TCS Daily


Armor All?

By Ralph Kinney Bennett - January 17, 2006 12:00 AM

He fell thunderously, and his armor clattered upon him.
-- The Iliad, Lattimore translation.

Pfc. Steven Tschiderer fell thunderously when a high power round from a Dragonoff sniper rifle hit him in the chest.

But he got right back up (see video) thanks to his body armor.

He immediately took cover on the other side of a Humvee, spotted the silver van from which the sniper was firing about 230 feet away, and directed the other soldiers in his patrol to engage it.

A few minutes later, after a pursuit through the streets of western Baghdad, Pfc. Tschiderer, followed a blood trail to the man who had tried to kill him, lying wounded in a yard. Tschiderer, a medic with Troop E, 101st Cavalry Division, handcuffed the sniper and gave him preliminary treatment for his wounds.

This incident last June, recorded on tape by the terrorists who were trying to kill Tschiderer, has been played again and again on the Internet as a vivid example of how well U.S. troops' body armor works. Indeed, body armor works so well that it may be one of the reasons for the extraordinarily low casualty rates in the Iraq War.

But the grim fact is, if that sniper had squeezed off his round at a moment when Pfc. Tschiderer was standing sideways to him, or had raised his barrel slightly and scored a head shot, the outcome of this incident would have been very different.

The fact that U.S. body armor is not fully protective from every conceivable angle -- like some force field around a soldier -- is not news to anyone who has served in combat. And snide, sinister-sounding articles about "secret studies" seem almost willfully ignorant of the fact that the U.S. military has long agonized over what additional improvements to the body armor could be made without compromising the mobility and fighting ability of the troops.

"Our body armor is not perfect," notes Baghdad Guy, the blog name of an infantryman currently serving in Iraq. "But overall it does a remarkable job of protecting soldiers, marines and airmen and everyone else who wears it."

The real armor problem, as this soldier and many others have been pointing out, is weight and restriction of movement. The fast-moving firefights and ambushes in Iraq, the building-to-building combat, puts a premium on rapid movement and a soldier's ability to employ his weapons at every possible angle. Long patrols in intense heat when in "happy gear" exacts huge physical penalties.

"When I step out the gate," says Baghdad Guy, "I am wearing on my person body armor, a Kevlar helmet, my M4 rifle with a few hundred rounds of ammunition, my M9 sidearm with another hundred rounds of ammunition, 2-3 quarts of water, a portable radio, night vision equipment, and numerous other odds and ends."

He figures that "full combat load" adds more than 40 pounds to his weight "give or take a grenade." But he's probably on the low side. Estimates at James Dunnigan's excellent Strategypage.com show that troops, operating in temperatures that frequently reach over 100 degrees, carry as much as 100 pounds of extra weight while engaging in the rigors of combat in Iraq.

After about 10 pounds of clothing (goggles, kneepads etc.) and 24 pounds of armor (current vest with ceramic plates and Kevlar helmet) other items add up fast -- at least 20 pounds of ammo, 12 to 15 pounds for grenades, rifle, bayonet, flashlight.

But this may all be just starters. If the soldier is part of a fire team, he and three others will be carrying 10 to 20 pounds of machine gun ammunition. Just standing around with all this weight is tiring, "but running around under fire, carrying 50-60 pounds is pretty common, and exhausting."

As Baghdad Guy points out, "too much weight means a soldier moves slower, tires more easily, maneuvers less stealthily and spends more time feeling sorry for himself instead of focusing on the mission."

Make no mistake, he's all for optimum protection. "When someone designs an affordable lightweight polymer that allows for freedom of movement but can stop a 7.62mm round (kind of like the batsuit in Batman Begins), sign me up."

But, as Capt. Jamey Turner, of Baton Route, La., currently with the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, in Iraq, told an Associated Press reporter "you've got to sacrifice some protection for mobility. If you cover your whole body with ceramic plates, you're just not going to be able to move."

From all my research in military history and from the hundreds of interviews I have done over the years with soldiers and Marines from World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, there is a picture that has frequently passed through my mind -- roads and battlefields littered with discarded equipment. Soldiers quickly -- and sometimes unwisely -- divest themselves of gear when they are in a fight. Combat is exhausting. Weight matters. And the fight usually goes to the more nimble. U.S. Special Forces units frequently fight with little or no body armor.

Another infantryman in Iraq, a certain Pfc. Keith Hayes, chimed in recently on the armor issue at the superb Blackfive.net, one of the best military blogs on the web. "Don't try to weight me down with so much "protective" gear you get me killed because I can't raise my weapon from the bulk, or die of heat stroke."

Every soldier wants to be protected, but in the end they are paid to fight. As Baghdad Guy puts it, "At the end of the day, body armor protects the force, but capturing or killing insurgents before they attack us is what really saves lives. The best defense is a good offense."

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8 Comments

Why not reduce mobility for some.
Wouldn't there be a place for SOME people to have a higher rate of armor and then could be placed in more harms why, but still supported by lighter armed people?

Kind of like Roman army folks. Some where covered head to toe in steal, and reducing mobility and dexterity. These folks where usually in the center and batter thier way threw lines.

