[lit-ideas] NYTimes.com Article: Iraq-Bound Troops Confront Rumsfeld Over Lack of Armor

  • From: carolkir@xxxxxxxx
  • To: Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2004 17:36:57 -0500 (EST)

The article below from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by carolkir@xxxxxxxxx

Btw, veterans who need prosthetic devices now receive them. But they'd rather 
have good armor.


/--------- E-mail Sponsored by Fox Searchlight ------------\


An official selection of the New York Film Festival and the
Toronto International Film Festival, SIDEWAYS is the new
comedy from Alexander Payne, director of ELECTION and ABOUT
SCHMIDT.  Starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church,
Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen. Watch the trailer at:



Iraq-Bound Troops Confront Rumsfeld Over Lack of Armor

December 8, 2004


CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait, Dec. 8 - In an extraordinary
exchange at this remote desert camp, Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld found himself on the defensive today,
fielding pointed questions from Iraq-bound troops who
complained that they were being sent into combat with
insufficient protection and aging equipment. 

Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National
Guard unit scheduled to roll into Iraq this week, said
soldiers had to scrounge through local landfills here for
pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what
they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt on to their trucks
for protection against roadside bombs in Iraq. 

"Why don't we have those resources readily available to
us?" Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers
and applause from many of the 2,300 troops assembled in a
cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary. Mr. Rumsfeld
responded that the military was producing extra armor for
Humvees and trucks as fast as possible. 

A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National
Guard's 116th Armor Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what
he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and
antiquated equipment" National Guard soldiers heading to
Iraq were struggling with. 

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a
murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced
them. "Now settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm
an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my
thoughts here." 

He said all organizations had equipment, materials and
spare parts of different vintages, but he expressed
confidence that Army leaders were assigning the newest and
best equipment to the troops headed for combat who needed
it most. 

Nonetheless, he warned that equipment shortages would
probably continue to bedevil some American forces entering
combat zones like Iraq. "You go to war with the army you
have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a
later time," Mr. Rumsfeld said. 

Moreover, he said, adding more armor to trucks and battle
equipment did not make them impervious to enemy attack. "If
you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world
on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you
can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up." 

It was difficult to gauge the scope and seriousness of the
equipment problems cited by the two soldiers and by several
others in interviews after Mr. Rumfeld's remarks and the
question period. A senior officer in Specialist Wilson's
unit, Col. John Zimmerman, said later that 95 percent of
the unit's more than 300 trucks had insufficient armor. 

Senior Army generals here said they were not aware of
widespread shortages and insisted that all vehicles heading
north from this staging area 12 miles south of the Iraqi
border would have adequate armor. "It's not a matter of
money or desire," Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, the
commander of Army forces in the Persian Gulf, told the
troops after Mr. Rumsfeld asked him to address Specialist
Wilson's question. "It's a matter of the logistics of being
able to produce it." 

But the complaints voiced by the soldiers here are likely
to reinvigorate the debate that the Bush administration
failed to anticipate the kind of tenacious insurgency now
facing troops in Iraq, and that the Pentagon is still
struggling to provide enough such basic supplies as body
armor and fortified Humvees and other vehicles. 

In October, members of an Army Reserve unit disobeyed
orders to deliver fuel to a base in Iraq, complaining that
their vehicles had not been properly outfitted. Earlier
this month, the Army raised its goal for replacing regular
Humvee utility vehicles in Iraq with armored versions, to
8,000 vehicles from 4,000. 

The soldiers' concerns here may also rekindle deep-held
suspicions among many National Guard and Reserve troops
that they are receiving equipment inferior to what their
active-duty counterparts get, despite assurances from
senior Army officials that all Army troops are treated

Some 10,000 soldiers, many of whom are reservists from
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee and North
Carolina, are here on their way to one-year tours in Iraq
or passing through this camp on their way home after
serving their stints. 

That some soldiers would dare confront Mr. Rumsfeld
directly on the readiness and equipment issue in such a
public setting was highly unusual. In his town-hall style
meetings with troops, Mr. Rumsfeld usually gets general
policy questions or very specific complaints about pay or

But in interviews afterward, the equipment issue resonated
with many soldiers and commanders here. Specialist Blaze
Crook, 24, from Cleveland, Tenn., said he and other members
of his Tennessee National Guard felt shorthanded going into
their mission in Iraq. "I don't think we have enough troops
going in to do the job," said Specialist Crook, who is a
truck driver. 

In an interview, Specialist Wilson said the question he
asked Mr. Rumsfeld was one that had been on the minds of
many men in his unit, the 1st Squadron, 278th Regimental
Combat Team. "I'm a soldier and I'll do this on a bicycle
if I have to, but we need help," said Specialist Wilson,
31, who served on active duty in the Air Force for six
years, including in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, before
leaving the military, and then re-enlisting in the National
Guard after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

Col. John Zimmerman, the staff judge advocate for the 278th
combat team, said in an interview that the unit's Humvees
were sufficiently armored, but that most of its heavy
trucks were not. He said that Army supply officials had
given the unit 70 tons of steel plates to attach to their
vehicles, but that it was not enough. 

Colonel Zimmerman suggested that the Army would not have
let this happen to an active-duty unit about to deploy into
Iraq. "We've got two Armies," he said. "We've got the
active-duty and we've got the National Guard. We're proud
to serve. We just want what everyone else has. We're not
asking for anything more." 

When asked about the soldiers' complaints, General
Whitcomb's deputy, Maj. Gen. Gary Speer, acknowledged in an
interview that many vehicles would head north from here
into Iraq without the bulletproof windshields or the Kevlar
flooring that protect against bombs exploding underneath
Humvees or trucks. General Speer said many vehicles were
not armored because they would be assigned duties inside
headquarters compounds where there was virtually no threat
of roadside bombs. 

General Speer said a special unit here at Camp Buehring
removes the extra armor on vehicles that have left Iraq and
re-attaches it to vehicles going into the country. "We've
got a lot of work to do," he said. "There's a lot of people
working around the clock to meet the concerns those
soldiers raised." 

Colonel Zimmerman said he appreciated the efforts by Army
supply officials here, but he and his troops said they
could not help but fume at the sight of the fully
"up-armored" Humvees and heavy trucks set out on display
here for Mr. Rumsfeld's visit. 

"What you see out here isn't what we've got going north
with us," he said. 



Get Home Delivery of The New York Times Newspaper. Imagine
reading The New York Times any time & anywhere you like!
Leisurely catch up on events & expand your horizons. Enjoy
now for 50% off Home Delivery! Click here:


For information on advertising in e-mail newsletters 
or other creative advertising opportunities with The 
New York Times on the Web, please contact
onlinesales@xxxxxxxxxxx or visit our online media 
kit at http://www.nytimes.com/adinfo

For general information about NYTimes.com, write to 

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: