – and technological expert doesn’t usually define government offices.  In this particular case, as we have suggested before, there is no shame in assistance from industry experts.

Questions have been raised above which point to the need for completely independent consultative services focusing on QA, programmatic controls, statistical analysis of sample size, control over testing boundary conditions, and most especially the SAPI plates themselves and the underlying fracture mechanics of bullet impacts by finite element analysis.

The Army has understandably defended their program, and it should also be pointed out that contrary to published reports, the Inspector General’s office didn’t offer any conclusions about the safety of particular lots of SAPI plates currently in theater.  But as long as government organizations are battling with each other over government requests to investigate each other, and as long as independent engineering consultative services are not procured, whatever solution that floats to the top will be less than satisfying, and probably less than ideal.

One final point is in order.  This nugget of gold is contained in the report.  “The Army purchased 51,334 sets of ESAPI for $57,107,890.00.”  This is just over $1100 to outfit each Soldier with hard plate body armor.  All testing and design is probabilistic, with sample size being limited for the so-called “zero percent chance of penetration” test and with other design criteria based on equal probability of penetration and non-penetration.  It is the way of things.  Performance is not digital; it isn’t as if safety can be guaranteed in any particular circumstance.  Again, science and engineering is in many ways a probabilistic endeavor.

But this is a minimal cost to provide minimal protection for our warriors.  If the truth is told, even in a time of budget difficulties, there is absolutely no reason that protection cannot be increased and weight decreased (we have observed before that the only way to significantly decrease the total weight of body armor is to decrease the ESAPI plate weight).  It’s merely a matter of commitment.

Prior:

Changes in Body Armor for Marines

New Body Armor for the Marines

Body Armor Wars in the Marine Corps

What is a Warrior’s Life Worth?

Body Armor Goes Political

Body Armor Wars: The Way Forward

Changes in Body Armor for Marines

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

In New Body Armor for the Marines we detailed the interim, ad hoc changes to the Modular Tactical Vest resulting from complaints about various issues associated with performance of the vest in combat.  Below is the MTV:

And below is the modified MTV:

The modified vest kept the same SAPI plats, front, back and side, reduced the coverage of the soft panels on the sides and around the shoulders, and removed the soft panel neck and groin protection.  The changes were made to save weight and provide for maneuverability.  Unfortunately, only modest weight reductions are seen from the modifications, and yet the Corps has given up shrapnel and small arms (e.g., 9 mm) protection in the neck, shoulder and groin area.

The AP reports that there are permanent changes coming for the MTV.

Acting on widespread complaints from its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps has ordered major modifications to its body armor to improve comfort, mobility and safety, The Associated Press has learned.

The decision results from a survey of more than 1,000 Marines, many of whom reported that their flak jackets, which cost the Marine Corps more than $100 million, were too heavy and restrictive.

“The Marine Corps is developing an Improved Modular Tactical Vest to address the problem areas uncovered by the survey results,” Capt. Geraldine Carey, a Marine spokeswoman, told the AP by e-mail last week.

Earlier in 2008, the Marine Commandant, Gen. James Conway, temporarily suspended an order for more than 20,000 of the so-called Modular Tactical Vests.

“I’ve worn the vest on my travels into Iraq and Afghanistan, and I can tell you those Marines have raised some valid points,” Conway told the AP by e-mail.

Body armor has been an issue since the Iraq war began in 2003. The Army reportedly had a shortage of the ceramic protective plates needed to make vests effective, and lawmakers demanded answers from the Department of Defense after reports surfaced of soldiers’ families buying the plates themselves and sending them to Iraq.

The Marine Corps has been ahead in distributing adequate body armor and replacement parts to its troops, though it too has struggled to adapt and fine-tune the technology in an ever-changing urban warfare environment. The vest now used by the Marines in Iraq is the Corps’ third since 2001.

There are other lighter types of body armor that are widely used by police but they are not approved for combat. The Modular Tactical Vest, designed by the Marine Corps to improve on an older jacket, has a track record of stopping bullets and shrapnel.

It was designed to better protect the kidneys, lower back and torso in urban combat, and make it easier to carry ammunition, water and grenades.

The vest was the top choice of troops who tested it before a manufacturer was awarded the contract, according to Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson, Conway’s spokesman. Marine and Pentagon officials said it has a proven record of protecting troops, and Carey said there are no reports of failings that resulted in injury or death during combat.

But troops in the field started complaining almost as soon as the vests were issued in 2007.

At 30 pounds it is bulky and between one to three pounds heavier than its predecessor depending on its size, adding to the burden on Marines who carry more than 90 pounds of gear. Army officials testifying before Congress in 2007 said they turned down the vest because it was heavier and no more effective than what the Army was using.

Because the vest rides higher on the chest for added protection, and features shoulder straps and buckles for adjustment and quick removal, several Marines blamed it for causing facial bruises when rifle butts slipped during recoil.

To better shoulder their weapon, some Marines loosened straps to lower the vest, exposing their upper torsos, according to a Marine field commander in Iraq who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is against policy for troops to alter the vest.

Told of the practice by the AP, Conway said: “Any decision to scale down levels of protection for the sake of comfort is wholly unacceptable.”

