Body armor

Body armor, and the shortage of it, has been in the news off and on lately. The most apalling story has been the lack of enough Interceptor body armor vests for all the troops deployed in Iraq. The Interceptor is one of the most successful pieces of military equipment used in the Iraq campaign, but if there aren’t enough to go around, somone must have dropped the ball. Factories are ramping up production, and many units, including Reserves and National Guards, are getting their vests before bad guys start shooting at them. Here’s a story about Fort Lewis, WA, troops getting their gear through a new Army program:

The Rapid Fielding Initiative began in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. On the battlefield, soldiers from the newly formed Program Executive Office met with combat soldiers to gather feedback and assess their needs.

Army leaders also studied what the soldiers were buying out of their pockets to be ready for battlefields. That led to sports bras and black fleece bibs being included as essential items for soldiers, said Todd Wendt, a PEO soldier.

Maj. William Palmer of the 81st brigade showed off the Interceptor Body Armor, a two-layered vest that protects soldiers from high-velocity bullets.

Another story notes that the body armor hasn’t actually arrived yet as all available vests are going first to troops already in Iraq, but that the troops will get it before they ship out in a few months. These are the same troops that were the recipients of the pro-US demonstrations in mid-November as mentioned here.

The supplier of the vest, DHB Industries Inc., recently announced plans to lease another manufacturing facility to expand production and meet demand. Three other suppliers produce the armor plates which are inserted into the vests.

The military has gotten a lot of bad press for the shortage of armor, and rightfully so. A letter in today’s Washington Post sums it up:

Our reservist son was called to active duty in Bosnia 18 months ago. His unit was issued Class C body protection. Class A was on the market, and our son bought Class A armor with his own money. Last March, he was called back for Iraq. Again the Class A body protection was available, but either the Army did not have the money for the equipment or it is so inefficient it can’t overcome the bureaucracy to obtain it for the troops — or both.

These reservists take a salary cut when being called up. In the case of my son (a government employee) it was a 60 percent cut — and then reservists have to buy their own upgraded equipment? What’s next, buying their own ammo?

The government is going to have to do an awful lot to make up for this negligence.