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Equipment & Capabilities Relevant capabilities and equipment are table stakes for winning those hearts and minds.

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Old 02-27-2008   #1
SWJED
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Default Marines Give Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) Thumbs Down

Marines Give Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) Thumbs Down.

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FOX News is reporting that Marine Commandant General James Conway is heeding his combat Marines' advice by ordering a halt to the rest of an unfilled order of Protective Products International's Modular Tactical Vest (MTV).

The Pentagon and Marine Corps authorized the purchase of 84,000 bulletproof vests in 2006 that not only are too heavy but are so impractical that some U.S. Marines are asking for their old vests back so they can remain agile enough to fight.

Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway wants to know who authorized the costly purchase of the nearly 30-pound flak jackets...
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Old 02-27-2008   #2
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I understand where the Marines are coming from. In Tal Afar, I didn't wear side SAPI, though encouraged. (later was mandatory). Too much bulk for the protection, and I felt comfortable enough to decide my risk. If all I did was ride in HMMWV's all day, I might have reconsidered, but walking patrols in all that armor is exhausting.

There comes a point where clear heads need to assess the intersection between prudent protection and hindrance to effective combat action. I've seen guys saved by their IBA after being shot in the vest - I'm definately not against it. But there is only so much one can take and have effective dismounted ability.

Travis Patriquin captured my sentiment well in the "How to win Al Anbar" powerpoint. You can be safe in the gear, but can't chase insurgents well. Even with good PT, a few hundred yards is all you can really run in the summer before overheating.

I also failed to understand why the USA and USMC couldn't agree on the "next gen" vest. <sigh>
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Old 02-28-2008   #3
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Both the USMC and USA vest are ridiculously over-sized. I'm been humping the MTV in country for three months now and I hate the thing. Like cavguy said, it's good for convoy work because of the extra protection, but I can barely move in it on a foot patrol. The answer is give plate carriers to those who dismount a lot and vests to those who do not. Guys like me, on a MTT team where I do both, may need both. What I wouldn't give to be able to wear a plate carrier on a patrol.
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Old 02-28-2008   #4
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Default I wore one...

and have worn both. While the MTV is heavier it wore better than the OTV;
As CAVGUY stated, I don't understand why the services can't come up with something better. The side SAPI's were a pain, and once you hung all your extra gear off either, you felt like you would fall over. SF doesn't seem to have a problem getting the type of gear they need why do more conventional units? It seems that wrt equipment conventional units come around years later, of course not all gear used by SF types is needed by conventional units.
One thing I did like about the MTV was the quick release ability, hit a couple of snaps on the shoulders, and you could drop it. Pull the draw string and it would drop the plates. I did notice slight differences in my model and newer models.
At some point a balance needs to be found between armor and mobility

Last edited by Boot; 02-28-2008 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 02-28-2008   #5
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Agreed. I like the design. It FEELS better than the old one, it's just too damn heavy. Get rid of all the kevlar and use the same design just as a plate/gear carrier and I'd like it.
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Old 02-28-2008   #6
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As someone who just got issued an MTV, I have to agree with all the other Marines here. Too heavy, absolutely, but wears much better than the OTV. The side SAPIs on the OTV felt like wearing wings.
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Old 02-28-2008   #7
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The problem comes from an incomplete understanding of survivability. They aren't taking into account that agility also contributes.
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Old 02-28-2008   #8
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Default Being ancient, I have no experience of

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Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
The problem comes from an incomplete understanding of survivability. They aren't taking into account that agility also contributes.
protective vests other than the 16 pound flak vest that was mandatory for all in contact in the 1 Mar Div in 1952. Having been there earlier when there were none, thankfully and having been in Viet Nam later where almost no one in the Army (other than the supply convoy drivers and gunners) wore one (again thankfully), I'm far more inclined to put faith in tactical sense and agility than in armor which will never be able to approach good protection much less provide total protection.

Different time, different wars I realize but my sensing is that there's a tactical cost to a 30-plus pound vest and that our risk aversion factor has been and is detrimental to infantry operations. YMMV.
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Old 02-28-2008   #9
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Xenophon,

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Guys like me, on a MTT team where I do both, may need both. What I wouldn't give to be able to wear a plate carrier on a patrol.
What I finally got smart enough to do was to have each team member put an Assault bag full of "might need" stuff in the truck. Many were the times where opportunity knocked and you wound up somewhere different then you intended - and as such th threat conditions changed based on either what you were doing, or what the enemy was doing - or if it went from night to day to night. It was easy just to keep the stuff in the trucks & do the PCIs an hour or so out from movment. Evrything from M67s to red smokes, extra 240 ammo, NVD batteries etc. If you lose your truck, or have to go where the truck can't you can make a decision about what goes and what stays.

