Vulnerable Mexican Troops Lacked Body Armor
Now the army is getting ballistic plates — years into the drug war
The marines are the best-equipped — and widely considered the most reliable — force within the Mexican military. As cartel violence metastasized, the marines emerged as the go-to force for taking down drug lords with daring helicopter raids. The marines also benefited from a perception that they’re less corruptible.
However, the army suffered, especially when it came to body armor. The Mexican army has its own specialized counter-narcotics groups in the special forces, but these troops have lacked enough armored plates. The troops’ flak jackets apparently do not always contain ballistic inserts to stop high-powered rifle rounds, such as from the Kalashnikov.
In January, the Mexican military bought more than 4,400 ballistic inserts for the army for $2.1 million — plus more spending on portable bulletproof “room-clearing” shields.
At top — Cfrausto/Flickr photo
Reforma reported that special forces troops “during infiltration operations … lack ballistic protection.” The U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office took note of the buy, and wrote that press coverage justified it “in the context of defense from criminal attack, but, in reality, this equipment will be limited to forces conducting offensive operations.”
In other words, the gear is for army commandos conducting raids — and hunting down cartel leaders — like their marine counterparts.” Despite Mexican President Peña Nieto’s desire to hand domestic security operations over to civilian forces, the Mexican military remains the most capable and trusted force for combating drug cartels,” the FMSO wrote.
The bigger question is why it took so long for Mexican troops to get more and better body armor.
But look at the U.S. military, which had shortfalls in ballistic plates for years during the Iraq war. The Mexican army has a much smaller budget. Then there’s the fact that the Mexican military never expected a prolonged war with well-armed drug cartels. For the U.S. military, it never foresaw how serious the Iraq insurgency would become.