Thursday, December 04, 2003

"I can tell you that by November, every soldier that's serving in Iraq will have one."

--General John Abizaid, talking about Interceptor body armor in congressional testimony this past September

Soldiers will not patrol without the armor -- if they can get it. But as of now, there is not enough to go around....

Last month, Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) and 102 other House members wrote to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to demand hearings on why the Pentagon had been unable to provide all U.S. service members in Iraq with the latest body armor. In the letter, the lawmakers cited reports that soldiers' parents had been purchasing body armor with ceramic plates and sending it to their children in Iraq.

--The Washington Post today

By contrast, according to this soldier's letter to the European and Pacific edition of Stars & Stripes, troops well outside Iraq are equipped with Interceptor vests -- even when they don't need them:

I’m serving in Kosovo. Almost all the members of my task force and I have been issued Interceptor Body Armor with ballistic plates. We received these vests shortly after arriving in Kosovo back in July.

There’s little to no threat to any of us here compared to the troops in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Certainly there always exists the possibility of something happening here. But in Iraq it’s not simply a possibility. Several times a day, day after day, the need for this body armor is demonstrated. With every incident that occurs in Iraq in which a soldier is lost due to substandard body armor, the other soldiers and I who have the armor but don’t need it have to live with the guilt of their loss.

I’m personally embarrassed to even have the Interceptor vest. The sad truth is that we rarely wear the vests. They’re seen as one more piece of useless equipment that soldiers are forced to tote along with them on patrols. A lot of us are often left to wonder how the U.S. military can be so incompetent and so seemingly brainless. How was something like this allowed to happen? What command personnel would submit a request at this time for this level of armor for the troops in Kosovo?

The soldier adds,

In addition to the body armor, I also take issue with the “up-armored” Humvees. We arrived to a full complement of these vehicles. Shortly afterward, we were told the vehicles would be shipped to Iraq. Finally, something right was going to happen. But we’re now well into our fourth month in country, and there are still “up-armored” Humvees here in Kosovo. To my knowledge it’s a slow process and few have been shipped. I’d venture to say that even fewer, if any at all, have found their way to the soldiers in Iraq. I’m certain the KFOR command and its soldiers would gladly hand deliver these vests and vehicles today if it were only that easy.

So when will every soldier who needs an Interceptor get one? I know it isn't as important as, y'know, shipping Bush and a press pool to the Baghdad airport so he can pose with a prop turkey, but really now....

(Stars & Stripes link via BuzzFlash.)

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