Being a journalist or a humanitarian worker is not an easy or safe job even if you are at home, let alone on the front lines. Speaking truth about power can often paint a target on your back, and many people don’t look kindly on you providing medical or humanitarian aid to those they regard as the enemy. Because you don’t want some zealot to forsake international law and harm you, you need to wear humanitarian or media armor that will protect you from such a thing.Generally, while the protective capabilities of frontline civilian armor would be the same as with military models, the layout and appearance of this armor will not be. There are four main differences between military and non-combat frontline armor:
Color – don’t wear green or tan
Weight – don’t make it too heavy
Gear – no pouches, sacks, or holsters
Designation – always wear a patch with your job title and no nation flags
Also, while some members of the press would be allowed to carry sidearms in a combat zone, this is usually frowned upon. Carrying rifles and similar weapons is out of the question and would disqualify you as a non-combatant target instantly.Those who want to buy humanitarian and media armor for the front lines will find several options for sale. But, regardless of the price or manufacturer, you should never take something looking like a military-issue armor plate carrier into a combat zone if you are not a solider.
Civilian Armor for the Front Lines
When it comes to protection on the front lines or even near the combat zone, you want to have a good external carrier with a front plate. If somebody doesn’t see your marks or gets spooked, they will shoot to the center of mass and you want to have that part protected.But, unlike military armor, tactical advantage won’t be a big concern for you. You don’t want to even get close to places where there is active shooting, and your primary concern is to find a safe place if you do. Because of that, you need to stay mobile in your armor.As snipers will usually take their time and notice the color and patches of your armor, you don’t always need plates that protect from armor-piercing bullets. Something like an NIJ Level III+ will be enough and will protect your vitals while keeping you very mobile.Also, you don’t want to enter unsecured buildings, structures, or go near something that might be explosive. IEDs are the true threat of the battlefield and, unlike soldiers, booby-traps don’t discriminate about who they hurt.
How to Choose Your Humanitarian or Media Armor?
Your first priority for any action will be mobility. Your armor needs to be as light as possible and not encumbered with too much gear. Take just what you need and do what you can with that.Added mobility is not only essential for the primary task of the media and humanitarian missions, but also for survivability. If the situation changes and you need to evacuate quickly, you want to be able to react without being fatigued or distracted.Once you know what weight is ideal for you, consider how to attach all of your gear to be accessible and secured and what fits in that kit. Putting on too many pouches or wearing a backpack can be dangerous, so you want to have specialized compartments for some items like lenses or maintenance kit.Finally, you want to stay very visible. Don’t ever select a vest or PC in green or tan, and make sure your gear doesn’t resemble weapons. Especially for media members taking pictures from vantage points, make sure that you are easily noticed as a non-combatant. The lens flare can easily be mistaken for a sniper scope, and you want the over-watch to see clearly how you are not another sniper, but a journalist.
Clear, Marked and Filmed
Body armor for humanitarian workers and members of the media must serve two purposes. It needs to stop the bullet from going for your vitals from injuring you, but it should also prevent anyone from even shooting. Soft armor is out of the question in a war zone, and it is usually better to buy your own full kit than to pick one up from a military surplus.You will need to wear non-camouflage armor. While black and blue are acceptable, red and teal are even better. If you are wearing green body armor, wear a bright jacket or a poncho over it that also reads PRESS or RED CROSS.Finally, it is always wise to use your gear to film everything that is happening at all times. Use the utility features and webbing of your armor to attach a body camera. This will dissuade anyone from taking some action that can be seen as against international law.