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.