View Full Version : Risky weight loss: Marines skip armor

03-27-06, 06:56 AM
Risky weight loss: Marines skip armor
With total load near 70 pounds, many say extra load isn't worth it
Associated Press

HUSAYBAH, Iraq - Extra body armor -- the lack of which caused a political storm in the United States -- has flooded in to Iraq, but many Marines here promptly stuck it in lockers or under bunks, saying it was too heavy and cumbersome.

Marines already carry loads as heavy as 70 pounds when they patrol the dangerous streets in towns and villages in Anbar province. The new armor plates, while only about five pounds per set, are not worth carrying for the additional safety they are said to provide, some say.

"We have to climb over walls and go through windows," said Sgt. Justin Shank of Greencastle, Pa. "I understand the more armor, the safer you are. But it makes you slower. People don't understand that this is combat and people are going to die."

Since the insurgency erupted in Iraq, the Pentagon has been criticized for supplying insufficient armor for Humvees and too few bulletproof vests.

In one remarkable incident, soldiers publicly confronted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the problem on live television.

In Staff Sgt. Thomas Bain's platoon of about 35 men, Marines said only three or four wore the plates after commanders distributed them last month and told them that use was optional.

Top military officials, including Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, acknowledge the concerns over weight and mobility but have urged that the new gear be mandatory.

"That's going to add weight, of course," said Harvey. "You've read where certain soldiers aren't happy about that. But we think it's in their best interest to do this."

Marines have shown a special aversion to the new plates because they tend to patrol on foot, sometimes conducting two patrols each day that last several hours. They feel the extra weight.

Last year, a study by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner said dozens of Marines killed by wounds to the torso might have survived had the larger plates been in use.

Some Marines have chosen to wear the plates, particularly those in more vulnerable jobs such as Humvee turret gunners or those who frequently travel on roads plagued by roadside bombs.