June 20, 2007:
While politicians and pundits make a
lot of noise about getting the troops better body armor, the troops are asking
for less, or at least lighter and less bulky, armor. Anyone who has been in
combat will tell you that survival depends, first of all, on speed and mobility. Body armor helps when
you do get hit, but the latest body armor often slows troops down and makes
them vulnerable to hits in unarmored areas (the face, and limbs). Troops
traveling in vehicles find the body armor a major obstacle to getting out
quickly. This can be a matter of life and death. Another problem is fatigue and
heat. The heavy armor is cumbersome, and wearing it in action wears you out
SOCOM troops have a lot of discretion, and
sometimes prefer to go into action without their body armor. But regular
soldiers and marines must wear the body armor at all times, and they are not
happy with the no-win situation they are often put in because of this
requirement. The politicians are really paying attention, and the troops are
not happy with the results. No one, except the troops who wear the stuff,
appear to realize how critical weight and bulk is.
One (sort of) bright spot is that the enemy often
obtains body armor, either Russian stuff, or police grade protective vests.
This does give them some protection, but it also slows them down and wears them
down more quickly. In some situations, when Taliban gunmen are being pursued,
they have been seen abandoning their body armor, in order to increase their
chances of getting away.