Friday, September 30, 2005

Truth About Body Armor !

There’s more controversy brewing over the body armor issue. Stirring the pot as usual is Operation Truth’s Paul Reikhoff. Paul has some great qualities and no one can mistake his sincerity on this issue. He deeply cares about soldiers lives. He sure served his time in Iraq, I’ll give him that. And we all want to see our troops equipped with the best possible body armor and other protective equipment available. I know if I ever return to Iraq, I want the best possible equipment, again. Including the latest body armor. I wore an issued Interceptor with SAPI plate throughout my 2004 tour. Today the DOD is rapidly replacing the plates with a thinner lighter version, they too want to save as many soldiers as possible.

To listen to Reikhoff, you would think that somewhere deep in the Pentagon’s bowels, Rumsfeld’s gnome-accountants have factored everything and decided that a few more funerals are cheaper than some new body armor. But Paul’s still angry that he and his men rode to Baghdad with older generation flak jackets. And yeah, that has probably cost somebody their life. And yeah that plain sucks! No way around that. But it’s not like the DOD is trying to screw soldiers out of gear. Overall we field the best trained and best equipped force on the planet. American technology is a force multiplier. There is no dark conspiracy to keep gear away from soldiers.

Sometimes bureaucracy and accounting do get in the way. Maybe I’m used to it because of where I’ve done my time. I spent four years of active duty in the Marines. The Shoestring Service. Back in the 90s we lived on Army and Navy hand me downs. We got issued new technologies only after the Army was fully upgraded not before. Lately it seems things have gotten better for the Corps. But my time in the National Guard seemed much the same, always last to get the gear. It’s a fact of life. Someone has to get gear last. As an enhanced brigade we did better than other Guard units, but not as good as the active Army. Right up until we were going to Iraq anyway.

The four plus months of pre-deployment were like Army Christmas. We upgraded from M16 rifles to M4 carbines. We got the new Interceptor vests. We went through a rapid fielding iniative RFI issue, where we got off the shelf technologies, including a new helmet and microfiber underwear. The bonanaza continued in Iraq where we upgrade our paq-4 laser sights to paq-2s, and where we constantly received armor improvements for our vehicles. We went from about 40 percent up-armored humvees, to about 90 percent.

Sure there are problems, but from what I could see the system was working hard to upgrade our equipment. Should we have waited until every soldier had an Interceptor with SAPI plates before invading? Should we have waited until every vehicle in the Army is up-Armored. According to Paul Reikhoff we should have. I really would have like to have gone to combat with a hand held death ray. Should we hold off on the next war until we have phasers? Rumsfeld received scorn for his statement: “You go to war with Army you have, not the Army you want.” But the scorn was undeserved. That’s how it works. And credit where credit is due, it’s Don Rumsfeld who has pursued the transformation of the military to maintain technological superiority, to include personal defense. Just remember Paul, those Vietnam era vests, were all they had in Vietnam. And that enemy was far tougher.

What brings this all up is the debate between congress and the DOD over implementing a plan to reimburse soldiers and Marines who bought there own armor “and equipment.” On September 29, The AP ran a story. It seems that a year after Reikhoff talked Senator Dodd of Connecticut into sponsoring a bill ordering reimbursement, the Pentagon has failed to go forward, Dodd and Reikhoffare furious.
Is DOD shirking the law? Maybe but I doubt it. The bill noble sounding as it may be in the ideal, was a bad idea. And implementing it has been tough. Rumsfeld and Defense, are trying to find a way for unit commanders to decide who gets reimbursed and who doesn’t. That’s a sound idea, making the best out of a bad situation. The idea that I can just order protective gear and send it a bill to the Pentagon is truly problematic. Sure some soldiers or their families ordered Interceptors with plates. But one Marine’s father, quoted in the article, wants $1000 for body armor he bought for his son’s legs. Now as an Infantryman I moved around a lot, mounted and dismounted. The gear we had was pretty cumbersome, I’m not sure Kevlar coated legs would have been anything but burdensome.

