Tuesday, August 31, 2004
U.S. troops in "sovereign" Iraq are now facing an average of sixty attacks a day (up 20% from the three-month period before the hand-over); the military truckers of the 89th Company, 57th Transportation Battalion have come under fire eleven times in the past month alone. The doors of their trucks are made of fiber. According to retired Col. David Hackworth, their battalion commander "does not see the need" for armor upgrades:
When the 89th left Fort Eustis, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Helmick, the unit's former battalion commander, said they'd be issued up-armored trucks in Kuwait. The troops are still waiting. And their new commander, Lt. Col. Myrna Merced, doesn't seem to care if the soldiers are protected as long as the convoys run on time.
A soldier in Merced's battalion alleges she's '' incompetent and certifiably insane. And our chain of command knows this and is doing nothing. In the meantime, my fellow soldiers are paying the ultimate price because we don't have the right stuff.''
Another soldier in the 57th says: ''She (Merced) is currently under investigation. Three of her company commanders have filed complaints on her. A BDE (Brigade) commander has ordered her to undergo psychiatric care, and medication.''
An official recapitulation of the Aug. 5 action follows:
. . . For the first year in Iraq, it was not enough armored vests, then not enough armored Hummers. And now into the second year of a very nasty war, soldiers in trucks for the richest, most powerful nation in the world remain totally unprotected.
- Convoy was comprised of 12 x M915s (trucks) and 3 x LMTV gun trucks (with 50 Cal Machineguns).
- Convoy took one RPG hit and SAF (small arms fire) from both sides of the road.
- Convoy kept driving and returned fire while exiting the kill zone; never dismounted.
- Convoy proceeded to destination near al-Hillah.
- Attack occurred at 14:00 local time.
- 1 (U.S.) x KIA, 5 x WIA (1 x serious to critical).
- NOTE: Four of the WIAs were SAF to the arms and legs coming through the fiberglass doors of the vehicle. 89th does not have any armor on their vehicles and all efforts to procure or locally purchase have been rejected by the 57th Trans Bn commander ... the BC (Merced) does not see the need and said that armor for 89th is not a priority. M915 armor kits are in Kuwait and are being used by USAR/NG units. It makes no sense to send units on the road under today's conditions without even rudimentary protection from SAF, especially when it's available for about $15K a truck.
Meanwhile, Merced's unit is the only model M915 truck battalion in Iraq that doesn't have easily available armored protection that can be added on by field-expedient techniques by GIs for about a grand.