The vest has a tab for quickly removing the vest to prevent a tragedy, such as when a Marine in an older jacket couldn’t remove it and drowned. But Marines complained that the tab snagged equipment, and are now told to tuck away the tab.

Unlike previous jackets, which Marines could just throw on and go, this one requires training or online video courses on how to wear it.

An initial 84,000 vests at a cost of more than $84 million were ordered in September 2006, nine months after an urgent request came in from the field for better protection. Conway, who became commandant after the contract was issued, put a hold on the last batch of 20,000 vests, questioning their design and testing.

He later lifted the suspension and the Marine Corps ordered more than $17 million worth of vests and replacement parts over the summer.

The current vest costs about $1,050, according to Lt. Col. A.J. Pasagian, who oversaw the survey at Quantico, Va.. The price of the improved vest wasn’t immediately known.

As we have explained before, the MTV is a carrier, not the armor itself.  The shell is a carrier for the SAPI plates and soft panel armor.  The MTV is also designed to hug the body tighter than the older Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) used by the Army, and thus acts more like an internal frame backpack by placing the weight on the hips.  It raises the front SAPI plate, lowers the rear SAPI plate, fully integrates the side SAPI plates into the carrier (rather than having to hang them on the carrier with Molle straps), and more efficiently deploys the soft ballistic panels compared to the IBA.

The MTV was a major improvement in carrier design, and complaints about weight should be aimed primarily at the SAPI plates, not the carrier or even the soft panel armor.  Additionally, the soft panel coverage should be maximized in any future design for shrapnel protection.

There is much reiterated in the report that readers of The Captain’s Journal already know, but what we learn from the AP report is that the Corps has conducted a poll, the results of which are driving permanent changes to the MTV.  Unfortunately, without major investment in SAPI plate design, any permanent changes aren’t likely to reduce weight without compromising protection.  As we have pointed out in our body armor coverage, the low hanging fruit has already been picked.  It’s time for major investment in the ballistics and fracture mechanics of the SAPI plates if we wish to reduce weight and maintain protection.  Otherwise the Corps will be disappointed in the outcome of this redesign.

New Body Armor for the Marines

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 2 months ago

The Captain’s Journal has the best coverage on the web of Marine Corps body armor. Naturally, after Body Armor Wars in the Marines Corps, we were a bit surprised to see a new design for the MTV (Modular Tactical Vest), but weren’t surprised at all that the major component of the weight – the Small Arms Protective Inserts, or SAPIs (or ESAPIs for enhanced 7.62 mm stopping power) – remain the same.

In Body Armor Wars, we made the point that there was essentially no difference between the weight carried by the IBA (Interceptor Body Armor) and MTV tactical vests. They both carry SAPI plates (for 7.62 mm) and soft panels for shrapnel and very small arms protection (9 mm). But the complaints rolled in, and Marine Corps Commandant Conway was determined to reduce weight. Enter the revised version of the MTV.

The new plate carriers are essentially a slimmed-down version of the MTV, with larger arm holes, thinner shoulder straps and a shorter chest profile. The reduction in weight and lower silhouette of the plate carriers “would allow greater mobility with reduced thermal stress in high elevations, thick vegetation and tropical environments,” SysCom said.

The SAPI plates remain the same, but the soft panel coverage is reduced. Upon initial review, we asked, where is the coverage for the shoulders, groin and neck? It isn’t there, and while the weight is reduced, the protection is as well.

Having worn both the IBA and MTV, it is difficult to put on and take off. Neither the front nor the back opens, and so taking 32+ pounds and slipping it over your head with tight clearances leads to scarred noses, bruises on the forehead, and just plain frustration (the 32+ pounds doesn’t include hydration system, ammunition drums, etc.).

But the MTV is still a vast improvement over the IBA carrier. The Captain’s Journal has made the solution clear months ago. Reducing soft panel coverage is low hanging fruit and doesn’t help with protection while providing only marginal weight benefit. The real challenge is to reduce the weight of SAPI plates. Money should be directed at new technologies to reduce weight while also maintaining the current level of protection. As for the MTV, it will be a while before the revised version is issued, and perhaps it will never enter the training regimen for the Marines.

There should be a doctoral candidate in materials engineering somewhere who needs funding and would enjoy studying the fracture mechanics of SAPI plates, and it seems that the Air Force should be willing to relinquish one of its shiny new F-22s for the research, design and testing of lighter body armor for our men in uniform. To save the backs and maybe the lives of our Marines? Is this not a worthy cause? Is some member in charge of defense appropriations in the House of Representatives not willing to take this upon himself for the sake of our Marines? Then we don’t have to strip and bastardize the armor so that the Marines can carry it on their bodies.

Body Armor Wars in the Marine Corps

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 9 months ago

Foxnews is carrying an article on a dust-up over body armor within the Corps.

The Pentagon and Marine Corps authorized the purchase of 84,000 bulletproof vests in 2006 that not only are too heavy but are so impractical that some U.S. Marines are asking for their old vests back so they can remain agile enough to fight.

Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway wants to know who authorized the costly purchase of the nearly 30-pound flak jackets and has ordered the Marine procurement officers at the Quantico base in Virginia to halt the rest of an unfilled order, FOX News has learned.

