Military News you may have missed – September 1, 2010

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Military Helmet Sensor Data: What does it show?

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Two years ago, sophisticated sensors were implanted in military helmets of some 7,000 troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The purpose of the sensors was to evaluate the extent of concussions and  brain trauma injuries caused by IEDs and other combat related incidents.  According to the military video shown below, data from these sensors was downloaded monthly to a computer terminal  and then forwarded to a “secure” data center in Aberdeen, MD for analysis.

 

To date, SFTT is not aware that the Department of Defense (DOD) has shared any of this information with the public. However, the recent decision by the military to award a new helmet sensor contract to BAE Systems strongly suggests that we are dealing with no trivial issue.  Indeed, the recent release of the comprehensive US Army report entitled Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention and increased media attention at the extent of brain trauma injuries within the military would argue that greater public disclosure is well-advised to deal with this growing problem.

As recent history shows, the US Army and DOD are unwilling to share relevant data with the public that might suggest that the equipment provided to our brave warriors is deficient.   In fact, Roger Charles, the Editor of SFTT, was obliged to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to obtain forensic records of troops killed with upper torso wounds to evaluate the effectiveness of military-issue body armor.   A  federal judge in Washington, D.C. recently ordered the Army’s medical examiner to release information about the effectiveness of body armor used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or to justify the decision to withhold it.  For Roger Charles and those in SFTT who have followed this issue for several years, it is unlikely that the US Army will open their kimono and confirm what most already know:  the body armor issued to our troops was not properly tested and is most likely flawed.

Full disclosure is generally the “right” decision and it would be useful for the US Army to share the helmet sensor data with the public to help address a growing problem for the men and women who have served in harm’s way and their families.   The American public can handle the truth!

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U.S. Government Loses FOIA Ruling on Body Armor Records

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Thanks to superb pro bono legal representation by a team from the NYC office of Kirkland & Ellis, LLC, a federal district judge has issued his ruling on SFTT’s editor’s request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) for forensic records held by the Department of Defense regarding the performance of government-issued body armor. The ruling was characterized in the following way by a news service covering legal issues:

U.S. Loses FOIA Ruling on Body Armor Records

 (CN) – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered the Army’s medical examiner to release information about the effectiveness of body armor used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or to justify the decision to withhold it.   (For the complete Courthouse News article, see: http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/08/16/29630.htm )       

As supporters of SFTT know, we have, to no avail, for several years requested that these records be reviewed by the appropriate oversight bodies of the US Congress. It was only after this baffling refusal that SFTT’s editor requested the records under the FOIA. To no one’s surprise, DOD denied SFTT’s request.   Under the brilliant guidance and with the incredible support of Kirkland & Ellis’ NYC office, SFTT’s editor filed a new request, and that request was basis for the complaint in federal district court upon which the judge issued this ruling.    

In preliminary filings DOD admitted that for the two calendar years (2006 and 2007) for which records were requested 103 KIA’s died from ballistic wounds to the torso. It further admitted that only 51 of these 103 KIA’s (49.5%) had body armor plates shipped back to the US for forensic examination,  and that these 51 KIA’s had a total of 155 plates returned with the “service members.”

Of these 51 KIA’s, 18 had “body armor description sheets with information responsive” to the SFTT editor’s FOIA request. (By DOD’s own definition, a “body armor description sheet” indicates that the “body armor is not perfectly intact.”)

Assuming that only one body armor protective plate was struck in each KIA’s tactical engagement, that means that a staggering 35.3% (18 of 51) of the plates were “not perfectly intact.”       

It’s hard to imagine that DOD would not release these records if they proved that although 35% of the KIA’s during the specified two-year period for whom even fairly complete records exist had “not perfectly intact” plates, not a single KIA resulted from penetration of the plates.

 

So, why has DOD not released the responsive records, i.e., the Firearm Wound Charts and body armor description sheets?

Roger Charles

Editor SFTT

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Military News you may have missed – August 22, 2010

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Shared News from SFTT – August 14, 2010

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  • *US* Marine Corps must redefine mission: Gates

    August 14, 2010 – Not sure it makes a lot of sense for the Marine Corps to redefine their mission. Isn’t that the responsibility of the Secreatry of Defense in consultation with the other military service components, Congress and other govenment Departments and agencies?

  •  Fallen Heroes: Army Spc. Faith R. Hinkley

    August 14, 2010 – Excellent point. Despite the wind-down in Irag our brave heroes are still exposed to constant danger. SFTT salutes Spc. Faith Hinkley and extend our heartfelt condolences to her friends and family.