Side SAPIs usually stayed in the truck - the result of realizing my 40 year old body could not jump as far as my 20 year old pride said it could - that one almost got me in 3 stories worth of hurt. On the other hand, I always tried to ensure my gunner (often a logisitics LTC or a FSNCO augmentee) had not only the best turret upgrades we could get on the truck, but also that the driver (an ADA 03 serving as an Intel type) understood where to halt so as to put the gunner in the best position and minimize the gunner's exposure / blind spots. This was often tough because when I was moving dismounted I always wanted the comms relay capability to raise air or communicate higher that I could not get on a MBITR - since that was a part of our mission.

All of that goes to force protection - the choices the driver makes, to the direction the gunner covers, to the ability to leverage good comms and bring in RW or other assets to a decision how to enter a house, etc. Do I believe in body armor - yes (I've seen it save quite a few lives) - but not to the point where it decides my actions for me.
Best, Rob

Last edited by Rob Thornton; 02-28-2008 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 02-28-2008   #10
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Default Gee, Rob,

That reads like you were ensuring each man had the equipment he needed to do his job, and wasn't loaded down with stuff he didn't need.

The same problem exists in system design. There's always lots of nifty stuff that could go on the system. But does the utility to the mission justify the added cost/mass/volume/complexity/etc.?
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Old 02-28-2008   #11
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You know - some of that stuff looks small (even when it comes in big cases with lots of foam padding), but it adds up quick - even batteries add weight. One of the best books I ever read was by SLA Marshall on the soldier's load (one of many great pieces he wrote). Everything you take on has a weight penalty just about - the question is "does it matter"?
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Old 02-29-2008   #12
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This has been one of my biggest pet peeved for years, the military's unwillingness or inability to think all the way through the problem. Body armor is a prime example. The thinkng seems to be "Bullets are bad ergo, things that stop bullets must be good." That is a bit of an oversimplification. But not as much as you would think. I had a team sergeant who used to joke about being issued a hundred pounds of lightweight equipment to carry. That joke isn't as funny as it used to be. The powers that be consider protection but don't consider weight or bulk or at least they don't seem to do so the way the soldier on the ground does. Combine that with commanders that cannot or will not allow subordinates to tailor the load to the mission and you have a problem.

We used to joke that it was only a matter of time before they started dipping us in concrete. We all thought that was pretty funny until we got orders to report to be fitted for rebar.

SFC W

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Old 02-29-2008   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
You know - some of that stuff looks small (even when it comes in big cases with lots of foam padding), but it adds up quick - even batteries add weight. One of the best books I ever read was by SLA Marshall on the soldier's load (one of many great pieces he wrote). Everything you take on has a weight penalty just about - the question is "does it matter"?
Best Rob
The Soldiers Load NEEDS to be read by the folks who mandate we wear this gear. It was required reading when I was a grunt in the 80's.
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Old 02-29-2008   #14
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Hey, Rob, Cavguy, Xenophon, etc. . .

Your guys interesting experiences beg the question, how much leeway do commanders (at whatever level) have in regards to load-out, armor packages and the like? This would seem to be another area where, since we certainly don't seem to have uniform standards of armor, allowing commanders to use their judgment of local conditions to determine armor and combat load standards might be a good idea . . .or do you not think so?

Additionally, I think the armor thing is another issue that is severely influenced by domestic politics, like MRAPs. The Marines got blasted a year or two ago when a study released that more advanced armor (the MTV, if I'm not mistaken) could have saved hundreds of Marine lives. Similar to how they're getting hit over the MRAP now. Whether out of ignorance or political motivations, this becomes a major concern and eventually a Congressional issue. And no Congressman is going to stand up and say "our troops DON'T need more armor" even if that's because they so heavily armored that they're less agile than the Michelin Man. Just as you can't say "we don't need so many MRAPs" because they're less COIN-friendly and less versatile and deployable than other multirole vehicles.

From that perspective alone, armor packages that commanders could scale up or down depending on conditions and intended duty would be best - at least from what I know about the issue. I'd be interested to hear what some of you have to say about it.

Regards,

Matt
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Old 03-01-2008   #15
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Default Just a general observation...