“I’m not quite sure how we got to where we are, but what I do know is it is not a winner,” Conway told FOX News at the end of his recent trip to Iraq.

“I think it is foolish to buy more.”

Twenty-four thousand more vests were scheduled to be shipped to Iraq in the coming months, but Conway halted that order during his trip.

“I’ve asked them to tell me — to walk me through — the whole process … how it evolved,” Conway said.

“It goes back a couple of years. I think the vest has its advantages. It fits pretty well on the waist. The weight is distributed more evenly on the hips than shoulders, but Marines don’t like it. I didn’t like it when I put it on.”

The protective jackets, manufactured by Protective Products International in Sunrise, Fla., are known as Modular Tactical Vests, or MTVs. With heavy plates, known as sappis, on their sides, they provide more coverage than the older vests. That makes them much safer but also much heavier. The MTVs have more protection than the older “Interceptor,” made by Point Blank, and they distribute weight more evenly.

The new vests, weighing in at about 30 pounds each, are three lbs. more than previous regulation body armor. Marines, who are already carrying up to 95 lbs. depending on the mission, say they feel the difference.

It is frankly difficult to imagine that this issue could have become so confused to so many people.  Hopefully this article will be enlightening for the careful reader.  To begin with, it is necessary to show a picture of a Marine in Fallujah during Operation Alljah, wearing the IBA (Interceptor).  This picture comes to you courtesy of Bill Ardolino who embedded with the 2/6 Marines in 2007.

Take particular note of the thing hanging on the side of this Marine’s IBA (Interceptor Body Armor) vest.  It is called a side SAPI plate (small arms protective insert, or the enhanced version is ESAPI).  The side SAPIs are not used when Marines train stateside.  They are issued upon entry to the theater.  They are issued to the Marine whether he has the IBA or MTV (Modular Tactical Vest).  The 2/6 Marines were told that they would be issued the MTV prior to deployment, but delays made that impossible.  To compensate, many of the Marines went to TAG (Tactical Applications Group) in Jacksonville, N.C., right at Camp Lejeune, and purchased their own tactical vest, the Spartan 2, which is the commercially available version of the MTV.  This Marine didn’t get his before TAG ran out of the vests, so he took his IBA vest.  When 2/6 deployed to Iraq, they deployed with the vest, the front and rear SAPI plates, and the soft ballistic panels.  Some Marines from 2/6 deployed with their IBA, and had to have TAG send their back-ordered Spartan 2 to their home, and have their families send it to Iraq, since equipment vendors are not allowed to send packages directly to the theater.  But the Marines of 2/6, who regularly spent most of the day in their armor during training, wanted the Spartan 2 (MTV) so badly that some of them had their families send them to Iraq.

Take note also that the IBA doesn’t have the side SAPI integrated into the vest, so it hangs onto the IBA with Molle straps.  In fact, this particular Marine has his side SAPI hanging a full five or six inches below the rest of his vest (in the early days of the Anbar campaign, this gap under his arms was a favorite target for snipers, whereas the MTV solves this problem).  When this Marine was at Camp Lejeune, he didn’t have the side SAPIs hung onto the vest with Molle straps.  In fact, he didn’t have them at all.  Again, these SAPIs are issued upon entry to Iraq, and those side SAPI plates add quite a few pounds to the system.  Notice also that the rear SAPI is hiked up a bit in the back well above the lower part of his spine.  This is the way the IBA holds the SAPI plates.  Down in the front, high in the back, and side SAPIs hanging on by Molle, sagging down and exposing their ribs and lungs.

The IBA and the MTV are merely tactical outer vests to hold the soft panels (to protect against very small arms fire or shrapnel) and SAPI plates (to protect against up to a 7.62 mm round).  The body armor itself – front SAPI, rear SAPI, soft panels and side SAPIs – are exactly the same between the two body armor systems.  This point is critical to understanding the current dust-up.  Again, the weight between the two is the same.  The MTV does not weigh more than the IBA.  The MTV and IBA are vests, not armor.

There are a few changes made to the MTV that make it different than the IBA.  First, the front SAPI is raised a little and the rear SAPI is lowered a little to provide protection to the spine.  Second, a neck guard is provided for shrapnel, and third, a soft panel groin protector is provided.  The neck and groin protectors add little to the weight of the vest – no more than a pound or so.  Fourth, the MTV fully integrates the side SAPIs into the vest rather than hanging them onto the vest.  Finally, the MTV hugs the torso and places the weight on the hips, much like an internal frame backpack, as opposed to the IBA which places all of the weight on the shoulders.

Because of all of this, I commented on a post at the Small Wars Journal the following:

I have completely, absolutely, positively no idea whatsoever what this article is talking about. It makes absolutely no sense at all to me. The MTV is a carrier, not a new set of body armor. All of the weighty elements from the IBA – the front ESAPI plate, the rear ESAPI plate, and the side SAPIs, along with the soft panels placed inside the carrier – are still there with the MTV.

More precisely, the soft panels are taken out of the IBA along with the SAPI plates and placed in the new carrier. The soft panels had been inefficiently deployed in the shoulder area in the IBA, and now are fully utilized. One big difference in the MTV and the IBA is the fact that the IBA hung completely on the shoulders, and allowed no load bearing whatsoever on other parts of the body. The MTV hugs the torso, especially at the hips, and places the weight on the hips somewhat like an internal frame backpack.

