Marines rejecting extra armor

Antonio Castaneda, AP:

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. Too heavy and cumbersome, many say.

Marines already carry loads as heavy as 70 pounds when they patrol the dangerous streets in towns and villages in restive 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."

Staff Sgt. Thomas Bain of Buffalo, N.Y., shared concerns about the extra pounds.

"Before you know it, they're going to get us injured because we're hauling too much weight and don't have enough mobility to maneuver in a fight from house to house," said Bain, who is assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. "I think we're starting to go overboard on the armor."

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 H. Rumsfeld about the problem on live television.

Hometown groups across the United States have since raised money to send extra armor to troops, and the Pentagon, under congressional pressure, launched a program last October to reimburse troops who had purchased armor with their own money.

Soldiers and their parents spent hundreds, sometimes thousand of dollars, on armor until the Pentagon began issuing the new protective gear.

In 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.

...

Castaneda is one of the better reporters in Iraq. He gets out with the troops instead of being a hotel war correspondent. This story confirms what I have seen on some of the milblogs. The extra body armor appears to be more of a political prop for Democrats who want something to criticize. If it were as important as they claimed, the troops would be eager to wear it.

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