Matt,
Not quite the answer, but my perception wrt equipment is that our leaders seem to constantly look for the golden egg of equipment, that can do all and be all, all the time, not cost anything and when it doesn't well SOMEONE is going to pay dammit!.
I wore the MTV, but a lot of other gear I used and wore were my own, and I set my rig up what was best for me. It helped that I was in a joint organization and I had wide lanes to do my job. My motto was let them come out here and take it off my back if they don't like it. I was never questioned or given a second look, even when I would go out to II MEF...I found that many of the Marine MiTT's kind of operated the same way.
Army MiTT's depending on how tight the BCT they fell under and controlled them varied. Some MiTT teams flat disregarded the BCT, some couldn't take a crap without permission. One MiTT, I called "the pirates" flew the jolly roger and had long hair and facial hair, their equipment reflected their dress.
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Old 03-01-2008   #16
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Hi Matt,
Yes, I'm a believer in letting leaders tailor their load to the conditions of METT-TC. For non-military readers - Mission describes who is going where to do what to whom and why (could be enemy, terrain or friendly focused); Enemy - gets to the composition and disposition of the enemy; Terrain- looks at the impact of terrain and weather on operations - we often use obstacles, avenues of approach, key terrain, cover and concealment and observation; Troops - what are the types and quality of your own units and men; Time - how does time factor into the mission - can you take your time, should you, what advantages do the different takes on time offer you or offer the enemy; Civilian - what impact will civilians have on your operations - does the interaction with civilians mean you should include certain things on your load or exclude certain things?

The key is getting leaders to think through METT-TC, really I think this best happens at the company level and below during TLPs (the 8 step Troop Leading Procedures) and is checked by both the individual and the front line leaders when they do PCIs (Pre-Combat Inspections) - which ensure folks remembered to bring the things identified as needed for the mission - and potentially did not bring things that either might be compromising, or superfluous to the mission), and when they do PCCs (Pre-Combat Checks) where radios are checked for current fills, weapons and vehicles are checked for functionality, members are checked to ensure they know routes, key locations, and unit SOPs etc.

Now after awhile, if a unit is small, and homogeneous, and is conducting missions that SOPs can be developed for, it's prep time for unforeseen opportunities can go down - i.e. an IP station down the road gets hit with 2 SVBIEDs and your IA BN is responding to their aid, and they are leaving in 5 minutes - and you are headed out with them. Here is where contingency bags, full of lots of "what if" goodies might come in handy - gear that might not be part of the norm, but is good to have when conditions point to the unexpected (some of these might be left in the vehicles if you have secure storage - and just PCI'd as required - another SOP).

To talk a little bit about what Boot said and I had mentioned earlier, we were also unique, from the some of the other units operating in the AOR. For starters we had four field grade officers, an 03 and a 1SG as the team' core membership - that equates to a good deal of rank and experience in this case - we were augmented from other units to fill us out, and had some real talent that had come from supporting units - one of them (a ARNG medic E4 was on the ground when we got there - this guy was as much a pro as any - and as such we gave him a lot of responsibility and authority with how he did his job). We also lived outside the FOB on an IA COP - we got regular visits from the BCT CoC, and saw our own MiTT CoC pretty regularly, but everyone realized we had special conditions and as such needed to retain the authority commensurate with our responsibility to make decisions. We also demonstrated the professional maturity and judgment to counter any bad ideas issued in cookie cutter fashion.

Regarding modular armor. To talk about personal body armor is one thing, to consider it in terms of vehicle packages is another. Currently, adding or subtracting armor involves facilities, personnel, material handling equipment, etc. Protection measure in armor is heavy for the most part, or cost prohibitive. The process to upgrade 1114s and 1151s requires disassembly and reassembly to get it right - which is why MAREZ for example had a centralized AoA (Add on Armor) site - combined with the other things that make a vehicle a useful tool - its mobility, its ability to carry heavier weapons, more people and more powerful comms - getting the survivability enhancements right in a process that you can do a large amount of vehicles in an efficient and effective manner requires a professional process.

The only way I could see out of that for the current time would be to issue units a suite of vehicles to choose IAW the METT-TC conditions - depending on the scope, that could get cost prohibitive pretty fast (in more ways then just $$$ - such as logistics, maintenance, sustainment, training, etc.) - some units are justifiably equipped with enough capabilities to do so, some just can't be.

Best, Rob
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Old 03-01-2008   #17
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The one issue not mentioned is the CYA factor.

Kind of goes with Hackworth's "Bayonet" analogy in "About Face".

Johnny is an infantryman, and spends most of his time on dismounted patrols while his leadership engages the locals. He's a well trained, disciplined infantryman.

Johnny doesn't wear his side SAPI (for example), it's too heavy and he wants to chase insurgents, and he can't climb or move quickly enough to dodge incoming fire. His PSG and CO allow their soldiers to tailor his load, knowing he understands the risk.

Johnny gets shot (of course) right where the side SAPI would have been, and is killed.

