Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stupid Shit of The Week™

Dear readers, it has been far too long since my last entry. It's the same old same old, rushing around at the last minute to squeeze two months worth of work into a few weeks. I would have liked another entry before another edition of SSOTW, but this simply cannot wait. The winner of the award this week is the undisputed champion and there is no need for nominees. Loading connexes with thousands of pounds of worthless equipment pales in comparison to what was handed down to us early last week. The bar has been sunk readers, sunk to an unrecoverable level and I want the world to hear about this before any of you consider a career in the military or know someone who is thinking about it. The only candidate and winner of SSOTW:

Personal Armor Restriction

I touched on this subject on my first post, how the Army has restricted soldiers from wearing armor superior to the ceramic weights we currently haul around.

"We're very concerned that people are spending their hard-earned money on something that doesn't provide the level of protection that the Army requires people to wear. So they're, frankly, wasting their money on substandard stuff," said Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army.

This is exactly what happens when you let an ultra bureaucratic committee of blowhards decide the fate of soldiers who actually do, gasp!, dangerous things with the terrible equipment they've been given. I am willing to bet anything that this colonel doesn't leave his air conditioned office at the Pentagon, where his most intense moments are posing for photo ops and keeping his uniform neat. I can say with all confidence, Colonel Spoehr, that I could look online for five minutes and find plates that will better protect me from rifle rounds and shrapnel than the Army issue plates. I'd even say that they'd be lighter than the roughly 15 pound ceramics we lug around. Embarassment of the Army's shortcomings in the armor sector apparently is worth more than blood and lives.

Our issue vests come in three pieces, thin kevlar inserts that protect from nothing more than a 9mm round, the ceramic plates and the outer shell that holds them together. The outcome is as follows:

These vests will stop anything!

These vests are put on like any other. You slip them on like a jacket, and the vest closes with two velcro flaps on the front. In many cases the flap's velcro will be worn and come undone from the added density of the plates. You can buy clips that hold it shut, but why should you?
There is a place near Ft. Lewis where you can buy an alternative vest, and my team leader was kind enough to have his dad's company sponsor a purchase of nine vests for my squad, at $400 each. This vest doesn't fold in front but rather fits over your head like you've seen in countless cop shows. The sides are held together with velcro and are buckled for a more secure fit.


In simulated and real combat, the vest needs to be taken off to assess and treat a casualty. With the first vest, it's extremely difficult and dangerous to remove the vest given the nature of wear. If the casualty has a neck or spinal injury, movement of the casualty could further harm him. With the new vests, it's a matter of unclipping and ripping off one of the two panels, gaining instant access to the injury with minimal movement and maximum efficiency. So when you get shot in the chest because your inadequate armor failed to stop a rifle round, the amount of time it takes a medic to treat your wound means life or death. Thus, the vest you wear means life or death. I've worn the old vest for a year and a half and the new one for a month, and without reserve I can tell you the new one is better in every way. If you're a dedicated reader of this fine blog, you know it can only get better from this point.
Under the new banned armor directive, we cannot wear the vests I have praised because it qualifies as third party armor, though it is merely a shell and still holds the actual armor we'd be wearing anyway. We were told if we were killed wearing the new vests, our families wouldn't get the $400,000 life insurance policy because we weren't wearing Army issue equipment. A most subtle blackmail I'd say. And people like Colonel Spoehr sit back in comfort, far removed from the patrols in the streets of Ramadi, Mosul and Baghdad, and decide I am too irresponsible to choose how to protect my own life, that it's out of my hands. This is where the bar has been set, to a new level of shame and reckless abandon.
549 days.



Anonymous said...

When I think it can't get more bizarre, it does.

Anonymous said...

Gee, do you suppose the powers that be see the original vests as a more attractive fashion statement? That, stupidity or "contractor issues," is all I can think of. 60 Minutes had a good program about the alternative armor several months ago. The ban on it truly qualifies for SSOTW if not the Year (so many to choose from)!

Where is the outrage from others like me who "support the troops?" Guess they think putting a yellow ribbon on their car is enough.

Dan said...

It's a sad state of affairs when a soldier can't equip himself (or herself) with equipment which could make the difference between life and death as long as it conforms with the uniform policy and meet or exceed the military guidelines put in place.

We feel your frustration and wish you a safe tour and a speedy stateside.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if that's still the policy. I sure hope not because its flat out criminal.

Why would anyone in his or her right mind re-enlist!?? Ok, yeah, I know. The dollar always wins doesn't it.