Too much body armour for US soldiers probably not a good idea for combat in Afghanistan

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arghandab Valley, Kandahar.

Interesting, because there was an interview on the Daily Show just last night mentioning that. First the article:
Washington_Heavy layers of body armor, a proven lifesaver of U.S. troops, also may be an impediment to winning the fight in Afghanistan, where 17,000 additional American forces are being sent to quell rising violence.

Weighing as much as 34 pounds each, the protective vests hinder American forces hunting down more agile insurgents who use the country's rugged peaks and valleys to their advantage, according to military officials.

The proper balance between troop safety and mobility will be examined this week during a series of oversight hearings by the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. Beginning Tuesday, senior Army and Marine Corps leaders are scheduled to testify on a wide range of subjects, including force protection, readiness levels and ergonomic injuries.

When body armor is added to the assault rifles, ammunition, water and other essential gear troops are required to carry, they can be lugging as much as 80 pounds into combat. Besides moving more slowly, overburdened troops tire more quickly and are prone to orthopedic injuries that can take them out of action, the officials say.
I of course have no idea what the ideal amount of body armour and equipment should be, but listening to Craig Mullaney talking about the experience of fighting in Afghanistan with tons of gear vs. the people they were fighting hopping around the mountains on little more than tennis shoes alone made the amount of gear seem a bit ridiculous, so perhaps some amount of reduction is in order if it can be done.

Here's some of what he says:
For physical toughness, you're - we were operating a half mile higher than Denver, carrying, you know, upwards of 100 pounds, and you're moving up these 60 degree slopes with all that gear. And your adversary is running around in tennis shoes. They're hard to catch...if you can find them in the first place. And so it's very difficult; to move 20 miles can take four hours in a Humvee, because you don't really have roads.
The other interesting part of the interview was right after that where he mentions the usefulness of knowing a lot of languages:
Jon Stewart: But they call upon you to know languages. You write about the perfect soldier would be someone who knew these different languages of the region and could be a doctor and an architect and all these other things.

Craig Mullaney: Yeah, sort of the bionic counter-insurgent. You know, the person doesn't exist, so you have to take from your team what skills they have and apply them.

There's also an excerpt from his book here that mentions spending time learning languages while in the field:

Soon after the mission with the cracked axle, we received our first mail since arriving at Shkin. A package arrived from Amazon. I ripped it open to discover an expensive set of language tapes I had ordered. As I walked with the tapes across the compound, Major Wille stopped me. “What are those?”

“Hindi tapes, sir.”

“You know, Mullaney, you should focus on being a better platoon leader, not screw around with languages. If you lose another soldier, you’re only going to blame yourself for not doing more to prepare.”

I walked away without rising to the bait. My skin grew hot. I could have killed him with my bare hands. How could he imply that O’Neill had died because I had failed to prepare? I wasn’t ready for this criticism. It stung because several times a day, every day since the attack, I had been asking myself what I had done wrong. Moreover, I was angry at the implicit accusation that preparing my mind was unconnected to becoming a better leader. At that moment Major Wille became a lightning rod for my dissatisfaction with those few officers I had come across in my brief career who disdained the value of formal education. Our profession so clearly depended on judgment and clearheaded analysis. I hated having to defend my time at Oxford, euphemizing my academic experience as being “stationed in England.” I wanted to be judged on my performance as a leader, not on the weight I could bench-press.

Still, I hated to consider that Major Wille might be right. Maybe I wasn’t sufficiently focused on the fight at hand. Combat has the effect of crystallizing the value of one’s choices. Time spent studying a language was time not committed directly to honing my tactical knowledge. Maybe Wille was pointing out that there was something more beneficial that I could have been doing with my time. He was right, but I also had to hold on to myself by lying down with headphones and closing my eyes for just 20 minutes a day. In the midst of so much chaos and fear and unrelenting pressure, the certainty of language, with its rules and rhythms, helped me stay sane.


Anonymous said...

Just a thought. The article mentions that an officer ordered Hindi tapes from amazon in order to better understand the enemy. Hindi is a language used only in India. It is unknown in afghanistan where the dominant language I am told is Pashto. Nevertheless the language understood by most internaional jihadis would be armalite(and its various dialects).

Allahu Akbar Infidel.

brap brap.


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