Armor Up

No, I’ve never worn one of those Hurt Locker-style bomb squad suits, but I have worn a bulletproof vest, for the very good reason that I was going to get shot and die.

Again, this was part of the contracted work for the Army training, and I would be playing an insurgent, who would fire an RPG at an Army Stryker convoy and then flee in such a way as to allow myself to be shot by the soldiers manning the other Strykers.  This all involved hidden wire-guided rockets and pre-planted mortars full of effects charges, but it also involved my having to be realistically shot.  And since there was a better-than-average likelihood that the first soldier to respond would be hosing me with one of the mounted M2 .50 BMGs, I couldn’t just go “Agh!” and fall down.  No, I was a Taliban insurgent, and therefore I had to scream “AIEEEEE!” and fall down.

I kid, I kid.

No, there was no screaming required.  What I had to do instead was replicate, as much as possible, being hit by a high-powered weapon that was originally developed to kill people inside tanks.  Basically, I needed to erupt in a cloud of blood.  And to do this, I needed to wear four fairly vigorous explosive squibs with baggies of red powder taped over them, which were set into brass plates that were mounted onto said bulletproof vest.  I had a “hitter” (also called a “pickle”) that was basically a battery and a button, and when I heard the gunfire, I would throw my Arabic garments open (the costume department preferred we didn’t actually shred the Arabic outfits if we could help it) and hit the pickle, setting off all four charges simultaneously.  On my own personal body.

“And then I fall down?” I asked.

“I doubt you’ll have much choice,” the guy helping me into the gear said dryly.

The bulletproof vest was so that the impact of the charges going off would be spread out over my body, and keep me from being injured.  The vest – (we’re getting to the point here) – was very heavy and bulky and hard to move in comfortably.  But when I heard those words – even though I was fairly sure he was razzing me – it also felt very small and inadequate.

It all turned out to be okay, and the biggest problem I had was lying face down on hot asphalt for 45 minutes while the soldiers practiced towing the “damaged” Stryker out of the “kill box.” (Protip: when engaged in a scenario that requires playing dead for an extended length of time, be sure to “die” in a shady spot.) 

But at the time, if I could have exchanged that vest for a suit that looked more like this one, I probably would have done it.

— Bob out.