Skip to comments.Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Privately Owned Dragon Skin Body Armor
Posted on 01/15/2006 9:33:25 AM PST by Bobibutu
Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Dragon Skin or Lose SGLI Death Benefits By Nathaniel R. Helms
Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action.
The soldiers asked for anonymity because they are concerned they will face retaliation for going public with the Army's apparently new directive. At the sources' requests DefenseWatch has also agreed not to reveal the unit at which the incident occured for operational security reasons.
On Saturday morning a soldier affected by the order reported to DefenseWatch that the directive specified that "all" commercially available body armor was prohibited. The soldier said the order came down Friday morning from Headquarters, United States Special Operations Command (HQ, USSOCOM), located at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. It arrived unexpectedly while his unit was preparing to deploy on combat operations. The soldier said the order was deeply disturbiing to many of the men who had used their own money to purchase Dragon Skin because it will affect both their mobility and ballistic protection.
"We have to be able to move. It (Dragon Skin) is heavy, but it is made so we have mobility and the best ballistic protection out there. This is crazy. And they are threatening us with our benefits if we don't comply." he said.
The soldier reiterated Friday's reports that any soldier who refused to comply with the order and was subsequently killed in action "could" be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action.
As of this report Saturday morning the Army has not yet responded to a DefenseWatch inquiry.
Recently Dragon Skin became an item of contention between proponents of the Interceptor OTV body armor generally issued to all service members deploying in combat theaters and its growing legion of critics. Critics of the Interceptor OTV system say it is ineffective and inferior to Dragon Skin, as well as several other commercially available body armor systems on the market. Last week DefenseWatch released a secret Marine Corps report that determined that 80% of the 401 Marines killed in Iraq between April 2004 and June 2005 might have been saved if the Interceptor OTV body armor they were wearing was more effective. The Army has declined to comment on the report because doing so could aid the enemy, an Army spokesman has repeatedly said.
A U.S. Army spokesman was not available for comment at the time DW's original report (Friday - 1700 CST) was published. DefenseWatch continues to seek a response from the Army and will post one as soon as it becomes available. Yesterday the DoD released a news story through the Armed Forces News Service that quoted Maj. Gen. Steven Speaks, the Army's director of force development, who countered critical media reports by denying that the U.S. military is behind the curve in providing appropriate force protection gear for troops deployed to Iraq and elsewhere in the global war against terrorism. The New York Tiimes and Washington Post led the bandwagon of mainstream media that capitalized on DefenseWatch's release of the Marine Corps study. Both newspapers released the forensic information the Army and Marines are unwilling to discuss.
"Those headlines entirely miss the point," Speaks said.
The effort to improve body armor "has been a programmatic effort in the case of the Army that has gone on with great intensity for the last five months," he noted.
Speaks' assessment contradicts earlier Army, Marine and DoD statements that indicated as late as last week that the Army was certain there was nothing wrong with Interceptor OTV body armor and that it was and remains the "best body armor in the world."
One of the soldiers who lost his coveted Dragon Skin is a veteran operator. He reported that his commander expressed deep regret upon issuing his orders directing him to leave his Dragon Skin body armor behind. The commander reportedly told his subordinates that he "had no choice because the orders came from very high up" and had to be enforced, the soldier said. Another soldier's story was corroborated by his mother, who helped defray the $6,000 cost of buying the Dragon Skin, she said.
The mother of the soldier, who hails from the Providence, Rhode Island area, said she helped pay for the Dragon Skin as a Christmas present because her son told her it was "so much better" than the Interceptor OTV they expected to be issued when arriving in country for a combat tour.
"He didn't want to use that other stuff," she said. "He told me that if anything happened to him I am supposed to raise hell."
At the time the orders were issued the two soldiers had already loaded their Dragon Skin body armor onto the pallets being used to air freight their gear into the operational theater, the soldiers said. They subsequently removed it pursuant to their orders.
Currently nine U.S. generals stationed in Afghanistan are reportedly wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin body armor, according to company spokesman Paul Chopra. Chopra, a retired Army chief warrant officer and 20+-year pilot in the famed 160th "Nightstalkers" Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), said his company was merely told the generals wanted to "evaluate" the body armor in a combat environment. Chopra said he did not know the names of the general officers wearing the Dragon Skin.
Pinnacle claims more than 3,000 soldiers and civilians stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan are wearing Dragon Skin body armor, Chopra said. Several months ago DefenseWatch began receiving anecdotal reports from individual soldiers that they were being forced to remove all non-issue gear while in theater, including Dragon Skin body armor, boots, and various kinds of non-issue ancillary equipment.
Last year the DoD, under severe pressure from Congress, authorized a one-time $1,000 reimbursement to soldiers who had purchased civilian equipment to supplement either inadequate or unavailable equipment they needed for combat operations. At the time there was no restriction on what the soldiers could buy as long as it was specifically intended to offer personal protection or further their mission capabilities while in theater.
