Deployed Troops Getting Best Protection Available
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar, Mar. 28, 2005 Senior enlisted leaders say they're confident all necessary measures are being taken to ensure servicemembers deployed throughout U.S. Central Command have the best protection possible.
Speaking to the American Forces Press Service from Central Command's forward headquarters here, the top noncommissioned officers from CENTCOM, Multinational Force Iraq and Combined Forces Command Afghanistan said the military is providing troops the best protection on the market as quickly as possible.
"Our concern has always been to provide the best protection possible," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger, from Multinational Force Iraq.
"We're moving as fast as we can to put armored protection on vehicles," he said. In Iraq, 80 percent of all vehicles have increased armor protection, and only those vehicles are permitted to travel outside bases, he said.
But, Mellinger said, there's a limit to how much armor one can attach to a vehicle not designed to carry it. "You don't have enough motor under some of these vehicles to handle it," he said. "That's because we built our vehicles for transportation," rather than warfighting platforms.
Similarly, he said, soldiers can handle only so much weight in body armor. "You are going to reach a point where it's just too heavy and will reduce the wearer's effectiveness," he said.
Manufacturers are quickly coming forward with new concepts in body armor and other body protection and responding to requests from the field, said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia Pritchett, from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan.
Mellinger said he complained that troops' eye protection fogged, so many troops stopped wearing them. Manufacturers quickly responded, sending him samples of new products to test.
"We are getting as much as industry can produce, and getting the best that's available," he said, adding that manufacturers "recognize that this could be their son or daughter" who benefits from their product.
Personal protection "is getting smaller and lighter and better," Mellinger said. But no matter how advanced technology becomes in protecting troops, he acknowledged, there's no way to provide 100 percent protection.
Much of it boils down to mitigating risk, recognizing threats and avoiding them, said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Brownlee, command chief master sergeant for U.S. Central Command.
"A lot of it is situational awareness," agreed Mellinger. "That's something that comes through training and experience."