This feature was so popular among the grunts with my son’s unit before they deployed to Iraq in 2007 (which happened to be prior to the point that the MTV had been issued) that most of the men went to TAGs (Tactical Applications Group) just outside Camp Lejeune and purchased the commercial version of the MTV, or the Spartan 2.

I have heard multiple Marines myself praise the MTV for its ability to take the load off of the shoulders and place it on the hips – and thus PREVENT BACK PROBLEMS, and have never once heard even the slightest complaint. I have also worn the IBA and Spartan 2, and know the difference first hand. I simply cannot account for the report in this article. The only possible explanation I have for it is that the complaints may not be coming from grunts who have to go on 20 mile “humps” with their armor on (along with ammunition, Camelback, carabineer to hold weapon, etc.). The MTV (or Spartan 2) was so popular among Marines at Camp Lejeune that, again, personal funds were spent purchasing it.

Compare this to the IBA which places the load on the shoulders, and again, I simply do not understand this article. Also, the IBA hangs the side SAPIs by Molle loops, so usually they sag (making good sniper targets under the arms of the wearer because of this sagging). The only real weight difference with the Spartan 2 / MTV and the IBA that I have seen is the existence of the front groin soft panel guard. This adds what – several ounces of weight?

Again, confused, and suspect there is more to this story than meets the eye.

As it turns out after reading the discussion thread on this post, I was right, and the Marines are complaining about the weight of the armor and not the design of the vest.  In other words, this is what is happening.  Marines who are not infantry have trained with their vests on less frequently and not as long in duration as Marines who are infantry, and when they do have them on, they only have the front and rear SAPI plates inserted.  The Marines of 2/6 trained with only their front and rear SAPI plates as well, but knew that they would receive side SAPIs upon deployment to Iraq because many of them were “salty” Marines; they had done this before, some more than once.  Marines who are complaining of heavier weight haven’t been properly briefed or trained to expect heavier loads due to the side SAPIs whether they wear the IBA or MTV.

So the complaints flow concerning weight, as if the weight is all about the MTV versus the IBA rather than the four SAPI plates themselves.  Just to make sure about this, I recently conversed with a senior Marine in whom I place the greatest confidence.  Here is what he told me.

“Sir, you need to understand that there is a difference between a garrison Marine and a grunt, and between a veteran and a combat veteran.  The IBA is good for nothing but back problems, and the people complaining about the MTV are Marines who don’t have to wear their armor 16 hours a day.  The Marines have done a fine job of saving our backs with the MTV.  We like ours and wouldn’t give them up.  Basically, sir, this isn’t about the difference in weights because they are the same.  This is about weight – period.  Sir, this all comes down to a fight between grunts and pogues.  The grunts do what they have to do, and the pogues complain.  Simple as that.”

Yes, the battle space weight is significant, with the armor, the hydration system, ammunition, firearm, radios and other equipment.  The debate is about the use of side SAPI plates, not the MTV or the IBA.  It had been previously considered to jettison the requirement to wear side SAPIs based on conditions in theater, but this is a situation-specific decision.  Weight must be reduced in order to save the health of our warriors, and this should be a goal of future warrior systems.  The MTV is a vest, not armor, and thus has nothing whatsoever to do with the debate about weight.  The MTV was an outstanding success, my Marine contact tells me.  The USMC should be proud of the equipment they have designed for armor.  It is the best available anywhere.

Prior:

Body Armor Wars: The Way Forward

Body Armor Goes Political

The Sniper Threat and USA Today Hit Piece

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 1 month ago

IEDs have received their due attention, but with the exception of web sites like this one, sniper attacks have been somewhat overlooked in the press in terms of troop risk and force protection.  The Department of Defense knows about the risk, and has requested supplemental funding to decrease the risk for fiscal year 2008.

The dangers from enemy sniper attacks have increased steadily during the past year, with the number of attacks quadrupling. These attacks have not only caused numerous casualties, but have had an adverse psychological effect on both Coalition forces and the Iraqi civilian populace. Victims in sniper incidents have a fatality rate of over 70 percent. A shift in enemy tactics that increases the number of sniper attacks could potentially inflict even more casualties than IEDs. To guard against such a shift, the Amendment includes $1.4 billion for a full suite of counter-sniper capabilities designed to prevent, survive, and react to sniper attacks. This includes enhanced optics, soldier protection, active sniper defeat systems, sensors, concealment, and development of new tactics.

Tens of millions of people were walking to work a few days after this was released and glanced over at the newspaper stands seeing USA Today charge the Pentagon with falsification of data regarding the sniper threat in Iraq.

The Pentagon has asked Congress for $1.4 billion in emergency spending to combat a growing threat of sniper attacks in Iraq based on an overstated assessment of the extent of the attacks, its records show.

In last week’s spending request, the Pentagon said sniper attacks have quadrupled in the past year and, if unchecked, the attacks could eclipse roadside bombs as the top killer of U.S. troops. However, the rate of sniper attacks has dropped slightly in 2007 and fallen dramatically in the past four months, according to military records given to USA TODAY.

