View Full Version : Families chip in for flak jackets

10-02-03, 12:27 PM
Families chip in for flak jackets

By ANDREW GUMBEL in Los Angeles
United States soldiers in Iraq are so short of up-to-date flak jackets - often the difference between survivable injury and death in combat - that their families back home have begun buying them out of their own pocket.

Campaigners for military families opposed to the continuing occupation angrily denounced the lack of adequate protection yesterday, calling it "outrageous" and part of a pattern of general failure to provide adequate supplies to the troops almost five months after the formal end of the war in Iraq.

Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has acknowledged the shortage of up-to-date Kevlar jackets but said he could not promise to have them universally available until December.

Many - perhaps most - soldiers are wearing Vietnam-era flak jackets, which are heavier and unable to withstand rounds from AK-47 automatic rifles, the most common ammunition in Iraq.

"The word cannon fodder keeps coming to mind," said Charlie Richardson, co-founder of the group Military Families Speak Out.

"This shows a fundamental lack of respect for the military. If you don't take care of your troops in these basic ways, you're really saying they're throwaway."

Richardson's group has received numerous stories of mothers spending hundreds of dollars on either jackets or individual protective plates for their sons in Iraq.

One sergeant with the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, Zachariah Byrd, recently survived being shot four times by an AK-47, thanks to a kind fellow soldier who lent him his Kevlar Interceptor jacket. The jacket he had been issued probably would not have saved his life.

"For many GIs, Iraq appears to be a strictly BYOB war - Bring Your Own Bulletproofs," Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School, wrote this week.

He estimated the cost of updating the flak jackets at less than US$100 million.