By TARA COPP
Scripps Howard News Service
October 21, 2005
The Army said it's keeping the vehicles out of Iraq until the 3rd Infantry Division's replacements, the 4th Infantry Division, arrive at the end of the year.
But with reports that more than one in four U.S. soldiers' deaths in Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, members of Congress are incensed that 824 new Humvees wouldn't go straight to Iraq. The newer so-called "uparmored" Humvees have better technology to absorb roadside blasts.
"Let's not have them in parking lots, let's move them up to Baghdad, let's move them up with the 3rd ID or move them over to the Marines, who've taken 50 percent of the hits, yet have roughly 6 to 7 percent of the (uparmored) Humvees," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.
The Humvees are just part of the force protection the Army is scrambling to produce fast enough to keep up with needs. Since the war began, it has produced 520,000 sets of body armor for troops and 21,000 bomb jammers to defeat remote-controlled explosive devices.
"We were an equipment-short Army when we entered this war," said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody.
Hunter called both Cody and Army Secretary Francis Harvey to testify Thursday, after he learned about the unused Humvees only because a committee staffer saw them parked at Fort Hood during a staff tour.
As of Oct. 5, more than 585 of the 1,988 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq were killed as a result of roadside bombs, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which compiles information from news reports and the Pentagon's official releases.
The Army repeatedly has said it has enough top-of-the-line, armored Humvees in Iraq. But Hunter said the 3rd Infantry Division, which has suffered most of the Army casualties in Iraq, has only 20 percent of the vehicles it requires. The Marines have requested 2,814 such Humvees, but have received only 744.
When the war began, most of the Humvees didn't have the supplemental armor. That vulnerability was quickly exploited by insurgents and led to quick fixes, including makeshift, welded-on armor and mass production of "kits" to upgrade the vehicles. The 824 new vehicles are the newest and most modern, with not only more protection but sophisticated communications equipment to help the soldiers in battle.
But the new communications equipment does not work with systems the 3rd Infantry Division is trained to use, and commanders in Iraq can't spare the soldiers to train them on the new systems, Cody said. So the new, modern Humvees will continue to sit until the 4th Infantry Division moves in, he said.
Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., pointed out that the 3rd Infantry Division faces more than 30 roadside bomb attacks a day. "With the families I know, the idea that we have the equipment, that it's been produced but is sitting in a parking lot, is a matter of concern," Simmons said.
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