Sunday, March 26, 2006

The armor-mobility balance in danger

This is a news story because people just don't understand a foot soldier's job:

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.

Everything is a tradeoff in combat. You can pile armor on everyone and everything, but in doing so you will crush mobility and range of soldiers and vehicles, making them sitting ducks for heavy enemy fire. You can make everything light and ultra-mobile, but that makes the soldier or vehicle vulnerable to lighter weapons.

To the extent that it got body armor to soldiers that needed it, I'm glad that the media originally shone a light on the shortage. Unfortunately, in their attempt to make a statement they've latched onto the body armor story so hard that they threaten to make life more dangerous for soldiers by robbing them of mobility:

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."

More isn't always better, sometimes it's just more. If additional plates are made mandatory because the Defense Department ends up bending to the incessant harping of the news media in regards to body armor, the media will have succeeded in making some soldiers jobs more difficult, and thus more dangerous.

Case in point (HT Instapundit)

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