Dragon Skin -- cheaper than lost limbs
Pentagon bungles body armor purchases
North County Times, January 15, 2006

...Second Chance Body Armor, the military's biggest supplier of Interceptor Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) between 2001 and 2004, KNEW THE ZYLON FABRIC DETORIATED OVER TIME BUT KEPT SILENT for three years -- according to the government lawsuit. Armor Holdings, which acquired the bankrupt Second Chance last August, will warranty the 156,000 defective vests for a price.

Last year the Marine Corps recalled over 23,000 Interceptor vests made by Point Blank Body Armor of Florida because they FAILED BALLISTIC QUALITY ASSURANCE TESTS, among other things. David H. Brooks, the chief executive of Point Blank's parent company, SOLD HIS STOCK FOR $186 MILLION BEFORE RECALLS LEAKED leaked and is now under investigation by the SEC.

But for 8 years, Pinnacle Armor of Fresno has bid their patented, multi-hit, flexible body armor to the Pentagon to no avail. Traditional SAPI plates can easily crack or chip if dropped, but Pinnacle's Dragon skin is DURABLE ENOUGH TO BE RUN OVER BY A HUMVEE according to DefenseReview.com. The U.S. Army Soldiers Systems Center-Natick also tested it but told Pinnacle that it failed.

That is difficult to believe, since Dragon Skin is WORN BY THE CIA, NSA, DOE, AIR FORCE, SPECIAL-OPS, SEVERAL GENERALS (in the field) & THE SECRET SERVICE PRESIDENTIAL DETAIL -- as well as journalists and contractors in Iraq. So why aren't our troops wearing it? Perhaps it is because of its $2,100 to $4,800 price tag...

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2006/01/16/opinion/chatfield/11506191333.txt

And yet, you learned nothing.
That was an opinion piece in my local newspaper, and ut is riddled with inaccuracies.

Can't you for once post your own thoughts and opinions? And stop randomly CAPITALIZING words. It cheapens your already ignorant message.

Please elaborate
What are the innacuracies that you speak of?

Tungsten rounds obliterated
BODY ARMOR TIMES 10: Pinnacle's Innovative, Flexible Body Armor
By David Crane
Editor, DefenseReview.com

...I also had the opportunity to view and handle the remains of military rounds (including AP rounds) that had been fired into Pinnacle Armor's SOV-1000 and SOV-2000 Level III and Level IV "Dragon Skin" vests, and was just blown away. The Pinnacle Armor vests reduced these rounds to shrapnel. I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT. When you see tungsten and tungsten carbide-core rounds obliterated like these rounds were, you just have to shake your head and laugh.

Only it's not funny. It's actually incredibly important, because these Pinnacle Armor Inc. vests can really save lives. Unfortunately, the reality is that most of our troops most likely won't receive personal ballistic protection of this caliber, anytime soon. Pinnacle Armor Inc. body armor COSTS MORE MONEY THAN THE OLD TECH, and when it comes to equipping our infantry soldiers and Marines, money is always an issue...

http://www.military.com/soldiertech/0,14632,Soldiertech_PArmor,00.html

Our Allies Armories
Fourteen months and a thousand casualties ago, I noted in my TCS article,'Armor and the man' that our erstwhile allies in NATO and elsewhere, could supply most or all of the personell and vehicle armor shortfall in Iraq from supplies on hand - including a lot of boron carbide plates and plaques of the sort whose shortage is getting people killed on the firing line.

There is no shortage of such bullet proof engineering ceramics globally- there are literally dozens of factories that make them out of starting materials no more exotic than borax and carbon black .

Yet just as an $150 increment of cost and an aversion to competition on the part of the DOD's labs seems to paralyze the system when it comes to Dragon Skin procurement , the iron law of bureaucracy has demonstrated that it is better for troops to die than for innovation to be inflicted on procurement.

The mind is repelled that a year and $ 100,000,000,000 later, the DOD has failed tao find , get, and field less than 1000 tons of materiel costing less than $1000 per soldier.

What is our objective in Iraq?
The comments offered by Mr. Rhampton and Mr. Russell indicate that our government is not interested in winning the "War on Terrorism" soon.

Are our leaders planning for a drawn out war on purpose? Is it possible that the insurgency is allowed to operate at a low level so that our troops could stay there for long?

Can the superior protection be purchased by the families and sent to their sons and daughters? A parent would not hesitate to spend a few thousand dollars to save a child.

Family investments
Soldiers may be reimbursed for protective gear
By Maj. Paul Cucuzzella
Army News Service, January 13, 2006

Soldiers may now file claims and receive reimbursement for protective equipment privately purchased between Sept. 11, 2001, and July 31, 2004...

...Current active-duty or reserve-component Soldiers who seek reimbursement should complete and file a DD FORM 2902 with the first field grade commander in their current chain of command.

Soldiers must provide proof of deployment (such as deployment orders or a DD FORM 214 noting deployment) and copies of all receipts or other proof of purchase for the items claimed, and turn in all reimbursable items to their unit at the time the claim is filed...

Claimants can download a printable DD Form 2902 at http://www.jagcnet.army.mil under "Client Services and Links," or call (301) 677-7009 ext. 431 for additional information. All claims must be filed by Oct 3...

http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/read.php?story_id_key=8457

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