…. takes on a new meaning when you read what some Marines have to say about it:
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.”
Some Marines have chosen to wear the plates, particularly those in more vulnerable jobs such as Humvees turret gunners or those who frequently travel on roads plagued by roadside bombs.
But many Marines _ particularly those who conduct foot patrols also carrying weapons, extra ammunition, medical equipment, night vision goggles, food and water _ say the extra armor is not worth it, especially when the weather becomes unbearably hot.
“When you already have 60, 70 pounds on and you add 10 pounds when you go patrolling through the city or chasing after bad guys, that extra 10 pounds is going to make a difference. You’re going to feel it,” said Lance Cpl. David Partridge from Bangor, Maine.
Many Marines, however, believe the politics of the issue eventually will make the plates mandatory.
“The reason they issued (the plates), I think, is to make people back home feel better,” said Lance Cpl. Philip Tootle of Reidsville, Ga. “I’m not wishing they wouldn’t have issued them. I’m just wishing that they wouldn’t make them mandatory.”
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton called the Bush administration “incompetent” when it came to protecting the troops in combat and called the lack of adequate body armor for soldiers and Marines “unforgivable.”
So far in Iraq, more than 2,100 American troops have been killed. Critics like Clinton, D-N.Y., say that many of these deaths are the result of inadequate body armor. A secret Pentagon study of 93 Marines who were killed in Iraq found that 74 died after they were hit by a bullet or shrapnel in the torso or shoulders — areas unprotected by the armor most are issued.
“We perhaps could have avoided so many of these fatalities with the right body armor,” said Clinton, who recently wrote letters to Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee; and Francis J. Harvey, secretary of the Army, calling for an investigation into why troops were not being protected.
Hey she sounded good, anyway, didn’t she?