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wTuesday, September 30, 2003

This is just disgusting: Full Metal Jacket
Suzanne Werfelman is a mother and a teacher who has been shopping for individual body armor. This is not in response to threats from her elementary-class students in Sciota, Pa.; it's a desperate attempt to protect her son in Iraq.

Like many other U.S. service members in Iraq, her son was given a Vietnam-era flak jacket that cannot stop the type of weapons used today. It appears that parents across the country are now purchasers of body armor because of the failure of the military to supply soldiers with modern vests.

Werfelman's son, Army Spc. Richard Murphy, is a military policeman in Iraq. He was also one of my law students last year before being sent off for a 20-month stint. Upon their arrival, members of Murphy's unit were shocked to learn that they would be given the old Vietnam-era vests rather than the modern Interceptor vest. (They were also given unarmored Humvees, which are vulnerable to even small-arms fire.) Military officials admit that the standard flak jacket could not reliably stop a bullet, including AK-47 ammunition, used in Iraq and the most common ammunition in the world.

Developed in the late 1990s, the Interceptor vest is made of layered sheets of Kevlar with pockets in front and back for ceramic plates to protect vital organs. These vests — one-third lighter than the old ones — have stopped machine-gun bullets, shrapnel and other ordnance.

They can mean the difference between living and dying, which was made all too clear to Sgt. Zachariah Byrd, a soldier with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who was shot four times with AK-47 bullets (twice in the chest and twice in his arms) when his unit was ambushed. The vest protected his chest and he survived. Byrd had been issued a standard flak jacket and, if he had been wearing it during the attack, he'd probably be dead. However, at the beginning of the patrol, his buddy who was driving that night gave his Interceptor vest to Byrd — a passing kindness that saved Byrd's life.

Others don't have the Interceptor option — including some of the soldiers in Murphy's unit who are still wearing flak jackets. Congress has received reports of soldiers killed while wearing the old flak jackets. One from a mother related how three soldiers in her son's unit were killed while wearing the outmoded vests. The unit reportedly had only 30 modern vests for 120 men. Army Staff Sgt. Dave Harris wrote a letter to Stars and Stripes that related how his friend, Mike Quinn, was killed in Fallouja. Quinn's unit didn't have enough vests, so he gave his to a young soldier. The decision saved the young soldier's life, but resulted in Quinn's death when he was shot.
(via Brad DeLong)

posted by Matthew Carroll-Schmidt at 10:49 AM

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