Friday, December 10, 2004

Armor Scarce for Big Trucks Transporting Cargo in Iraq

Armor Scarce for Big Trucks Transporting Cargo in Iraq:
“Congress released statistics Thursday documenting stark shortages in armor for the military transport trucks that ferry food, fuel and ammunition along dangerous routes in Iraq, while President Bush and his defense secretary both spoke out to defuse public criticism.

Soldiers confronted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday with complaints that the Pentagon was sending them to war without enough armored equipment to protect them. One soldier who challenged Mr. Rumsfeld was apparently prompted by a reporter traveling with his unit. The commander of American ground forces in the Middle East responded Thursday to the complaints with a vow to provide armored transportation into Iraq for all troops headed there.

"The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is, we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment," Mr. Bush said. "And I have told many families I met with, we're doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones in a mission which is vital and important."

The House Armed Services Committee released statistics on Thursday showing that while many Humvees are armored, most transport trucks that crisscross Iraq are not.

The committee said more than three-quarters of the 19,854 Humvees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait carry protective armor, which can vary in quality. The most secure are factory-armored Humvees, and the Pentagon has received only 5,910 of the 8,105 that commanders say they need. But only 10 percent of the 4,814 medium-weight transport trucks have armor, and only 15 percent of the 4,314 heavy transport vehicles.

The uproar has exposed some of the most crucial challenges facing the Pentagon: how to equip and train troops for a war whose very nature has changed.”

A resourceful insurgency has seized on an American vulnerability - the shortage of armored vehicles - and attacked supply lines with roadside bombs. These trucks are driven primarily by reservists, while a much greater percentage of active-duty soldiers are deployed in direct combat, and disparities between these troops have already prompted the Defense Department to begin sweeping changes in the way soldiers are trained and equipped.

These issues gained new intensity and widespread attention because they were raised not in the safe confines of a Capitol Hill hearing or a Pentagon suite, but by a scout with the Tennessee National Guard who directly pressed the secretary of defense in the deserts of Kuwait just days before the soldier is to be sent into Iraq for a year.

At Camp Buehring, a staging base for American troops entering and leaving Iraq, the scout, Specialist Thomas Wilson, said his unit had been forced to dig through local landfills to find scrap metal to bolt onto their trucks for protection against roadside bombs. The incident was startling in part because of the soldier's willingness to challenge a cabinet official, but it emerged Thursday that a newspaper reporter embedded with the troops had helped orchestrate the questioning.…
con·cept: Armor Scarce for Big Trucks Transporting Cargo in Iraq