Thus the congress has dropped a hot ball of crap in Rumsfeld’s lap. And he has to find a way to deal with it. Who should be allowed to buy gear? For how much money. What’s reasonable? And for whom? A Turret gunner may need more or different armor then a dismount, but gunners can become dismounts if their vehicle goes down. War is fluid, What if I want a riot face shield? What if the cook who never leaves his safe comfy base decides he needs a bomb suit to get by? And what if I fake the receipt, send it back, or sell it to the new guy replacing me at a 50% discount but get a 100% reimbursement. These are the reasons that Defense fought the bill. And they are the reasons that unit commanders must be the ones to decide what’s reimbursed. Only they are in a position to know what is reasonable for a soldier to consider a deficiency worth paying out of pocket for. If we’re going to do this it’s worth doing right. And if they’re getting reimbursed a little more time won’t hurt. Hooah!!!

Side Note: If you read yesterday's post and are intersted in fighting the ACLU, click here!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, the DOD doesn't want to screw the soldiers...just your President.

Sun Oct 02, 12:59:00 AM 2005  
Blogger John Byrnes said...

Actually I think he's our president. And I don't think he wants out to hurt soldiers at all. He, and the DOD have consistently worked to BETTER our military's equipment. You may not agree with his policies but to say he's going out of his way to hurt soldiers is palably rediculous.

Sun Oct 02, 01:17:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right - I stand corrected....he doesn't want to hurt you. He just doesn't really give a damn about you. Its much more "apathy" than actually motivation. Here's another piece of reading for you....

Tue Oct 04, 12:50:00 AM 2005  
Blogger John Byrnes said...

I don't need help to find Paul's writing. I completely disagree with him. And Of course you're wrong about the President as well. Of course he cares about soldiers. But it's his job to see and act on the big picture. That means he makes decisions that WILL cost some soldier's lives. He certainly seems to care more about me than you do.

Tue Oct 04, 12:53:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa...Don't take things so personally. I have family members and friends who serve in the Army right now, so please don't question my concern for the troops. Part of that concern doesn't like the idea of a President and his cronies sending YOU and your fellow Guardsmen, and my family members to a country to fight a useless war. All we've done is create a breeding ground for terrorists. Efforts SHOULD have been focused on Afghanistan...never Iraq.

And doesn't it bother you in the LEAST that YOUR President still sleeps soundly every night? I'm sorry, but if I was responsible for the death of nearly 2000 soldiers (whether the war was right or wrong) I wouldn't sleep so easily.

Also, I do believe I am ALLOWED to disagree with the foreign policy of this country...that is a very different thing than "not caring about the troops."

Tue Oct 04, 07:26:00 PM 2005  
Blogger John Byrnes said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tue Oct 04, 07:35:00 PM 2005  
Blogger John Byrnes said...

I sleep soundly at night too. It's interesting that after several mildly personal attacks on the President, you counsel me not to take things personally. Becoming president means knowing that Soldiers will die because of your decisions. And yes, though it may seem counterintuitive to a liberal, as a soldier I feel safer with a decisive leader who will risk my life, and order soldiers into deadly combat than one who is indecisive. You are of course allowed to disagree with any policy you like, and I have made it a point to debate your stance rather than 86 your comments. But I have found that the president has ACTED, in what he sees as my interest as a citizen and a soldier. I did not mean that you were necessarily unconcerend for soldiers, merely that I had no evidence of it. Snarky snipes posted anonymously, towards the Executive office are no signs of any real concern.

Tue Oct 04, 07:40:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a concern for the country, and the damage being done to it by this Administration.

I can't log in because of a firewall at work, but it allows my anonymous posts...sorry for anonymity. my name is Kim, and i like to think of myself as a "progressive" rather than a liberal, actually.

Its nice writing though - even though I disagree wholeheartedly.

Tue Oct 04, 08:34:00 PM 2005  
Blogger John Byrnes said...

Well Kim, that sounds more reasonable than your initial stance. And thanks for the kind words re: my style This discussion is a bit one tracked for this space, but you can always email me, listed above, at

Tue Oct 04, 09:12:00 PM 2005  

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