  •  Remains of American MIAs to be returned to *U.S.*

    August 12, 2010 – We salute you and welcome you home.

  • *Military* mentor rules revised – Army News, news from Iraq, – Army *…*

    August 12, 2010 – What have they got to hide? What is the difference between a “mentor” and a “lobbyist”? With countless GAO studies suggesting an unhealthy relationship between vendors and the military procurement process, the least Secretary Gates can do is to require vendors to publically disclose all former military and DOD civilian officials who have received more that $10,000 in commissions or non-salary compensation. Similary, the military should do the same for Mentors or Consultants. Make those 1099s public.

  • Chairman of Joint Chiefs: Wartime focus shifting

    August 12, 2010 – We often take our brave young heroes for granted, but clearly there are serious “unintended consequences” of prolonged deployments, short rotation periods and the rigors of fighting wars in Afghanistand and Iraq. SFTT applauds the recent disclosures and initiatives taken by the military leadership to deal with the mental and physical well-being of our men and women in uniform.

  • Most troops will get longer home stays between *war*-zone deployments

    August 12, 2010 – This is very good news. Clearly, shortened rotations were cited in the recent US Army Report on Suicide Prevention as a factor in contributing to high stress among our men and women in uniform.

  •  BAE Systems Displays Ultra Lightweight Warrior (ULW) Infantry *…*

    August 7, 2010 – The development and deployment of light and effective body armor is to be applauded. Nevertheless, considering the US Army’s and DoD’s shoddy test procedures and questionable contract awards as documented in GAO studies, we are hopeful that all new military protective gear is properly tested and its suppliers vetted.

  •  A Sergeant’s Suicide Brings The Battle Home

    August 7, 2010 – A recurring tragedy that ravishes the families of the brave heroes who serve in harm’s way. With recent release of the US Army report on Suicide Prevention, we are hopeful that our frontline troops get the medical and psychiatric attention they deserve to deal with this serious problem.

  •  Forced *U.S.* military extensions to end

    August 7, 2010 – This is welcome news indeed, give the level of stress and uncertainty that this placing on the young men and women serving in harm’s way.

  •  *US* Troops Can’t Access WikiLeaks Website, ‘The Washington Times’ Reports

    August 7, 2010 – Surely you must be kidding me? Lots of jokes come to mind – like the mushroom in the basement – but obviously quite a few Pentagon staffers were out doing their inane version of damage control. Doesn’t it seem fair that our troops deserve the same level of intelligence that our enenmies have or do we feel compelled to provide them with a sanitized version?

  •  *Afghanistan war*: Will the new Petraeus rules of engagement make troops safer?

    August 7, 2010 – While there is no question that safeguarding the lives and safety of non-combatant civilians is a critical component of any military operation, it places a huge strain on on US forces policing what has now become a civil or tribal war in Afghanistan. When you insert a clause that permit US troops to respond aggressively in self-defense, you are advocating a military doctrine that is open to interpretation and pretty much useless.

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Military News you may have missed – August 8, 2010

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  •  BAE Systems Displays Ultra Lightweight Warrior (ULW) Infantry *…*

    August 7, 2010 – The development and deployment of light and effective body armor is to be applauded. Nevertheless, considering the US Army’s and DoD’s shoddy test procedures and questionable contract awards as documented in GAO studies, we are hopeful that all new military protective gear is properly tested and its suppliers vetted.

  •  A Sergeant’s Suicide Brings The Battle Home

    August 7, 2010 – A recurring tragedy that ravishes the families of the brave heroes who serve in harm’s way. With recent release of the US Army report on Suicide Prevention, we are hopeful that our frontline troops get the medical and psychiatric attention they deserve to deal with this serious problem.

  •  Forced *U.S.* military extensions to end

    August 7, 2010 – This is welcome news indeed, give the level of stress and uncertainty that this placing on the young men and women serving in harm’s way.

  •  *US* Troops Can’t Access WikiLeaks Website, ‘The Washington Times’ Reports

    August 7, 2010 – Surely you must be kidding me? Lots of jokes come to mind – like the mushroom in the basement – but obviously quite a few Pentagon staffers were out doing their inane version of damage control. Doesn’t it seem fair that our troops deserve the same level of intelligence that our enenmies have or do we feel compelled to provide them with a sanitized version?

  •  *Afghanistan war*: Will the new Petraeus rules of engagement make troops safer?

