Body armour and security in the Middle East
Written by SafeGuard Armour
The Middle East has long been considered one of the most dangerous and unsettled regions in the world. Between the myriad conflicts, civil unrests and terrorists groups, the area is rife with combat and can be incredibly dangerous. The danger inherent to the area means that any security personnel need to be prepared for the numerous threats they will face. This also comes in conjunction with some specific requirements and considerations, meaning it is not enough to simply load up with armour.
Body armour can be of great benefit to security personnel, but can be a confusing area. The term ‘body armour’ covers a wide variety of products, from stab proof vests to helmets, and understanding exactly what is most appropriate for the requirements can be difficult. Similarly, body armour as an industry and as a product has developed significantly over recent years, to the point where protective clothing is more accessible and wearable than ever before. This is of great interest to security personnel, as it means that they can be protected without having their ability to perform properly hindered in any way.
Close protection work
One of the most important aspects of security work, especially in such high-risk environments, is providing clients with ‘close protection security’. It is the job of the security personnel to remain with their client and provide protection up close – the threats can vary depending on the situation, but will often be very serious. Whatever situation you are performing close protection in you will require ballistic protection. However, many are not aware that a bullet resistant vest is available in different levels depending on the ammunition it can protect against. Similarly, higher levels of protection can only be achieved with rigid materials, which will naturally add bulk and weight to a vest.
This is why it is so important that security personnel understand the threats they are likely to face, so they can choose the appropriate protection. It may be tempting to always wear rigid armour, as this can offer protection against even armour-piercing ammunition, but the extra weight and bulk will drain energy quicker – which will be particularly cumbersome in the arid heat common to the Middle East. This is especially true if the vest is being worn under clothing.
Close protection usually requires covert armour, i.e. armour worn underneath clothing. These vests are worn close to the skin, and are therefore usually lighter and thinner, whilst staying at the same protection level. These have the advantage of providing discreet protection, which is sometimes preferential for the client. Furthermore, some covert vests utilise materials specifically designed to help cool the wearer; again, a particular benefit in the Middle East.
On the other hand, an overt vest may be preferred for work in an active warzone, as it helps signal that you are prepared for an attack and displays your authority – which may be enough to deter some potential attackers. Moreover, overt armour can hold extra equipment with pockets and clips. The main advantage of overt armour for these environments, however, is the option for additional protection for the groin, neck, throat, and upper arm. This means you can be completely protected, though at some penalty to mobility.
Having overt armour with complete protection would be of benefit for those working in transit security, a major area in the Middle East. Security personnel working in transit security are tasked with protecting some incredibly high-value targets, and the threats they will face can be extreme. As discussed before, overt armour can be augmented with logos and insignia to make it a piece of uniform, which can help display authority and deter attackers. However, the main benefit is the option to have rigid plates inserted to protect against extreme threats. This, coupled with the protection for the arms and neck for example, can make overt armour perfect for transit security. Of course, with working in and around vehicles, mobility cannot be hindered, and vests must be suitable for sitting and standing. Most modern overt armour is lighter, thinner, and more flexible – and should not hinder security personnel in this field.
Ballistic protection and body armour
Bulletproof vests come in different levels according to the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) world –leading ballistics testing. The NIJ tests and grades bullet proof vests accordingly, and all body armour sold should have these classifications. The Level IIa bullet proof vest can protect against 9mm full metal jacketed round nose and .40 S&W full metal jacketed ammunition, which are commonly found in most handguns. The Level II armour offers the same level protection as the IIa, with the added benefit of stopping .357 Magnum jacketed soft points.
The highest level of soft armour is the Level IIIa, which not only provides the protection offered by the lower levels, but also protects against high velocity 9mm full metal jacketed round nose bullets and .44 Magnum jacketed hollow points. Ceramics and polyethylene are needed for rigid plates at higher levels, and the Level III hard armour protects against 7.62 full metal jacketed rifle rounds, while the Level IV can protect against .30 calibre AP bullets.
Things to remember
Armour is an absolute necessity for most security personnel, and indeed for anyone who works in an environment where there is the threat of attack and/or injury. Body armour is more accessible than ever because it is lighter and thinner thanks to modern materials and design. These materials also mean that armour is more protective, thereby making it more versatile and easier to wear.
Constant research and development means that armour is increasingly comfortable and flexible, and keep you mobile and protected in even the most hostile environments. All of this makes armour invaluable to all security personnel, but for those working in the Middle East, it is quite literally a life-saver. Anyone travelling to the Middle East should consider body armour, and those actively working there should have it. Just as important as choosing the most appropriate armour, however, is making sure it is worn. Too many are killed because they were not wearing their armour, and it is important that you utilise your protective clothing.