Pentagon officials acknowledged the mistake Monday after questions about the data were raised by USA TODAY.

“The term quadrupled will be removed from the justification because it is simply incorrect,” said Dave Patterson, deputy undersecretary of Defense.

In 2006, there were 386 sniper attacks on coalition forces, according to data from the Multi-National Force-Iraq headquarters in Iraq. Through Oct. 26 of this year, there were 269 sniper attacks, the figures show.

Noah Shachtman at Danger Room responded to his initial discussion of this with nevermind, and various left leaning blogs jumped on the opportunity to charge the Pentagon with dishonesty.  But should Noah have stuck to his guns, and do the left leaning blogs have something to crow about?  The answer is certainly not nevermind.

Spook at In From the Cold has an interesting analysis of the data given to USA Today.

First, let’s examine the so-called “rate of attacks” cited by the paper. In 2007, the military reported 386 sniper attacks against coalition forces in Iraq, an average of just over one per day. Through 26 October of this year, there have been 269 sniper attacks, an average of less than one a day. But the paper also acknowledges that there has been a dramatic drop over the last four months–without acknowledging the apparent reason for the decrease, i.e., the troop surge (emphasis mine). Mistake #1.

USA Today’s second error is failing to compute the surge’s impact on the decrease in sniper attacks. Without the drop that occurred between July and October, what would the numbers look like? While it’s highly unlikely that the difference would equal a four-fold increase, it is reasonable to assume that without the surge (and the recent drop in violence), the number of sniper attacks would be on pace with last year’s total–or perhaps slightly higher. That would provide additional justification for sniper mitigation programs.

This is true, and while it calls into question the USA Today model for understanding the data, and while it is tempting to go down this analysis rabbit trail, it neglects the fundamental flaws in the article.  Consider the number again: 269 sniper attacks.  So precisely what constitutes a sniper attack, according to the Multinational Force data?  Deaths of U.S. servicemen is routinely reported as something like “Multinational Force West forces attacked,” for example.  If attacks means deaths or casualties, then the data necessitates consideration of a host of things other than sniper risk, such as the success of the surge, overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom, combat operations, both planned and intelligence-driven, etc.  Any Soldier or Marine in a hot spot in Iraq knows that the value of 269 doesn’t come close to representing the number of shots taken by an individual Platoon or Company during deployment, much less the entirety of the U.S. forces in Iraq.  This number is so low that even the USA Today reporter should have questioned the use of it to prove anything, much less the extent of the sniper threat in Iraq.

Moreover, while it is easy to define an IED, we may ask the question “how do we define a sniper attack?”  Would the definition of “fire received from a position of concealment with U.S. forces lacking positive identification (PID) of the enemy” suffice?  If so, then the vast majority of small arms fire in Iraq is sniper fire, at least initially, given the military operations on urban terrain (MOUT).

Semantics cloud the issue and precise definitions elude us.  It is simple enough to parse U.S. risk into two cause categories: IEDs and small arms fire (whether they immediately redound to casualties or not).  The Department of Defense, although lethargic to respond, now has a robust program of MRAPs and other equipment to address the IED problem.  While there are various gadgets that the DoD is investigating, the solution to the sniper problem seems to have three avenues of approach: time, distance and shielding.  Distance is a difficult tactic to leverage to our advantage, since urban terrain presents the closest combat operations anywhere on earth.  The two remaining avenues are time and shielding.

Time may be dealt with at the tactical level by maneuvers such as satellite patrols, modifications and variations on satellite patrols, rapid movement, concealment, etc.  But regardless of how small a Soldier or Marine makes himself, small arms fire is a difficult problem, and as we have covered here, shooters have learned to aim for areas not covered by ceramic ballistic plates (head, neck, and armpits just above the side ESAPI plate, especially if it is sagging because of being hung with Molle straps).  Terry Nickelson, previously embedded with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, reported recently from Fallujah.

Movement – and staying behind cover — is the best defense against snipers.  They dash across intersections and run across fields and vacant lots filled with rubble all the while zigging and zagging, bobbing and weaving, and turning and pivoting to make themselves as difficult targets as possible.  With all the extra movement – and weight – crossing a 100 meter vacant lot can become a 200 meter broken field lung-burster …

It was during a similar patrol a week or so earlier that a Marine from Golf Company was on the roof of a similar house and — with a sudden,  small spark as a bullet flew through the back of his kevlar helmet —  was killed.  According to his friends, he was what he wanted to be – a Marine …

One insurgent sniper has a signature shot: the bullet piercing both the neck and the mouth of his targets.  He is credited with several kills.  Intelligence officers believe that a rogue American has trained him and other insurgents.

Body armor is heavy, and an Australian soldier was recently killed in Afghanistan because the mission stipulated quick maneuverability.  Shielding requires that the warrior wear the armor, and it requires maneuverability, something suffering under the weight of 32 pounds of armor with the current system.  Moreover, ballistic plate coverage needs to be larger, but this requires investment and research in order to keep the weight down so that the warrior can physically move in the battlespace.

