Infantry: Marines Confront the Weight Problem


January 28, 2008: There's an ongoing debate in the infantry community over the need for so much body armor. There are times when the troops have to move fast (as when chasing down a sniper). But the senior commanders are under a lot of pressure to keep friendly casualties down, so they tend to insist that the troops wear all their armor all the time. Despite this, some subordinate commanders look the other way when troops shed their armor temporarily to get some needed speed. The new protective vests have a quick release feature, that makes it easier to get the vest off, and back on again.

Many soldiers and marines point out that the SOCOM operators (Special Forces and SEALs) will sometimes go into action without their protective vests. Again, that is done because completion of the mission is more important than covering your ass when a reporter goes after you for "unnecessary casualties."

Many of the troops are willing to take the risk, because they believe, for example, that taking down a sniper when you have the chance, is worth it. If you don't catch the guy, he will be back in action the next day, kill American troops. All this is another example of the fact that "victory" is defined differently, depending on what your rank is.

The marines are considering allowing commanders to decide if troops can go into action without some, or all, of the protective equipment. The marines tend to be more innovative, and use more initiative, in matters like this. Even so, senior marine officers have been putting off making the decision. That is a form of good news to the junior officers, who actually get shot at, because it means the brass are just waiting for one of their number to put it all on the line (careerwise) and give the combat commanders the authority to have troops shed armor when the situation calls for it.




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