Friday, April 08, 2005

And still, months later; Where Are The Up-armored humvees; A soldier questions

Article speaks for itself; in December, Rumsfeld is questioned by soldier on lack of up-armored humvees. Now in April, months later, another known death (how many more we don't know about) that could have been prevented with up-armored humvee.

Soldier questions vehicle armor
E-mail mentions death of Kentucky Guardsman

Sen. Mitch McConnell, who received an e-mail from Staff Sgt. Brad Rogers, has asked for an investigation into the claim.

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky Army National Guard soldiers in Iraq are being put at risk because their trucks are unreliable, poorly armored and lack protective glass, according to a guardsman stationed in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Brad Rogers said in e-mails yesterday that Kentucky National Guardsman Sgt. James A. Sherrill might have survived a bomb attack Sunday if his truck had protective glass, known as ballistic windows.

"We have great people and great leadership. I just want answers on why we can't get better equipment with full armor including ballistic windows," Rogers said in an e-mail to The Courier-Journal.

"They need to stop these missions until we get these things."

Kentucky National Guard spokesman David Altom confirmed that Rogers, who belongs to the Paducah-based 2113th Transportation Company, had sent e-mails about the unit's equipment.

Rogers also sent e-mails to friends and coworkers.

The Kentucky National Guard said in a statement that Rogers' claims are being reviewed.

"We have heard about the concerns expressed by a member of the 2113th Transportation Company regarding vehicle safety. The leadership in the Kentucky Guard is conducting an inquiry into the matter, as we still do not have all the details," the statement reads.

"From the time this war began we have continually evaluated and revised our force protection methods. We have done and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that our soldiers have the very best equipment they can, and that any deficiencies will be corrected as soon as possible," the statement reads.

Adjutant General Donald Storm, commander of the Kentucky Guard, declined to elaborate on the statement until he had investigated the matter further, Altom said.

But at a Tuesday press conference, Storm said vehicles involved in three recent deaths of Kentucky Guardsmen had been armored.

"All of our latest three deaths were either in up-armored Humvees or -- in the case of Sgt. Sherrill -- an add-on armor 915 tractor, which is the equivalent of an up-armored Humvee. It had the latest added-on armor. It had the complete kit."
Regular Army trucks better

Rogers' concerns come after previous complaints from troops in other units.

Some members of a South Carolina-based Army Reserve unit refused in October to go on a convoy mission because they said the trucks lacked armor and were in poor condition.

And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fielded questions from a Tennessee National Guard soldier in December about why soldiers did not have enough vehicle armor.

Rogers' wife, Sandra Rogers, said he has told her in recent phone calls and e-mails that his unit's trucks are inferior to those used by regular active-duty military units.

"He's not a rookie. He knows the difference between what regular active gets and what they're getting. He's a very reputable man," Sandra Rogers said.

Rogers, 33, of Hebron, called the M915 tractor-trailer truck used by his unit "a dinosaur."

"Most of our vehicles are 22 to 26 years old. Every time we go out on a convoy about 25 percent of the vehicles are breaking down," he said.

Altom said the 2113th is using trucks shipped from Kentucky, and their age "is in their 20s."

Regarding the armor on the trucks, Rogers said it is makeshift.

"The only thing we have is what they call 'hillbilly armor,' which consists of one armor panel on the passenger side and one armor panel on the driver's side."

He said about half the company's trucks are equipped that way while the other half also have an armored floor and back.

"Most everyone, if not everyone, has the ballistic or bulletproof windows that are running our missions to the places we are going. We don't have a single M915 with ballistic windows. I feel in my heart that Sgt. Sherrill would still be with us if he had had ballistic windows."
Death avoidable?

In an e-mail to friends, Rogers said Sherrill's death prompted him to issue his warning, hoping to alert the media and lawmakers.

"I know these things that happen in war. I was in Desert Storm. This didn't have to happen, and this shouldn't have happened," Rogers said of Sherrill's death.

Rogers said the medic who tried to treat Sherrill told him Sherrill was killed by a piece of metal that struck around his left temple.

He added he was not absolutely certain that protective glass could have saved Sherrill.

"I spoke to the medic, the passenger in the vehicle with Sgt. Sherrill, and a couple of others on the convoy, and they tend to believe so. Nothing is certain, but I guarantee it would have slowed it (the shrapnel) down if not stopped it."

Sherrill's father, William Sherrill, said yesterday his 27-year-old son had not complained to him about the trucks.

The elder Sherrill declined to comment on Rogers' warnings. "I realize what you all are trying to do and what he is trying to do -- save more lives. But this is something I just don't want to deal with. There's nothing I can do to bring James back," William Sherrill said.
Lawmakers react

Rogers' e-mails reached the offices of Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning and 4th District Rep. Geoff Davis.

Davis spokeswoman Jessica Towhey said Davis voted for a recent supplemental appropriation of $82 billion to fund the war, including upgrades in body armor and vehicle armor.

"We are not in a position to comment (on) what one particular vehicle has versus another vehicle. We are going to defer to the Kentucky adjutant general," she said.

McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said in a statement the senator has asked the Department of Defense to look into the matter.

Bunning's spokesman, Mike Reynard, said Bunning's office would not comment on the matter until its review of Rogers' claims was complete.
Veteran soldier

Rogers said he began his military career in 1989 on active duty with the Army. He said he served in Korea and later from mid-January to early May of 1991 in Operation Desert Storm.

After leaving active duty he said he joined the Ohio National Guard from late 1991 until late 1996 when he joined the Kentucky Guard.

He said he was transferred within the Kentucky Guard to the 2113th Transportation Company last year.

Sandra Rogers said her husband had told her he had informed his superiors about the e-mails. But she said he emphasized he will continue to always follow orders of his commanders.

The couple have an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son, Sandra Rogers said.

"I'm not trying to put him on a pedestal, but the community here knows him to be a good man and that when he speaks he's saying the right things."

Soldier questions vehicle armor

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President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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