Someone in supply read my blog entry about not having the proper equipment, I think (I’m actually just kidding). Yesterday with no effort on my part, I got a flak vest that fits properly. Then, an hour or so later I was told to go over to supply because they had a helmet for me. I didn’t hold my breath but I went over to supply. Sure enough, they issued me a brand new, extra large, melon bucket. It fits wonderfully. I could wear it for days without pain.
How I ended up with a flak jacket the fits is an good story too. I don’t know how but the unit got some Kevlar Interceptor vests with plates. These are the body armor that will actually protect the wearer from direct fire. These vests were issued out to the guys who stand watch on the gun mounts. These are the guys most likely to get shot at. The vest I got, a Vietnam era style flak vest, had been issued to a guy who got an Interceptor. When he got the Interceptor, I got his flak vest.
But why does our unit leadership have to make choices about who gets the better protection and who gets none? Why has replacing Vietnam style flak vests with body armor that will actually protect us from enemy fire been designated “non-priority” as this article states (this article provides more background on the vest and its predecesor)? Is it that Naval Coastal Warfare is a rear guard command and therefore does not warrant or need this protection? If this is true then doesn’t it follow that we also do not need the various heavy weapons that we are manning either? The very positions we man – operational positions as well as the gun mounts – make each one of us a high value target to the enemy. NCW personnel are the gatekeepers for those who seek to repeat the mission that killed 17 members of the USS Cole and injured 39.
But the article points out that forward units who are involved in direct interaction with the enemy are also not being provided with the protection that would allow them to survive contact with the enemy. Why? How much do Kevlar Interceptor vests and the plates that go in them cost? More than the life of an soldier, sailor or marine? Think I’m being over dramatic? Ask one of the guys from the 4th ID or one of the other units that’s been in Iraq for the past year. Most of those guys have buried at least one person that they knew personally. Many of them have buried three or four. All of them have turned out for more memorial services than most people go to in their entire life. I kind of wonder how much one of those guys thinks a Kevlar Interceptor vest and its plates are worth?