And thus we are back to where we started.  In order to formulate an article on funding for countersniper measures, USA Today likely threatened to complete the paperwork for a freedom of information act request.  They summed a few numbers supplied by Multinational Force command, and proceeded to craft a hit piece to put in front of millions of people.  Yet the definitions are imprecise, the data close to meaningless, and the article is without research.  The author of the article has likely never worn body armor, or taken fire from a concealed location, or stepped into a street filled with fire to run for the next domicile, or stood on the roof of a house firing a squad automatic weapon to provide suppressing fire for his fire team or squad to escape danger.

The article’s author – Tom Vanden Brook – knows nothing of being in the line of fire.  It would be appropriate for him to grab a camera, put on some body armor, and report from the field before he implies that U.S. warriors are not suffering from a “sniper” problem or that funds are not needed.  Even if the Pentagon goofed on the data (which we have stated to be irrelevant to the case in point), fire from concealment will be a problem into the future not only in Iraq, but in the forgotten war, Afghanistan.  In the mean time, the USA Today article is worthless until Tom goes into the field to get his facts straight.

Prior:

TCJ, Snipers.

TCJ, Body Armor.

What is a Warrior’s Life Worth?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 2 months ago

The AP recently published an article on the subject of the cost of equipping U.S. soldiers and Marines (picked up later by Australia’s Herald Sun which printed a redacted version of the article).

As official Washington argues over the spiraling price of the war in Iraq, consider this: Outfitting a soldier for battle costs a hundred times more now than it did in World War II. It was $170 then, is about $17,500 now and could be an estimated $28,000 to $60,000 by the middle of the next decade.

“The ground soldier was perceived to be a relatively inexpensive instrument of war” in the past, said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, head of the Army agency for developing and fielding soldier equipment.

Now, the Pentagon spends tens of billions of dollars annually to protect troops and make them more lethal on the battlefield.

In the 1940s, a GI went to war with little more than a uniform, weapon, helmet, bedroll and canteen. He carried some 35 pounds of gear that cost $170 in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Army figures.

That rose to about $1,100 by the 1970s as the military added a flak vest, new weapons and other equipment during the Vietnam War.

Today, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are outfitted with advanced armor and other protection, including high-tech vests, anti-ballistic eyewear, earplugs and fire-retardant gloves. Night-vision eyewear, thermal weapons sights and other gear makes them more deadly to the adversary.

In all, soldiers today are packing more than 80 items — weighing about 75 pounds — from socks to disposable handcuffs to a strap cutter for slashing open a seatbelt if they have to flee a burning vehicle.

Several items were added since 2002, when troops in Afghanistan complained that their equipment was outdated and not best suited to the new campaign.

I have not been able to recover the actual cost of an M1-Gerand which was predominantly in use in World War 2, but its predecessor Springfield had a cost of $42.50 in 1932.  Conservatively assuming no change in cost for the Gerand, this means that for approximately $130 the U.S. Army outfitted its troops with a backpack, helmet, shovel, ammunition belt, canteen, boots, socks, fatigues, cold weather gear, rain gear, overcoat, bayonet, etc. (the list above is gratuitously shortened).

This is a mistake, or at least, grossly exaggerated.  We prefer simply incorrect for whatever reason.  However, let’s stipulate the premise, i.e., that the costs associated with modern warfare have increased dramatically.  The corollary to this is that the lethality of modern warfare has increased nearly in proportion to its costs, as has the human costs of conducting that warfare decreased.  Equipment innovations (e.g., ceramic SAPI plates) and medical advances (among other things) have decreased both the battlefield dead and the ratio of dead to wounded.  As for battlefield weight, I have written extensively about the difficulty in movement added by 32 lbs of body armor (Body Armor Wars: The Way Forward), and also recommended that further technological advancements reduce that battlefield weight for the warrior (Body Armor Goes Political).  Ironically, the solution to heavy battlefield weight is the very thing that the author of the article seems to be arguing against – more spending and technological developments.

No Marine or Soldier wants to deploy to the theater with inferior body armor, as evidenced by Marines being adopted by veteran’s organizations to procure Spartan 2 body armor when it became apparent that the Modular Tacitical Vest would not become available in time for recent deployments.  Also, given the success of IEDs as a tactic of the enemy in Iraq, no Marine or Soldier wants to deploy in HMWVVs, even uparmored HMWVVs, in lieu of the MRAP, mine resistant ambush protected V-shape hull transport vehicle.

The Pentagon has argued for more funds to be transferred to the MRAP program (partly at the insistence of Secretary of Defense Gates), but even as this occurs, some Pentagon leadership wonders if the future of new weapons system is not being sold for better protection now.  It is also this thinking that caused the delay in the deployment of the program when it was learned that IEDs were so effective against U.S. forces.  More money spent now, so the thinking went, means less for the future.  Thus did Pentagon thinkers play the devil’s game, with the lives of American warriors hanging in the balance with roadside bombs and IEDs.

Rather than wonder about the morality of future weapons systems and the alleged high costs of outfitting Marines and Soldiers with body armor, ballistic goggles, night vision and tie wraps for detaining individuals, the author – as well as thinkers at the Pentagon – ought better to wonder about the morality of decision-making that sacrifices warrior’s lives for money that is easily raised and spent by the Department of Defense.  Where Congress is culpable, they ought to have the same watershed moral revelation.  When considering money for lives, the decision is simple, assuming that the decision-maker has a moral constitution to begin with.

