Does Your Body Armor Fit? | Military is Held Accountable for Injuries
As a combat veteran in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and in my experience as a police officer, I have worn just about every type or style of body armor on the market. I’ve worn multiple plate inserts inside a variety of plate carriers. The one thing I always noticed is how uncomfortable combat armor was. I know countless soldiers that have severe back, shoulder, and neck problems from wearing body armor that doesn’t fit them right.
This blog is dedicated to the new legislation, that inevitably will be passed in 2021, would hold the military accountable for injuries sustained by wearing body armor that doesn’t fit correctly. This proposed legislation is co-authored by Senators Tammy Duckworth and Joni Ernst, who both happen to be veterans.
Many people know Sen. Duckworth for her sacrifice in Iraq when an RPG took her helicopter down and lost both of her legs. She’s worn body armor many times and has experienced all the trials and tribulations of wearing body armor that doesn’t fit properly causing injuries and potential compromises in protection.
We’re all excited to see our leaders and heroes take a stand and strive to provide the proper protection for our men and women in uniform.
How is a Vest Supposed to Fit?
During my two tours to Iraq, I was given the standard issued body armor meant to be a catch-all for as many body shapes and sizes as possible. This means there is no customization, and it shows in the feel of the armor. I never even knew how armor should fit until I bought an after-market plate carrier on my second tour.
Body armor should be tight on your chest but not compress your chest or affect your breathing.
Body armor should move with your body, not independently. For example, the armor we’re issued is often so loose that when turning left, the body armor shifts right and vice versa.
Body armor should rest evenly on your shoulders to distribute the weight of the plates and gear. No armor the military has ever issued me distributed the weight properly.
If you lift your arms up, the body armor should not expose your stomach. If so, it’s too small, and you need a bigger plate carrier.
The plate inside the carrier should cover your heart and internal organs. Sometimes soldiers are unable to get the right size plate carrier. This will cause the armor plate to cover only part of your body, rendering the armor ineffective.
HOW DOES BODY ARMOR CAUSE INJURY?
During my second tour in Iraq, I wore about 80-100 lbs on my body, depending on if I was carrying my rifle or M249 SAW (machine gun). I would walk on patrol for around 5-10 miles per day in temps above 130℉. My plate carrier and armor would constantly slide around as I walked because it was too big for me.
This would continuously transfer the weight from shoulder to shoulder and would often pinch a nerve in my neck. After my day was over, my back and shoulders would feel similar to a minor car accident. I could barely lift my arms from the nerve pain and couldn’t sit down because my back hurt so bad. As soon as I bought an aftermarket plate carrier, the pain and discomfort went away, and I was always the freshest in my unit after each day.
WHAT ABOUT FEMALE SOLDIERS?
It’s no secret that the body armor we all wear as soldiers is designed to fit the largest amount of soldiers without having too many sizes. armor made for them.
As Sen Duckworth mentions in her plea for change, it’s not just about comfort and pain. Wearing armor that’s too big or too small can create more opportunities for our enemies to find openings in our armor.
"The smallest size they would have at certain points in time would be a men's medium or a men's large," Duckworth told Military.com in an interview this month. "That would lead to gaps ... at the collarbone where snipers could take advantage. It's not just about ill-fitting and not feeling comfortable ... but it's also an opportunity for our enemies to exploit."
It was ingenious for the Senator to go this route because more people will listen to safety issues over comfort issues. For example, if someone with enough clout in the government points out how armor technology is hurting American soldiers, Congress is more likely to provide funding to fix the issue.
If you’re interested in learning more about female body armor, check out our female body armor blogs, such as Body Armor for Women | Expedited Contract and Procurement for Proper Fitting PPE.
What Actions Are Proposed by Congress?
The Senate asks the military to provide proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for our soldiers, specifically female soldiers who are more at risk for body armor injuries. We fully agree that our soldiers shouldn’t have to purchase their own armor just to be safe and comfortable in a warzone.
According to the provision, each military branch (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard) would have to report to Congress by Jan 31, 2021. This report has to include the plan of each branch on its efforts to provide proper fitting PPE. They also have to inform Congress of the number of soldiers that have received the newest generation body armor by end of the year (2020).
Why Is This Important?
For anyone who’s ever worked with or inside the federal government, you know how slow and inefficient they can be at times. This provision is so important because it holds the military accountable for resolving these issues sooner rather than later. For example, it’s easy to say something will get fixed, but it’s different when a deadline is attached.
WHAT ELSE DOES THE PROVISION STATE?
This provision would also require each military branch to report injuries caused by body armor in one centralized location (i.e., an online reporting system). For example, if you’re in the military (DOD) and you’re hurt because the body armor you were issued doesn’t fit, you could claim disability with Veteran’s Affairs when your service is completed.
Why Is This Important?
It’s important because, for decades, the military has been less than transparent about the repercussions of wearing improper gear. Soldiers will often face criticism and backlash for reporting these types of injuries to superiors.
The provision will ensure the military is more transparent on the effects of ineffective PPE. Soldiers who are injured as a result of issued PPE will be able to have a paper trail for their VA claim in the future, as well.
CAN SHOTSTOP® HELP?
ShotStop® believes in providing our men and WOMEN in uniform with proper PPE. We’re continuing our research and development in the newest technologies available, with an emphasis on hard plate inserts for women in law enforcement and the military. We don’t have any definitive information on when to expect a release date, but our engineers are working hard on fixing these issues.
WHY CHOOSE SHOTSTOP®?
ShotStop® may not have official hard plate inserts for women yet, but we do have the lightest, thinnest, and most dependable body armor available on the market today. Our Level III ICW armor is perfect for law enforcement and weighs only 2.4 lbs. per plate!
This is dramatically lower than any other rifle protection on the market and will help many servicewomen (and men) to have to go through the weight-displacement and load-bearing injuries that I and thousands of others have experienced. Ounces equal pain for active duty and it can last a lifetime. This is why we are so excited about enabling Duritium® solutions created by and exclusively manufactured by ShotStop®.