Every death in Iraq requires a 15-6 (formal inquiry). The 15-6 reveals that if Johnny had been wearing side SAPI, he would be alive, but notes the policy of the chain of command. Per Army SOP, the report is revealed and briefed to Johnny's mom and dad, a hardworking, patriotic couple. They are outraged that their son would be alive if his leaders had ensure he wore the "best available" protection. They go to the media and congress, demanding answers as to why Johnny wasn't wearing his side SAPI, accusing his chain of command of blatant disregard for Johnny's life by not ensuring he was well protected.

The New York Times picks it up, and congressmen send numerous inquires to the Army about why individuals are not wearing body armor that could save their lives. The Army Chief of Staff, wanting to avoid such arguments and end the bad publicity, mandates that Side SAPI be worn by all soldiers in theater, regardless of the weight issues.

Now Joe is wearing his side SAPI, deltoid protectors, neck protectors, and groin protector. His orginal SAPI plates have been replaced by an enhanced SAPI plate, weighing an additional two pounds. Six months later, Joe is killed in the streets of Samarra, when in an ambush he was unable to move quickly enough to escape the kill zone. The 15-6 investigation concludes that Johnny's death was regrettable and due to enemy action, and Johnny had all the protective equipment the Army could provide, and was wearing it properly. The family accepts the sad news, and holds a distinguished burial, and speak to the press about what a good son he was.

======

That's the issue with much of SAPI, HMMWV Frag Kit 5, etc. You hear the politicians constantly harping on "not enough" or the "not the best"for the troops. Witness the DragonSkin controversy, which I understand is even heavier than the IOTV. At one point, they developed (no kidding) an armored spacesuit (air conditioned) for HMMWV gunners on long convoys.

We have become so casualty adverse that we are pushing our equipment decisions beyond common sense, and are unwilling to explain the trade-offs to the public, and the soldiers get treated like "boys" or "kids" and not the adults they are.
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Old 03-01-2008   #18
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Default Outstanding post and entirely too accurate.

It's a sad indictment of the nation and our political and chattering classes which have forced that attitude on the Armed Forces. There are some -- probably most -- families who would not rail about the issue; regrettably there are a few that will and they are allowed to drive the train due to political and media ignorance and pandering.

Shame there's not a way to obtain the counterpoint figures to show how much practical and tactical damage overemphasis on force protection has caused...

I will forego commenting on the foolishness of a 15-6 for each death, a precedent unlikely to be able to be followed in a more intense combat environment -- and a fallacious effort also forced on the services by the same elements of misplaced pressure.

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Old 03-02-2008   #19
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Default Rob,

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The only way I could see out of that for the current time would be to issue units a suite of vehicles to choose IAW the METT-TC conditions - depending on the scope, that could get cost prohibitive pretty fast (in more ways then just $$$ - such as logistics, maintenance, sustainment, training, etc.) - some units are justifiably equipped with enough capabilities to do so, some just can't be.
The other approach is to design the vehicles for inherent modularity. Think of it as a "plug and play" approach. The vehicle arrives in theater with the basic suite plus whatever add-ons reflect the best estimate of needs. As the operation/mission proceeds, capabilities are added or removed to reflect experience. In some cases (armor being an excellent example) that might require substantial support, but that would be available from both organic units and contractors.
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Old 03-02-2008   #20
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The other approach is to design the vehicles for inherent modularity.
That is kind of where the future is going. It was (and may still be) a key component of the FCS MGVs (manned ground vehicles). I think given the threats, future vehicles will probably be considered that way. However, there are some issues with it - anything modular implies it can be adjusted, or tailored - and provide flexibility - and this is good, but while a multi-tool, or even a crescent wrench is good - it may not be optimal - meaning a socket wrench might be the optimal tool.

This could get to some interesting (and tough) choices - you maybe can improve the "modular" choice to make it better at some or all of the jobs you might give it, but the cost to do so might be disproportional in the short run to just buying multiple vehicles - where you get a return on your investment is not having to sustain a larger inventory vs. the "one". This is still a tough call, because we've often dealt with over-engineered "things" that were so designed to everything equally well, that they wound up not anyone thing (including the original impetus for the thing) very well at all.

Quote:
In some cases (armor being an excellent example) that might require substantial support, but that would be available from both organic units and contractors.
I think this part may be unavoidable. I'm not exactly set on how I feel about this one. On the one hand the contractors I've seen in steady state operations have flat out provided incredible support (to our unit), on the other the risk of relying on contractors too much makes my gut hurt. They are fine folks, and certainly pulling their weight, and I believe will be a feature on the future battlefield - but we always need to acknowledge the risk of relying on them (or not)
Best, Rob
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