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Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Privately Owned Dragon Skin Body Armor
DefenseWatch ^ | 01-14-06 | Nathaniel R. Helms

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 Please send all inquiries and comments to .

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: armor; bodyarmor; dragonbodyarmor; dragonskin; dragonskinbodyarmor; pentagon; remf; troopprotection
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To: marktwain

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.

41 posted on 01/15/2006 10:14:44 AM PST by JennysCool (Non-Y2K-Compliant)
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To: Bobibutu
I have not read all the responses to this post. In any case, if my privately purchased body armour impresses me more than the issued gear I would wear it regardless of what my command structure told me.

Let them suck an egg through the hole where I take a round to the lung, sucking in and out on the field for ten minutes before I die.
42 posted on 01/15/2006 10:15:56 AM PST by mmercier (die thou unheard, tears unshed)
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To: Annie5622
"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. " I've heard that you could be denied SGLI payment and VA benefits in an off duty situation such as be killed while driving drunk or not wearing a seat belt during off duty hours....After an investigation and a "in the line of duty determination". I can't see how a soldier in a combat zone killed by hostile fire could be categorized in such a way.
43 posted on 01/15/2006 10:16:53 AM PST by Wristpin ("The Yankees have decided to buy every player in Baseball....")
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To: Bobibutu

Have a priest bless the Dragon Skin armor and tell the Army that it is a religious item.

44 posted on 01/15/2006 10:17:01 AM PST by muir_redwoods (Free Sirhan Sirhan, after all, the bastard who killed Mary Jo Kopechne is walking around free)
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To: Bobibutu

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.

45 posted on 01/15/2006 10:17:06 AM PST by RightWhale (pas de lieu, Rhone que nous)
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To: diogenes ghost
From an email I received:
Army Sending Added Armor to Iraq Units (NYT 1/12/06)

Army Sending Added Armor to Iraq Units
Published: January 12, 2006

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 - Army officials said Wednesday that they had decided to send additional body armor to Iraq to protect soldiers from insurgents' attacks.

Picture removed
Maj. Greg Paul of the Army in a complete set of armor Wednesday after a Senate briefing on protecting troops.

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.

46 posted on 01/15/2006 10:17:06 AM PST by Wolverine (A Concerned Citizen)
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To: shooter223

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.

47 posted on 01/15/2006 10:18:45 AM PST by Riley ("What color is the boathouse at Hereford?")
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To: RicocheT

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.

48 posted on 01/15/2006 10:21:31 AM PST by AUsome Joy
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To: MineralMan
I don't know about that. It's not that unprecedented. I read an account of LOH operations in Vietnam. There was a
standing order that crews had to wear the ceramic breastplate insert, for instance, iirc.

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.

49 posted on 01/15/2006 10:39:46 AM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: MineralMan

"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.)

50 posted on 01/15/2006 10:40:51 AM PST by ROLF of the HILL COUNTRY (( Terrorism is a symptom, ISLAM IS THE DISEASE!))
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To: Annie5622; All
Actually this story is probably accurate.

1. The military doesn't want to be embarassed by reports that the items they just spent millions procuring are being discarded in favor of privately purchsed items;

2. Wearing of OTHER items might negatively affect troop morale - what are the soldiers who are not getting the 'private stuff' supposed to think?

3. Some JAG rocket scientist might well have warned his commanders that, if a soldier is killed while wearing something OTHER than Army-issued armor, there could be disciplinary/bad PR repercussions for the commanders who allowed them to wear the OTHER stuff (not to mention the possibility of law suits)....

This is so typically a bureaucratic story, but if you're within the bureaucracy, justifying it is very, very easy and a predictable response to the realization that they did not buy their troops the 'best stuff. After all, if you can't compare stats between those hit while wearing the private vs public stuff, they have 'deniability' of their screw-up;

Oh, and about the generals wearing the privtae stuff to 'evaluate it' - this is such a CLASSIC Orwellian military phrase that I almost spit out my drink - someone ought to ask: "But sir, doesn't it make more sense to allow the troops who are actually going into the areas where the shooting is to evaluate it instead of a bunch of (already) over-protected generals who don't go 'on patrol'?