As for the Marines who are soon to deploy?  The North County Times gives us their current perspective on equipment and preparedness.

When an estimated 11,000 Camp Pendleton troops head to Iraq soon, they’ll be taking a host of new equipment with them such as lighter helmets, better flak jackets and more heavily armored vehicles.

They’ll also be taking a wealth of experience from lessons learned during the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the multiple deployments in the nearly five years since.

That’s been evident at Camp Pendleton in recent weeks, where troops from private to major attend classes and train in the field as they prepare to replace the North Carolina-based II Marine Expeditionary Force in the Anbar province west of Baghdad.

The Pentagon announced in late July that three major Camp Pendleton units would be deployed beginning late this year and continuing into early 2008.

Class themes for the troops heading to the Middle East run the gamut, from how to spot roadside bombs to how to grasp parts of Iraqi culture and language.

In Counterinsurgency: Know Thine Enemy, I argued for just such language and culture training.  Continuing with the North County Times article:

The Camp Pendleton troops will be riding in some new hardware in Iraq, including the Osprey, which takes off and lands like a helicopter, but it flies faster and like an airplane, using tilt-rotor propellers.

The first group of Ospreys, which can ferry troops to hot spots much faster than helicopters, reached Iraq last week. With a history of deadly crashes that has marred its development, the Osprey’s performance will be closely watched with keen attention paid to maintenance issues and how the lightly armed aircraft is able to respond to any ground attacks.

More important for the “ground pounders” is the latest generation of heavily armored vehicles, including the new “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected” or MRAP. The Pentagon is rushing as many of the V-shaped hulled vehicles as it can into Iraq in an attempt to reduce deaths and injuries from roadside bombs to older generation Humvees.

New flak jackets, with more protective gear around the head, neck and back, have also been issued, and the helmets are much lighter than the Marines wore in their first deployments (Editorial note: the flak that he refers to is the Modular Tactical Vest versus the Interceptor Body Armor).

“There’s no question the gear we’re going with is better,” Hughes said.

So agreed Cpl. Samuel Lott, a motor pool specialist heading to Iraq for the second time. He led an overview of the vehicles that will carry Marines around Iraq, pointing out that most have much better protection against small-arms and rocket fire as well as roadside bombs.

“I’m anxious to go back,” Lott said. “Very few of the Marines in my shop have combat experience, so I’m glad I’m going to be with them.”

Thankfully, those who would play “the devil’s game” have not successfully thwarted the expenditure of monies to outfit the Pendleton Marines soon to deploy.

There is no moral dilemma.  Here at The Captain’s Journal, we are in favor of spending now and spending later to equip the American warriors.  Those who are not are playing the devil’s game.

What is a Warrior’s Life Worth?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 2 months ago

The AP recently published an article on the subject of the cost of equipping U.S. soldiers and Marines (picked up later by Australia’s Herald Sun which printed a redacted version of the article).

As official Washington argues over the spiraling price of the war in Iraq, consider this: Outfitting a soldier for battle costs a hundred times more now than it did in World War II. It was $170 then, is about $17,500 now and could be an estimated $28,000 to $60,000 by the middle of the next decade.

“The ground soldier was perceived to be a relatively inexpensive instrument of war” in the past, said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, head of the Army agency for developing and fielding soldier equipment.

Now, the Pentagon spends tens of billions of dollars annually to protect troops and make them more lethal on the battlefield.

In the 1940s, a GI went to war with little more than a uniform, weapon, helmet, bedroll and canteen. He carried some 35 pounds of gear that cost $170 in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Army figures.

That rose to about $1,100 by the 1970s as the military added a flak vest, new weapons and other equipment during the Vietnam War.

Today, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are outfitted with advanced armor and other protection, including high-tech vests, anti-ballistic eyewear, earplugs and fire-retardant gloves. Night-vision eyewear, thermal weapons sights and other gear makes them more deadly to the adversary.

In all, soldiers today are packing more than 80 items — weighing about 75 pounds — from socks to disposable handcuffs to a strap cutter for slashing open a seatbelt if they have to flee a burning vehicle.

Several items were added since 2002, when troops in Afghanistan complained that their equipment was outdated and not best suited to the new campaign.

I have not been able to recover the actual cost of an M1-Gerand which was predominantly in use in World War 2, but its predecessor Springfield had a cost of $42.50 in 1932.  Conservatively assuming no change in cost for the Gerand, this means that for approximately $130 the U.S. Army outfitted its troops with a backpack, helmet, shovel, ammunition belt, canteen, boots, socks, fatigues, cold weather gear, rain gear, overcoat, bayonet, etc. (the list above is gratuitously shortened).

