“Army conducting ‘full-court press’ to reduce weight Soldiers carry” – That’s the title of latest story from the Army News Service discussing testimony provided last week by Army officials before the House Armed Services Committee on the Army’s budget and modernization. Afghanistan as you know is a very Soldier-centric environment and the Soldier serves as our most important combat system. Since the onset of hostilities in 2001 the Army has made huge strides to improve the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of our Soldiers but it has come at a cost.
However, the article leads the reader to believe a couple of things that are untrue and hopefully, the article is incorrect and these same misstatements weren’t provided to Congress as testimony.
For example, according to the article the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff GEN Pete Chiarelli “said the Army has given Soldiers the option between the Improved Outer Tactical Vest and the new light-weight plate carrier. That provides a weight savings of 8 pounds…” Actually, the Army provides both systems but it is not up to the Soldier which he will wear but rather up to his chain of command. While it isn’t an out and out mistruth, it is a bit misleading. Individual Soldiers don’t get to apply METT-T and decide which PPE to wear.
He went on to state, “And the Army “continues to look at ways to further lighten body armor,” though he told lawmakers it’s not likely that the most common protective gear for Soldiers, the ceramic protective plates worn close to the body, could become lighter — because the technology isn’t there yet.
“I have not heard of any technologies now that will give us the required protection — as enemy capabilities continue to increase — at a lighter weight,” Chiarelli said.”
Once again, not entirely true. Industry can drop weight, but the Army doesn’t want to foot the bill associated with the reduction.
But, according the article GEN Chiarelli wasn’t the only one putting out incorrect info. LTG William N. Phillips, the military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) apparently hailed the Army’s new “Danner” boot due to its weight reduction. Unfortunately for him, the Army chose the Belleville boot instead. While the boots are very similar, the fact that a senior Army leader is passing out bad info is a bit disconcerting. What else is he getting wrong? It might be the tidbit about the “added” $5.8 Million for armor R&D. Yes, it’s a new line item, but the money isn’t. Most of it was pulled out of the old single line item that covered armor as well as Organization Clothing and Individual Equipment. Now they are separate.
Soldiers are our most precious resource. When it comes to their protection, we’re not opposed to a little gold plating. But please, no sugar coating.