51 posted on 01/15/2006 10:45:11 AM PST by Al Simmons ('A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user' - Theodore Roosevelt)
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I would never minimize the amount of C.S. enlisted types have to put up with in the military. I've seen my share of it, firsthand.

However, I still say this story sounds bogus, or at least incorrect in many details.

This "publication" has no reason to follow standard journalistic practices like getting confirmation, naming source, etc. It's not a news organization, in the first place, but a political activism group. Nothing wrong with that, but this is not a news story. It's an unsubstantiated rumor. There's not a single fact in it that is backed up reliably.

I never liked Hackworth. I don't like the publication as it now stands, either.

Again, I want to see the orders, or directive, or policy paper. Failing that, I mark the story as bogus.

52 posted on 01/15/2006 10:45:29 AM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: Bobibutu
The idea that their commander has the authority to say what body armor they do or don't wear is plausible.

His having the authority to revoke their death benefits is not very plausible to me.

53 posted on 01/15/2006 10:46:02 AM PST by TigersEye (All Americans should be armed and dangerous!)
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To: Bobibutu

If this is true, it's absolutely wrong.

54 posted on 01/15/2006 10:46:45 AM PST by T. Buzzard Trueblood (left unchecked, Saddam Hussein...will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." Sen. Hillary Clinton)
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To: MineralMan

However, I still say this story sounds bogus, or at least incorrect in many details.

Agreed. After reading more from those more knowledgeable about these "articles", it does sound like an Ad.

55 posted on 01/15/2006 10:51:56 AM PST by ROLF of the HILL COUNTRY (( Terrorism is a symptom, ISLAM IS THE DISEASE!))
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To: MineralMan
"There's something about this that doesn't sound right."

I agree ... especially the neat tie in with a piece of marketing from the manufacturer of Dragon Skin, stating that several generals are wearing it. If the action against soldiers using Dragon Skin is not as stated, and can be qualified with other context, then this is a coordinated piece of "push-pull" marketing.
56 posted on 01/15/2006 11:45:10 AM PST by One_who_hopes_to_know
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To: marktwain

good catch. it does read like pinnacle paid for this to be run.

57 posted on 01/15/2006 12:18:05 PM PST by WoofDog123
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To: Calvin Locke

I remember reading a book about helicopter operations in Vietnam called "Chickenhawk". One of the pilots was killed by a bullet through the chest, he did not have a plate, neither did anyone else in the unit despite repeated requests for them. Later the author was transferred to another unit, they all had the insert plates and plenty extra lying around in boxes unused.

58 posted on 01/15/2006 12:32:44 PM PST by protest1
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To: Darksheare

What do you know about this stuff?

59 posted on 01/15/2006 1:06:23 PM PST by NoCmpromiz (Don't take life too seriously... it's not permanent.)
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To: Radix

Evening Radix,
The numbers just do not add up in this case.

If nine Generals are wearing the dragon armor, then all soldiers should be allowed to wear the same.

I would like to see the names of the alleged nine Generals.

I think this may be more liberal propaganda in the making.

What party or affliation does this info-warrant officer belong to covertly?

The liberal democrats are just another form of terrorists we as Americans face.

I question also why any officer or commander would make such a statement without a regulation or directive to support why (sgli) would be denied. Maybe (AR Make It Up As We Go-100-DNC)

We will see soon that this witch's tale is just another sheehan-kennedy-kerry-durbin-klinton fear mongering intended to disrupt our soldiers morale.

RA All The Way,

60 posted on 01/15/2006 1:24:56 PM PST by No Surrender No Retreat (Xin Loi My Boy!!!!)
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