Nathaniel R. Helms is the editor of DefenseWatch Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com. Please send all inquiries and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Give that dead man 30 days in the cooler!!
There's something about this that doesn't sound right. Unless I see the orders, I'm not going to accept this as fact. It's all hearsay and second or third hand.
I will consider this a non-story until the orders are produced, in writing.
I wouldnt give a damn what the troops are wearing. As long as they were safer.
Maybe the officer's attitude is that those vests don't make them safer. (I don't have any opinion one way or the other.) It does seem kind of boorish on the part of the brass, however.
I do not believe this story.
What officer would ever issue an order that states an insurance policy would not be paid? That is crazy.
This piece is from Hackworth's outfit and I don't know if it is for real, but if it is, it stinks.
I'm not going to accept this as fact." So....you would not want your son wearing non-issue armor if DOD said their gear (by definition older and cheaper, from lowest bidder) was as good, or almost as good, maybe; but no matter, orders is orders?
Yeah. Nobody's identified. Nobody knows who said what, when. If orders were issued, let's see them.
After all, Hillary's saying about the same thing. I don't believe her, either.
If this new effort to limit alternative body armour is real, it would seem as if the main contractor had promise of exclusivity in the business agreement with the Army.
Tell you what Army leadership, if someone is going to fight for me over there, you give him first choice in body armour. If the guy is willing to put his money out to protect himself, then STFU and let him do his job.
Just damn! The guys are putting their lives on the line and the Army wants them to wear what they consider to be inferior armour.
That's just bull-s--t, if true.
If not true, I wish the Army would corner the idiot that started this rumour and kick their arse.
This is so much like the government. Dear God sometimes I wish a rock from heaven would just come and squash them all. They are bugs disguised as human beings. Can't do anything without government approval because everyone knows how fn competent the government is. We so deserve to be destroyed and oppressed for our acceptance of such crap.
Some REMF who has spent his whole career in procurement in the Pentagon and has his future tied up in slelcting the current armor.
"I'm not going to accept this as fact." So....you would not want your son wearing non-issue armor if DOD said their gear (by definition older and cheaper, from lowest bidder) was as good, or almost as good, maybe; but no matter, orders is orders?"
Look. You're not paying attention. I'm saying that I don't believe any such orders not to wear the other armor were ever issued. I don't believe that crap about generals wearing this better armor, either.
This sounds like a crapola story to me. Hackworth's stuff is often bullwhack. Show me the orders that prohibit the wearing of this armor. Show me where it says that the insurance won't pay off.
The story smells.
If true; and that is a big "if", I would like to see the hide ripped off the idiot who issued the order.
I think this boils down to the same thing in civilian life when an employer threatens to hold a paycheck from a worker untill they comply or payroll deduct damages that an employee accidently makes. They can threaten it but they can not enforce it.
IN other words - turn them loose and let them clean up the place. Iran too.
This armor controversy smells like a Democrat National Committee talking point.
Sure, the study said Marines get hurt in places where armor does not cover. That means the armor stops a lot of the hits.
The trade off with armor is weight and mobility. Our Marines and other troops in a fire fight live because of mobility as well as armor. If they are too weighed down, they lose mobility. Also, a troop tired after humping heavy armor and gear is a troop not on top of his game when the fighting begins.
I believe the military and Pentagon are doing all humanly possible to help the troops on the ground and DNC attacks on the conduct of the war are suspect.
I believe that any and all DOD elements would be VERY hesitant to bar the use of any product that would enhance surviveability, given the beating they have taken over body armor and similar sensational issues for quite some time now.
"and was subsequently killed in action "could" be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action. "
LOL. just exactly what kind of "disciplinary action" are you going to give a soldier that is dead?
Have to agree, this just doesn't make sense.
If this story were true, it would have been all over the Sunday morning talk shows. If it were just a good rumor it wouold have been all over the Sunday morning talk hows.
This is just a piss poor rumor.
The man may be dead but his attacks on our military continue on.
Or some REMF who will see his plans to become a highly paid employee/consultant to the armor vendor go up in smoke if certain minimum procurement targets are not met, due to troops buying their own rather than asking for the vendor's armor being issued to them
"I believe that any and all DOD elements would be VERY hesitant to bar the use of any product that would enhance surviveability, given the beating they have taken over body armor and similar sensational issues for quite some time now."
I'll tell you what I believe. I believe that "Defense Watch" is an unreliable publication. I believe that it was unreliable under Hackworth's leadership, and I believe it's even worse right now.
The "news" story here has no named sources, except for the spokesman for the company that makes this non-issue armor. No sources. No copy of these "orders." I'm not buying it until I see some real information, not "someone said," and that sort of nonsense.
Finally, the insurance these guys have is not from the government. It done by private companies. The DOD can't dictate the terms of the insurance. They're right there in the policies. That's one of the things that smells like three-day-old chicken in the garbage can.
