Monday, January 23, 2006

On protecting our troops

Okay, so it looks like when Dick Cheney said that you go into war with the Army you have, not the Army you want, he forgot to mention that you're not going to get the Army you want, either. Soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle Dragon Skin armor to supplement the armor supplied to them by the Army (or in place of armor not supplied at all) have been told not only that they have to leave it at home, but that "any soldier who refused to comply with the order and was subsequently killed in action 'could' be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action."

The Dragon Skin armor, which, per the linked article, runs $6,000 a set, has shown in tests to be superior to the Interceptor OTV provided (or sometimes not provided) by the government. One complaint about the performance of the Interceptor armor is that
The so-called SAPI (Small Arms Protective Inserts) used in the Interceptor system are too fragile and incur about a 60% loss/replacement rate in the field because the design is inherently brittle and fractures when dropped or slammed into solid objects such as the ground. [emphasis mine]

Whew, it's a good thing there isn't any ground where these guys are going.

Performance of the Interceptor OTV armor has been so sub-par, in fact, that "the Department of Defense will cease buying its home-grown body armor at the end of its current production run." Yet when soldiers and their families spend $5,000 to $6,000 to outfit themselves with superior, commercially available armor (getting reimbursed only $1,000 by the DoD), they're told they can't wear it, and even threatened with the loss of their death benefits if they do.

I honestly can't figure out the reasoning behind this. As a longtime and unashamed Dr. Phil fan, I know that people usually don't act without some kind of self-serving motivation, but I just can't figure out what the Army would gain by forbidding its troops to go into combat with superior armor purchased at their own expense. Some have pointed out a connection with a major Republican campaign donor who is also a significant stockholder in Armor Holdings, Inc., which has the exclusive contract to supply armor to the American military. But I just can't imagine, or perhaps I refuse to imagine, that the very physical safety of our troops in Iraq would be sacrificed for something like campaign funds; that goes beyond corruption all the way to something far darker. I'm not able to accept the campaign-funding justification for this action, but I honestly can't see any logical (or even illogical) reasoning behind it.

One mother of a soldier forced to leave his armor behind said, "He told me that if anything happened to him I am supposed to raise hell." I think that maybe it's time to start raising a little bit of hell before things start happening. The Army has declined to comment "because doing so could aid the enemy." I'm getting really, really sick of that excuse. It's time someone start coming clean for something, because this is literally a matter of life and death. And death, and death, and death.

No comments: