This headline in the NYTimes caught my eye : U.S. Struggling to Get Soldiers Updated Armor. This is the opening sentence:
For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks by insurgents.
Now I would hate to accuse the “newspaper of record” of displaying bias in it’s reporting, but it would have been equally as accurate to say this: U.S. upgrading Body Armor to protect servicemembers.
For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is upgrading what is already the best body armor in the world to further protect American troops. The current armor, which has saved countless soldiers lives, is being upgraded with better protective inserts, in response to the increased lethality of insurgent attacks, primarily from weapons being provided to the insurgents by Iran.
Both stories would have been equally accurate. Both are biased in a particular direction. At least I admit it.
I have worn a lot of body armor over the years, and I can state as an expert that the Interceptor body armor (IBA) I wear for 10 hours a day, every day, is the best I have ever used. In the Marine Corps, and in Bosnia, I wore the standard PASGT “flak vest” which provided good protection from fragmentation and shrapnel but was worthless against rifle fire. In Kosovo, I wore “ranger body armor” (RBA), which was considerably heavier and more difficult to move in, but provided protection from rifle fire, through HEAVY front and back plates inserted into the vest. Unfortunately, this armor was not effective against shrapnel, as it lacked adequate side and neck protection.
Now I wear IBA, and it provides better protection from both rifles and shrapnel than either of the types of armor I have worn before, and it weighs less than RBA. It is modular, meaning that I can add or subtract the components I need for a particular mission. It includes a modular neck collar, pelvic protector, shoulder armor, and side armor. It also integrates my rifle and pistol ammunition load, first aid equipment (I carry 4 field dressings, a tourniquet, a chest seal, and a chest tube), 1.5 liter Camelback, and any other equipment I need to carry without having to strap on any more harnesses or suspenders. When I walk out the door in the morning, I am carrying close to 50 pounds of armor and gear. I for one appreciate the Pentagon taking its time analyzing the payoff of adding any more weight to my load! I’d hate to end up like the knights of old, having to be hoisted into my Humvee because my armor weighs so much I can’t walk.
So, I will say it again. We have the best body armor on the face of the earth. I am grateful for whatever improvements we can get, but I don’t feel woefully underprotected if it takes until December.