This is a mistake, or at least, grossly exaggerated.  We prefer simply incorrect for whatever reason.  However, let’s stipulate the premise, i.e., that the costs associated with modern warfare have increased dramatically.  The corollary to this is that the lethality of modern warfare has increased nearly in proportion to its costs, as has the human costs of conducting that warfare decreased.  Equipment innovations (e.g., ceramic SAPI plates) and medical advances (among other things) have decreased both the battlefield dead and the ratio of dead to wounded.  As for battlefield weight, I have written extensively about the difficulty in movement added by 32 lbs of body armor (Body Armor Wars: The Way Forward), and also recommended that further technological advancements reduce that battlefield weight for the warrior (Body Armor Goes Political).  Ironically, the solution to heavy battlefield weight is the very thing that the author of the article seems to be arguing against – more spending and technological developments.

No Marine or Soldier wants to deploy to the theater with inferior body armor, as evidenced by Marines being adopted by veteran’s organizations to procure Spartan 2 body armor when it became apparent that the Modular Tacitical Vest would not become available in time for recent deployments.  Also, given the success of IEDs as a tactic of the enemy in Iraq, no Marine or Soldier wants to deploy in HMWVVs, even uparmored HMWVVs, in lieu of the MRAP, mine resistant ambush protected V-shape hull transport vehicle.

The Pentagon has argued for more funds to be transferred to the MRAP program (partly at the insistence of Secretary of Defense Gates), but even as this occurs, some Pentagon leadership wonders if the future of new weapons system is not being sold for better protection now.  It is also this thinking that caused the delay in the deployment of the program when it was learned that IEDs were so effective against U.S. forces.  More money spent now, so the thinking went, means less for the future.  Thus did Pentagon thinkers play the devil’s game, with the lives of American warriors hanging in the balance with roadside bombs and IEDs.

Rather than wonder about the morality of future weapons systems and the alleged high costs of outfitting Marines and Soldiers with body armor, ballistic goggles, night vision and tie wraps for detaining individuals, the author – as well as thinkers at the Pentagon – ought better to wonder about the morality of decision-making that sacrifices warrior’s lives for money that is easily raised and spent by the Department of Defense.  Where Congress is culpable, they ought to have the same watershed moral revelation.  When considering money for lives, the decision is simple, assuming that the decision-maker has a moral constitution to begin with.

As for the Marines who are soon to deploy?  The North County Times gives us their current perspective on equipment and preparedness.

When an estimated 11,000 Camp Pendleton troops head to Iraq soon, they’ll be taking a host of new equipment with them such as lighter helmets, better flak jackets and more heavily armored vehicles.

They’ll also be taking a wealth of experience from lessons learned during the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the multiple deployments in the nearly five years since.

That’s been evident at Camp Pendleton in recent weeks, where troops from private to major attend classes and train in the field as they prepare to replace the North Carolina-based II Marine Expeditionary Force in the Anbar province west of Baghdad.

The Pentagon announced in late July that three major Camp Pendleton units would be deployed beginning late this year and continuing into early 2008.

Class themes for the troops heading to the Middle East run the gamut, from how to spot roadside bombs to how to grasp parts of Iraqi culture and language.

In Counterinsurgency: Know Thine Enemy, I argued for just such language and culture training.  Continuing with the North County Times article:

The Camp Pendleton troops will be riding in some new hardware in Iraq, including the Osprey, which takes off and lands like a helicopter, but it flies faster and like an airplane, using tilt-rotor propellers.

The first group of Ospreys, which can ferry troops to hot spots much faster than helicopters, reached Iraq last week. With a history of deadly crashes that has marred its development, the Osprey’s performance will be closely watched with keen attention paid to maintenance issues and how the lightly armed aircraft is able to respond to any ground attacks.

More important for the “ground pounders” is the latest generation of heavily armored vehicles, including the new “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected” or MRAP. The Pentagon is rushing as many of the V-shaped hulled vehicles as it can into Iraq in an attempt to reduce deaths and injuries from roadside bombs to older generation Humvees.

New flak jackets, with more protective gear around the head, neck and back, have also been issued, and the helmets are much lighter than the Marines wore in their first deployments (Editorial note: the flak that he refers to is the Modular Tactical Vest versus the Interceptor Body Armor).

“There’s no question the gear we’re going with is better,” Hughes said.

So agreed Cpl. Samuel Lott, a motor pool specialist heading to Iraq for the second time. He led an overview of the vehicles that will carry Marines around Iraq, pointing out that most have much better protection against small-arms and rocket fire as well as roadside bombs.

“I’m anxious to go back,” Lott said. “Very few of the Marines in my shop have combat experience, so I’m glad I’m going to be with them.”

Thankfully, those who would play “the devil’s game” have not successfully thwarted the expenditure of monies to outfit the Pendleton Marines soon to deploy.

There is no moral dilemma.  Here at The Captain’s Journal, we are in favor of spending now and spending later to equip the American warriors.  Those who are not are playing the devil’s game.

Safe Enough to Shed Body Armor?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 4 months ago

Courtesy of Forward Deployed, we learn that some of the Marines in Anbar might be shedding body armor soon.

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq — The commander of a U.S. Marine Corps unit in Iraq wants to have his Marines begin patrolling without helmets and with less body armor.But the Marines would have the gear at their local patrol bases and could resume wearing it whenever needed, said Lt. Col. Kelly Alexander, commanding officer of Task Force Highlander, part of Regimental Combat Team-2, which operates in western Anbar province.The proposed changes apply to what is called PPE, or personal protective equipment.Alexander said a change to a “soft posture


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