Army's Body Armor Ban Bothers Ohio Father
The Army now prohibits soldiers from using body armor that they've purchased themselves. Some troops bound for Iraq and Afghanistan had bought their own armor not approved by the pentagon. An Ohio father says he bought armor for his son because neither the army nor his congressman could assure he'd be adequately protected.
Daniel Britt of suburban Cincinnati learned two years ago that his son in the National Guard would be deployed to Iraq. Britt says he'd heard there was a shortage of armor and wanted more information from his congressman John Boehner.
"When I went to our politicians," says Britt, "I was not getting straight answers and so I felt it best to err on the side of my son's life."
So Britt says he spent $1400 to buy sophisticated ceramic plated armor that included throat and groin guards. His son got the gear in Kuwait just before entering Iraq. At a Pentagon briefing Major General Jeffrey Sorensen answered reporters' questions about the new policy.
REPORTER: "Can you tell us today with certainty that everyone who's serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has the best possible body armor available?"
"I can say, unequivocally state that," says Sorenson.
The Army says it imposed the ban because soldiers or their families are buying products that are inferior to the military's. Sorensen did acknowledge that not all soldiers had been outfitted with armor during the war's early stages.
"When we first deployed, yeah, the people who first had the armor were the infantry. The ones that were doing the fight," Sorenson says. "You know we figured out that the fight was no longer just the road to Baghdad. It was an asymmetric war. So yes, we had to ramp up. Was there a shortage over time? Yes."
The Army says its armor is the best in the world and that with 200,000 sets now in Iraq and Afghanistan, there's sufficient protection for troops. Sorenson says that soldiers who wear other than army issue would be subject to disciplinary procedures. Ohioan Daniel Britt says his son is back from Iraq unscathed. But he says his own experience causes him to question the Army's motives.
"As a parent, if my son was going now, I would not like to be told what I could or couldn't purchase. If there are people out there marketing inferior equipment, well that's not right either. But I wish I could trust the military to tell me that the reason they're making this directive is to protect the solider. And I'm not sure I can do that," Britt says.
A spokesperson says the Army continually evaluates new armor technology and actively solicits proposals from industry and academia.