Report suggests Special Operations stuck buying their own equipment

U.S. Navy SEALs conducting training with SCAR rifles.

Special operations personnel are buying their own equipment and are not happy about it.

According to Stripes, former Navy SEAL Sean Matson said the military measured his head four times before multiple deployments, supposedly with plans to provide him a more advanced ballistic helmet.

However, the new helmet never materialized. During a deployment to Africa, Matson and six of his fellow SEALs paid about $900 each for helmets that held the lights, communications devices and batteries needed for their operations.

“There was never a clear solution to it, so guys were going out spending $800-$900 on their own ballistic helmet,” said Matson, who is now CEO of the military supply company Matbock.

Elite troops such as the SEALs and other units often find themselves dipping into their own pockets to purchase the latest and greatest military gear such as helmets, global positioning devices and medical supplies, according to Matson and others involved in the military’s unofficial civilian-side supply network who came to DC to meet with lawmakers on Thursday.

House lawmakers have taken notice and said they will demand an explanation from Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

“These are the guys we assume have the best gear all the time,” said California Representative Duncan Hunter, a Marine Corps combat veteran.

Hunter claimed special operations troops have been approaching him in his California district complaining about the inability to get needed materials and he has been investigating the issue.

While several individual instances point to a recurring problem in the military’s supply chain, the point of disconnect exists between the military vendors and the troops who need the equipment, Hunter said.

“It’s been impossible for me to find out how the money is getting stopped and why it is not going down to where it’s supposed to be,” he said.

Aaron Negherbon is the executive director of the nonprofit group Troops Direct, which ships needed and requested supplies to servicemembers who cannot get it through their commands. They have received requests for everything from tablets to boot laces.

Less than two days after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, Negherbon said he was contacted by the commander of a Marine Corps Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) that was being deployed there.

The commander told him the team lacked a variety of crucial equipment, including shooting supplies and batteries.

“They came to us for…batteries because they didn’t have any of those. It is kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on?’” Negherbon said.

According to Negherbon, troops often have to buy their own medical equipment such as tourniquets, and shell out about $1,000 each for their own helmets or $500 for GPS units.

“The question is, why can’t you get this?” Negherbon said, referring to the troops stuck without gear.

Often the answer seems to be a higher command does not have the money budgeted or the equipment was approved but not available from vendors.

“That is a good thing, we know where the problem is but [those issues] are very profound,” he said.

A small group of House Republican lawmakers gathered Thursday to hear the concerns.

Illinois representative and USAF veteran Adam Kinzinger said the military has to weigh the concerns of supplying needed equipment with the desire of troops to always have the newest gear on the market.

Despite this, Kinzinger said the supply chain inadequacies may become a major issue if deployments once again peak as they did in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

New York Representative and Army veteran Chris Gibson said the group should write a letter to Carter, expressing concern over supply chain breakdowns and the inability for elite troops to be supplied appropriately.

“If you’ve got a situation where unit is approved for an Ops Corps [brand ballistic] helmet and it’s not getting it, we need to understand what the problem is, that is unacceptable,” he said.

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Author

  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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