The ‘extra armor’ debate rages on
DAYTON, Ohio Jun 11, 2006 (AP)— Thousands of pounds of armor added to military Humvees, intended to protect U.S. troops, have made the vehicles more likely to roll over, killing and injuring soldiers in Iraq, a newspaper reported.
“I believe the up-armoring has caused more deaths than it has saved,” said Scott Badenoch, a former Delphi Corp. vehicle dynamics expert told the Dayton Daily News for Sunday editions.
Since the start of the war, Congress and the Army have spent tens of millions of dollars on armor for the Humvee fleet in Iraq, the newspaper reported Sunday.
That armor much of it installed on the M1114 Humvee built at the Armor Holdings Inc. plant north of Cincinnati has shielded soldiers from harm.
But serious accidents involving the M1114 have increased as the war has progressed, and the accidents were much more likely to be rollovers than those of other Humvee models, the newspaper reported.
An analysis of the Army’s ground accident database, which includes records from March 2003 through November 2005, found that 60 of the 85 soldiers who died in Humvee accidents in Iraq or 70 percent were killed when the vehicle rolled, the newspaper reported. Of the 337 injuries, 149 occurred in rollovers.
Here’s a flashback to a story I blogged about back in March regarding some Marines who were complaining about extra body armor being too cumbersome and too heavy:
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.”
We all want our troops as safe as they can be in a warzone, of course, but we also have to keep in mind that sometimes too much armor can hurt more than help. So next time you hear politicians like Hillary Clinton slamming the admin for the alleged ‘lack of adequate body armor’ that is being provided (while not attending the hearings she called for on the issue), keep stories like these in mind.