Until some documents are produced, this is not a news story.
I smell a fabricated scandal cooked up by
Bush haters. Next week... the truth will
will be uncovered by diligent bloggers.
The website contains information that they have a GSA contract, that tells me...this story is bogus.
If such an order exists, I want to see who signed it.
Then I want to see that idiot shipped to a line unit in Iraq wearing standard GI body armor and standard GI everything else.
But until someone can produce an actual order signed by someone 'very high up' I'll look at this story with a jaundiced eye.
"I believe the military and Pentagon are doing all humanly possible..." Both are huge, slow, and ponderous in procurement. Remember the Humvee armor dust-up? Took a lot of guys in the field making their own armor, others getting killed, and lots of bitching before the DOD finally reacted in a meaningful way. In any pissing match like this, think of it as your son against a paper pusher in DC, going to lunch with reps of armor mfgrs.
I would like to hear more. This is the kind of flap that makes MSM salivate. If this is true I expect they will jump on it, particularly the angle of the Generals getting this armor in Afganistan.
If there is any truth to this, I hope the ones making this policy get roasted.
Not knowing if the story is true or not........I have to disagree with your comment that the brand is not germain to the story. It's everything to the story.
And an additional $50,000.00 fine for any dead soldier caught with a "lucky rabbit's foot" on his keychain. Puh-leeze!
Indeed. Just as in PR "news releases," the brand name is mentioned in almost every paragraph. This isn't a story, it's an ad.
Have a priest bless the Dragon Skin armor and tell the Army that it is a religious item.
They also have to leave the sawed-off shotguns at home. This is not a citizens' army where everybody beings his own weapons. That would be the militia. This army is an institution of the state.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 - Army officials said Wednesday that they had decided to send additional body armor to Iraq to protect soldiers from insurgents' attacks.
The ceramic plates now worn by most members of the military shield just some of the upper body from bullets and shrapnel, and the Army said it would buy plates that would extend this protection to the sides of soldiers. The officials spoke after a closed session of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held after The New York Times reported last week that a Pentagon study had found that extra armor could have saved up to 80 percent of the marines who died in Iraq from upper body wounds.
In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' sides, shoulders or areas of the torso where the protective plates did not reach.
The Marine Corps, which commissioned the study in December 2004, began buying side plates in September for its 26,000 troops in Iraq. Army procurement officials said they began studying a similar move last summer after receiving requests from troops in Iraq, but were hampered by the need to supply a much larger force of 160,000 individuals.
The Army had begun supplying small quantities of side plates to soldiers much earlier in the war through its Rapid Equipping Force. Armor Works of Tempe, Ariz., which is making the plates for the marines, said it shipped 250 sets in November 2003.
Another manufacturer, the Excera Materials Group of Columbus, Ohio, said that since late 2004 it had shipped 1,000 sets of side plates to Special Forces personnel, the Air Force and individual units that used their own procurement money to buy the armor.
Citing security concerns, the Army has in recent days urged armor contractors not to disclose information about their work, even if the information is not classified, industry officials said.
"Neither you nor any of your employees are authorized to release to anyone outside your organization any unclassified information, regardless of medium, pertaining to any part of your contract," says a letter from an Army research and procurement unit that The Times obtained.
In Congress on Wednesday, Army and Marine officials defended their efforts to procure additional armor, saying they had to weigh the benefits of additional plates against adding weight and restricting mobility. Citing those concerns, Marine officials said last week that they remained reluctant to buy shoulder plates or larger plates for the chest and back.
"This is a continuous evolution," Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army director of force development, said after the Senate briefing.
I thought the whole basis of Hillary's objections (apart from cosmetic political posturing) were that rounds could enter through the armhole/shoulder area. The 'Dragon Skin' armor at the link clearly has the same configuration.
You may be right. They were showing this armor on some models the other day on TV and I thought it made them look bulky and less mobile.
For some unremembered reason, some proportion preferred to forego the additional protection, necessitating the order.
In the current circumstance, it could be anything from non "certified" body armor/insurance bureaucracy, Interceptor
screaming to either DoD or US Reps in the districts of their factories, or even Interceptor's competitors making waves.
Maybe Linda Daschle is a lobbyist for one of the companies. She doesn't do the country or taxpayers any favors. She
gets paid to push bad deals or bad products on the country.
"I don't believe that crap about generals wearing this better armor, either"
Like you, I don't know about the veracity of this story. BUT, from my experience as a staff officer, I can tell you firsthand that generals frequently get to try out the new gear long before it's even procured, let alone issued.
As to the orders to the soldiers about body armor: the one thing that makes it plausible is the way it's enforced: not by the UCMJ, but by a threat that your SGLI "may not cover" your death. That's BS, but to a young man in harm's way, scary. Because of this, I doubt that it's an official "order;" more likely something like a policy guidance. Which, if true, stinks; and is probably rooted in a desire for manufacturer exclusivity (as someone already mentioned.)