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Pentagon Study Links Fatalities to Body Armor

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A very disturbing story was published in the NY Times this morning. The piece reveals that a significant amount of American soldiers killed in action might have survived had the Bush Administration / Pentagon supplied them with proper body armor. This is not a partisan report, it is a study released by the Pentagon and commissioned (too late btw) by the Pentagon.

This has to be one of the most upsetting developments since this war began. To not provide proper equipment almost three years in to our soldiers is as low as it gets! Imagine how the families of the soldiers who lost their loved ones due to torso wounds will feel after reading this report AND how the families who will still lose their loved ones will feel knowing that despite knowing that there was more protection avialble it is not being supplied even today!

This crosses party lines, this is a national disaster!

Pentagon Study Links Fatalities to Body Armor

By MICHAEL MOSS
Published: January 7, 2006 - The New York Times

A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.



The ceramic plates in vests now worn by the majority of troops in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.

Thirty-one of the deadly wounds struck the chest or back so close to the plates that simply enlarging the existing shields "would have had the potential to alter the fatal outcome," according to the study, which was obtained by The New York Times.

For the first time, the study by the military's medical examiner shows the cost in lives from inadequate armor, even as the Pentagon continues to publicly defend its protection of the troops.

Officials have said they are shipping the best armor to Iraq as quickly as possible. At the same time, they have maintained that it is impossible to shield forces from the increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices used by insurgents in Iraq. Yet the Pentagon's own study reveals the equally lethal threat of bullets.

The vulnerability of the military's body armor has been known since the start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until September 2005, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine officials acknowledge.

The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army was deciding among various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers, adding that they hoped to issue contracts this month.

Additional forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's unit that were obtained by The Times indicate that about 340 American troops have died solely from torso wounds.

Military officials said they had originally decided against using the extra plates because they were concerned they added too much weight to the vests or constricted the movement of soldiers. Marine Corps officials said the findings of the Pentagon study caused field commanders to override those concerns in the interest of greater protection.

"As the information became more prevalent and aware to everybody that in fact these were casualty sites that they needed to be worried about, then people were much more willing to accept that weight on their body," said Maj. Wendell Leimbach, a body armor specialist with Marine Corps Systems Command, the corps procurement unit.

The Pentagon has been collecting the data on wounds since the beginning of the war in March 2003 in part to determine the effectiveness of body armor. The military's medical examiner, Dr. Craig T. Mallak, told a military panel in 2003 that the information "screams to be published." But it would take nearly two years.

The Marine Corps said it asked for the data in August 2004; but it needed to pay the medical examiner $107,000 to have the data analyzed. Marine officials said financing and other delays had resulted in the study's not starting until December 2004. It finally began receiving the information by June 2005. The shortfalls in bulletproof vests are just one of the armor problems the Pentagon continues to struggle with as the war in Iraq approaches the three-year mark, The Times has found in a continuing examination of the military procurement system.

The production of a new armored truck called the Cougar, which military officials said had so far withstood every insurgent attack, has fallen three months behind schedule. The small company making the truck has been beset by a host of production and legal problems
The entire story is here:

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/07/politics/07armor.html
 
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