    August 7, 2010 – While there is no question that safeguarding the lives and safety of non-combatant civilians is a critical component of any military operation, it places a huge strain on on US forces policing what has now become a civil or tribal war in Afghanistan. When you insert a clause that permit US troops to respond aggressively in self-defense, you are advocating a military doctrine that is open to interpretation and pretty much useless.

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Military News Items You May Have Missed – July 31, 2010

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  • Google Alerts – body armor – Former *Body*-*Armor* Executive on Trial for Fraud – Blogrunner

    July 27, 2010 – This long trial is finally drawing to a close. It is sad to think that body armor used by the majority of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq have been supplied by a company run by Mr. Brooks. Point Blank Armor is now in Chapter 11. Can’t we do better for our troops?

  • Google Alerts – military helmets – Better armor, *helmets* expected soon | *Military* Daily News

    June 14, 2010 – Certainly, improved body armor and helmets for Marines serving in harm’s way is to be applauded. Unfortunately, inadequate testing procedures cited in DoDIG and GAO reports and irregular contract awards call into question the integrity of our military procurement process. Who is say it will be better this time around.

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How you can support our troops with more than lip service

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I have been pondering for some time what more I could do to help promote Soldiers For The Truth’s Basic 5 Campaign. My latest effort has been to inform politicians running for congressional and statewide offices of our cause. Politicians are never more accessible than when running for office, so my plan is to take advantage of that situation and that is what I did!

Last Saturday I attended a private reception in Arkansas for several politicians running for Congress, both US Senate and the House of Representatives, and several running for statewide positions (Governor, Lt. Gov. & Secretary of State). All of them were unaware of the issues that our soldiers face with body armor, helmets & helmet liners, rifles, side arms and boots until I informed them.

By taking advantage of this situation I was able to educate them about the plight of our troops with respect to The Basic 5 and the mission of Soldiers For The Truth and lobby them for their future support if elected.

Private receptions generally are a matter of paying to attend, not a specific party affiliation. Many can be very low cost to attend such as the one I attended for only $50 per person. For $50 I received complete access to all of the candidates in attendance. Once I started speaking to them about Soldiers For The Truth and the Basic 5, I was able to engage them actively in the conversation. One politician put it very well by saying,  “Who could not support that effort”!

The key points that I outlined were as follows:

  • Let me tell you about a non-profit organization that I am involved with that only wants the BEST personal protective equipment for our troops serving in harm’s way, Soldiers For The Truth.  I was clear to tell them that we do not want money, but “their help” in getting what our troops need to have and the best opportunity to accomplish their mission and come home alive and in one piece!
  • Fact: Our troops do NOT have the best available body armor and that better commercially available body exists, but our troops are not allowed to wear it. The Army has issued a “Safety of Use” message banning all commercially available body armor even though a law exist that allows soldiers to buy commercially available armor, and to be reimbursed. But, then in its latest Catch-22, the Army will promptly confiscate it!
  • Fact:  The helmets that are issued to our soldiers will not stop a bullet and are merely compressed Kevlar fibers in the shape of a helmet! The helmet support pads issued by the military causes as many injuries as they try to prevent. This because the issued pads transmit too much of the shock wave from an IED blast and the fact that they burn when exposed to fire after an explosion. The fact is that the incidence of head, face and neck burns have climbed exponentially. Also, Operation Helmet has sent 51,000 sets of helmet pad upgrades to our troops and their pads are fire retardant!
  • The rifle (M-16 & M-4) are a 55 year old design and even with the upgrades through the years can jam (and do so frequently in harsh environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan) and the small caliber bullets lack the lethality needed in the war on terror. Also, it’s been recently revealed about the Wanat Valley incident in Afghanistan July 2008 where our soldiers were engaged in an hours-long fire fight that many of the rifles failed to continue to fire as that fire fight drug on. This resulted in the loss of 9 of our troops and many more wounded. I pointed out that the Army’s response was to study changes to the current rifle or adopting 1 of 2 other rifles after a 2 years study! I emphasized after a 2 year study!
  • The pistol we issue is ineffective, lacks enough lethality and has inherent problems that have caused many injuries to our troops and even some deaths!
  • The boots we issue our troops are not proper for the mission, climate or terrain. Many soldiers who can afford them buy a different set of boots to use in combat!  The heat in our theaters of combat absolutely cooks a soldier’s feet in the issued boots. Many soldiers are forced to wear them anyway because they cannot afford the $150 or more to buy a mission appropriate boot!
  • After covering these items (which can be done in a few short minutes), I asked for their help and support. Not one said that they would not help support our cause! Now I am aware that “lip service” is routinely given to pacify a constituent, but all I spoke to seemed sincere. Not being naïve, I fully realize that they will need to be reminded of the issues and the commitment they gave me to help if elected!

