This issue of armor is one that I’m intimately aware of. I was on the Kuwait/Iraq border for six months prior to the kick off of the war. I’m a Master Sergeant in the US Army (I was a Staff Sergeant during the war - promoted to Sergeant First Class on the battlefield of Fallujah). I’ve been on active duty since 1995. I don’t belong to a political party and don’t endorse either party touted in these ads. So, I’m going to stick to the military issues.
There many problems and inconsistencies with THIS video that I’d like to bring up. I really think the people sponsoring (and starring in) this political advertisement need to stand up and explain themselves.Â And the targets of the video need to know the truth.
Here’s the BLUF (bottom line up front): as Paul said, the entire ad is false and misleading about the nature of the vest to begin with. It’s not hard to debunk many of the facts with just a little research.Â It’s harder to find out who this Pete Granato character really is.
When I deployed to Kuwait in September of 2002, I was issued the older style flak vest shown in the video. The vest is not a Vietnam-era vest, which was already discussed. We’ve come a long way since then. It is designed to protect the wearer from the effects of blasts of ricochets. There are inserts for the vests that soldiers are issued if they need to be used for small arms fire protection. Notice that isn’t mentioned anywhere in the ad.
When we got word around January that we were no longer in Kuwait to train, but we were to prepare for war, the Army was quick to begin upgrading everyone to the new armor. What the ad also neglects to include is that the Army was already 4 years into a 10-year contract to upgrade all the old flak vest to the new Interceptor body armor shown. It was started in 1999. Obviously, the people on the priority list were the Special Forces units followed by what we called the “ground pounders” - the infantry, artillery, scouts and other combat arms soldiers. The contract wasn’t supposed to be completed until about 2009 and the manufacturers weren’t geared up to provide it quicker than we needed it at the time even if we had the proper funding.
Almost immediately after getting the word, we began to upgrade our personal protection. Those that were going to be on the front lines of combat were given the new body armor and production was slightly increased. What people seem to forget, and the ad doesn’t mention, is that we ALL thought the Iraq war was only going to be a typical force-on-force battle. We understood there may be a few idiot Saddam Fedayeen out there to try and blow things up, but didn’t think defeating the Army and controlling Iraq was going to be this difficult. And understatement? Yeah, probably. But, this wasn’t just a civilian, political feeling. This was the feeling of the intelligence community and military as well. In fact, many areas DID greet us with flowers and kisses.Â (Bob Woodward’s seemingly perfect 20/20 hindsight vision manages to dig up people who alluded to an insurgency possibility in his new book, by the way.)
The feeling at the beginning was that the only people that needed the ballistic Interceptor vest were the guys getting shot at. The traditional support guys who only moved up when it was safe didn’t have anything to worry about historically nor at the time. Because of that, not all of them had the new body armor. Among the soldiers on the ground, armor was consolidated and given to those that needed it. With that said, I can’t think of many people in my Brigade who had the old body armor when we crossed the border, but it happened.Â I’m willing to bet my paycheck that Mr. Granato wasn’t in the Infantry or a position of need if he had the old armor in 2003.
When the insurgency kicked off, the military pushed into high gear to get this stuff issued to protect our soldiers. If anyone voted against “protecting our troops” it wasn’t done intentionally. The military feeling was that it wasn’t needed at the time. Armor began to flow into Iraq as fast as it could be created. When we left Iraq and set foot in Kuwait, the first thing we all did was turn in all our armor and plates and it was given to incoming troops going to Iraq. This happened with EVERY unit leaving theater. We all returned with the old flak vest which was turned in to supply and never seen again. Remember, Granato, the Reservist in the ad, was in Iraq the same time I was and the insurgency hadn’t hit full kilt yet until 2004.
As is always the case, the National Guard weren’t as well-equipped as the active forces. They belong to their states when not called to Federal service. It is the states’ responsibility to equip and man the Guard during that time.
So, there is a critical question that needs to be asked when viewing this ad. The first is, “who is Pete Granato, U.S. Army Reserves?” Was he an infantry soldier kicking down doors who NEEDED the new vest right away because he was in bigger danger of being shot? Or was he the finance guy handing out checks and ensuring soldiers got their combat zone tax exclusion correctly? Both people are immeasurably important in the Army, but the obvious point is that they both don’t need the same protections. I’ve done exhaustive research to find out who he is and can’t find anything. I even searched the Army’s personnel roster, which includes Guard, Reserve, Active, Civil Service and family members. He’s obviously not in the Army anymore so he doesn’t show up.
If Granato was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and didn’t get the new armor, he wasn’t in any danger.Â When we were still fighting a traditional war, the support guys stayed out of harm’s way for the most part.Â Everyone that was on the front lines had the proper armor shown in the video.Â I’m not sure if Pete is just angry because he spilled his coffee on his family pictures or just bitter that he wasn’t shot to prove an important point.Â Either way, the video is misleading and incorrect.