Sunday, October 17, 2004
( 1:53 PM )
Into the Mouth of the Beast
Last week, 18 soldiers of the 343rd Quartermaster Company declined to report to duty. The reason they took this chance with their careers and disobeyed orders? The duty they were being sent on was to drive a convoy of unarmored vehicles through some of the most dangerous territory of Iraq. Not to mention, they were to carry helicopter fuel which they believed to be contaminated and they refused to give it to helicopter crews, because they felt the fuel would cause the helicopters to crash.
Now the soldiers, after being detained and held for questioning, are now being investigated. But their commanding general now reveals that indeed, not all their vehicles are armored, and in fact, they arrived in Iraq with none of them armored. Indeed, it was almost a death sentence to have driven that route with unarmored trucks.
"Not all of their trucks are completely armored. In their case, they haven't had the chance to get armored," said Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, commanding general of 13th Corps Support Command, which sends some 250 convoys ferrying Army fuel, food and ammunition across Iraq each day.
Chambers said 80 percent of the 13th Coscom's 4,000 trucks have been fitted with custom steel plate, but some of those in the unit that balked, the 343rd Quartermaster Company, were among the last left unarmored, because the unit's mission normally confines it to a less dangerous part of Iraq.
None of the 13th Coscom's trucks arrived in Iraq with armor. Since February, the unit's engineers and private contractors have been working in impromptu maintenance yards to weld heavy metal "boxes" over truck cabs.
Chambers said the 18 soldiers who refused the mission on Wednesday morning — driving seven fuel tankers from Tallil air base near Nasiriyah to Taji north of Baghdad — also appeared to have also balked at their mission because of the trucks' bad condition.
But Chambers did not downplay the danger of driving Iraq's roads, a job that has become the equivalent of front-line combat with Iraq's insurgency, whose deadliest weapon is the hidden roadside bomb.
"In Jim Chambers' opinion, the most dangerous job in Iraq is driving a truck," he said. Soldiers take their missions realizing "it's not if, but when, they will be attacked."
Yes, this administration has exhibited so much concern for our troops.
Oh, and if you hadn't noticed, 42 of ours have been killed this month (that's about 2 1/2 a day)... making the devastating total US troops killed an even 1100 as of today. Not that anyone would mention it, but at least 15,000 Iraqis have been killed. Have we gotten enough revenge yet?