As I stated in the beginning; NONE of the politicians were aware of any of the issues concerning the “BASIC 5” pieces of equipment. If we do not expend the effort to tell them, inform them, prompt them and prod them, then things will never change and we’ll continue to have needless preventable loss of our troop’s lives.

The sad fact is that soldiers die in war. But, if they had been issued or simply allowed to use the BEST personal protective equipment available, many deaths would have been prevented.

What have YOU done today to make a difference and help our troops serving at the tip of the spear?

Isn’t it time you started to make a difference for them?

The time for action is now!  With the current political environment many new House members and Senators may take office, and access to those currently serving has never been easier. If they remain unaware of the BASIC 5, then we can expect that our troops will continue to die needlessly without the gear that could very well save their lives!

Action you can take today to make a difference:

  • Make a donation to Soldiers for the Troops.
  • Download and print the SFTT brochure and pass it to your friends and inform them of the problems our troops face.
  • Call your Senators and Congressman today and ask them for action on the BASIC 5 and be prepared to tell them what the BASIC 5 is!
  • Call the office of your State’s Governor and demand that they insist that the National Guard has access to the BEST 5 pieces of equipment!

Nothing will change unless you take the steps necessary to make it happen. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen & marines  do so much for us, isn’t it time that we repay them and do something to help them? I say yes and the time is now.

John Grant

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Point Blank Solutions Bankruptcy Proceedings

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Reuters reports that unsecured creditors of Point Blank Solutions Inc. have asked the Delaware bankruptcy court to appoint an examiner or Chapter 11 trustee to displace the company’s board. 

According to the Reuters news release,  “the official committee of unsecured creditors claimed that the company had placed the interests of insiders above maximizing value of the business.  The filing claims that “restructuring alternatives had benefited Steel Partners, which provided Point Blank with a $20 million debtor-in-possession loan.”   According to the filing, Steel Partners controls the Point Blank Solutions Board of Directors and, as such, unsercured creditors believe that their interests are not adequately addressed.

Point Blank Armor, a subsidiary of Point Blank Solutions,  reportedly supplies more than 80 percent of the U.S. military’s soft body armor vest requirements, according to court documents.   It has been involved in a number of litigations and SEC investigations.

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Rules of Engagement: Battlefield Dilemma

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The Washington recently aired a story on the increased frustration with the “Rules of Engagement” governing military personnel deployed in Afghanistan.  The story, written by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, documents several incidences where US troops under attack were not able call in additional support for fear of wounding or killing civilians.  Said one disgruntled soldier interviewed for the Washington Post article, ‘”this is not how you fight a war, at least not in Kandahar, we’ve been handcuffed by our chain of command.”

According to the Washington Post article, the current “Rules of Engagement” stem from a tactical directive issued last July (2009) by former commander of military forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, “that limits the use of air and mortar strikes against houses unless personnel are in imminent danger. The directive requires troops to take extensive measures, including a 48-hour ‘pattern of life analysis’ with on-the-ground or aerial surveillance, to ensure that civilians are not in a housing compound before ordering an air strike.”

At his confirmation hearing, General David Petraeus claimed that he would review the directive and most believe that it will be modified in response to increasing claims that US military forces are exposed to undue risk under the current Rules of Engagement.   Nevertheless, in a typical display of self-denial and Pentagon-spin, an unidentified military official claims not to have “found a single situation where a soldier has lost his life because he was not allowed to protect himself,” according to the Washington Post.  If so, why do we need to change the directive which seeks to protect civilian non-combatants?  Clearly, the increased casualty levels in Afghanistan strongly suggests that current “Rules of Engagement” or tactical directives limit the effectiveness and, as such, the safety of military troops currently deployed in Afghanistan.

SFTT is committed to making sure that our young men and women who serve in harm’s way receive the best combat equipment and protective gear available.  SFTT refers to those as the Basic Five:

  • Body Armor that wards off fatal wounds;
  • Comfortable helmets that protect against traumatic brain injuries;
  • A lethal and reliable rifle;
  • A pistol with effective stopping power;
  • Boots that endure and provide comfort during combat.

While the DOD and US Army do not have a very convincing procurement record of making sure our troops have the best possible combat gear, tactical doctrines which expose them to even greater danger must be carefully examined.  SFTT has written on several occasions that current military doctrine appears to expose the grunts on the ground to even greater danger.  If so, shouldn’t they have the best protect gear and combat equipment available to protect themselves and succeed in their mission?

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