This is the last chance for comment before it goes into the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer and the New York Times tomorrow...
Into Harm's Way with the Army...
By Lonnie Shoultz
While the drama in Fallujah and Najaf increase to a conclusion, the
soldiers of the Army are still riding the roads of Iraq in inferior armed
vehicles while the better protected armored personnel carriers are waiting
for them in Kuwait. Someone needs to tell the Secretary of Defense, Chief of
Staff Meyers or the President that we are using the dreams of President
Clinton and his two Army Chiefs of Staff to perform a job with the wrong
On July 23, 2003 acting Army Chief of Staff General John Keane laid
out the overall Army plan to rotate the units station in Iraq since the
start of the war and replace them with fresh units from the United States
and Europe Since Keane did not announce any lessening of the operational
tempo for Army units in the Balkans, Afghanistan and elsewhere, his unit
rotation plan was vague at its very best - a mixture of fact, fiction and
fantasy. And it included a surprise development: The new Fort Lewis Stryker
Brigade would be part of the replacement strategy.
Under Keane's rotation plan, the Stryker Brigade would deploy to
Iraq, overlapping with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment for five or six
months, after which the cavalry unit will return to the United States. Keane
announced that the Stryker Brigade would remain Iraq for 12 months.
Deployment of the lightly armored Strykers was delayed three months while
their newly-found defective armor tiles were replaced. Then, despite the
absence of its main weapon and the fact that it had yet to be certified as a
combat unit, the Stryker Brigade (3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division)
deployed on what amounts to a combat mission to Iraq last December. Since
the Army generals consider the Stryker too "thin-skinned" to take part in
combat, the Stryker Brigade was stationed in the generally tame extreme
north of Iraq in Mosul in territory controlled by the Kurds.
When the rotation plan began, the Army was in full panic mode trying
to add armor to the light trucks (humvees) that it purchased in the 1980s.
The fact our soldiers are patrolling, convoying and dying in these
unprotected vehicles caused a great deal of angst among the soldiers and
their loved ones. The Army's knee-jerk reaction of "up-armoring" the humvees
with added steel on the sides and thick window coverings is off-set by the
laws of physics. The Army ordered a vehicle rated to carry 2,000 pounds of
cargo and that's what it got. To now add 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of armor,
Plexiglas, sandbags on the floor to guard against mines and still try to
carry the 2,000 pounds of cargo for which the truck was originally built
has, predictably, placed many of them in garages and junk yards years before
their scheduled retirement date. The "up-armoring" of humvees has taken
place in a $400 million dollar crash program to rush these "hardened"
vehicles to units in Iraq. That they wear out quickly does not seem to have
been a consideration of the command structure that ordered this abortive
The unnecessary deaths of our soldiers due to a lack of armored
convoy vehicles is a command blunder that should result in some general
officers, at the very least, being sacked and possible tried for
manslaughter -- because they have secreting safer vehicles.
What the generals apparently did not tell Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B.
Meyers when they requested the "up-armoring" program is that we already have
700 upgraded M113 armored personnel carriers stored as "prepositioned
stocks" in Kuwait - scarcely 20 miles south of the Iraqi border. Using these
700 truly armored M113s, and stripping our National Guard units for many of
the 11,000 M113s we have stateside, could have eliminated most of the deaths
in the past 13 months by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
The secret of the ready but not deployed M113s is rooted in the 1999
decision by then Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki to take the Army off tracks
and put it on wheels. It became apparent from the time the bids were
announced (announced at AUSA meeting in Michigan) for what was then known as
the Interim Combat Vehicle (ICV) that Shinseki intended the new vehicle to
be a wheeled armored car. He told the story in a speech with President
Clinton's Secretary of the Army, Louis Caldera, of watching a Russian
armored car beat our forces to the Pristina Airport in Kosovo because it was
so much faster on a highway. If Shinseki were such a keen observer of the
Russian Army, he would have
known that when it operated its tracked tanks and wheeled armored cars in
Afghanistan from 1979 until 1986, only 147 tracked tanks were lost, compared
to 1,314 wheeled armored personnel carriers. It should also be noted that
Shinseki's decision came over five years after the slaughter of Americans in
Mogadishu, Somalia where a lack of armor led to armed humvees being used in
a rescue attempt that resulted in the deaths of 18 American soldiers.
Yes, the M113 could be hit by an IED. An Abrams main battle tank was
knocked off the road by three anti-tank mines stacked into one tank trap by
terrorists . It blew a track off the tank, but thanks to the superior armor
on the tank, the crew all lived. The M113 should have the same advantages of
superior armor to the humvees and heavier weight to help it hold the road
and not crash, and better chances of the crew surviving where the crews of
the humvees are dying.
Gen. Shinseki's desire for a wheeled Army is not supported by
maneuvers that indicate the speed gained on a highway by wheeled armor is a
good exchange for a tracked vehicle that is more survivable and can go
cross-country to a fight. A wheeled vehicle cannot operate on rough, muddy,
rocky, snowy or slippery terrain. And if you cannot get to a fight, you
cannot win it. The Stryker will find itself confined to the roads or rolling
meadows. A tracked vehicle can close with and kill the enemy wherever he
chooses to hide. In an emergency, like the present, the heavier armor on
tracks can double as convoy vehicles and better protect our soldiers.
It is an article of faith in the military that each Chief of Staff
of any service will perform some process that will be their legacy. Almost
immediately after the humvees showed their uselessness in the firefight in
Mogadishu, Shinseki's predecessor, General Dennis Riemer, took the 2nd
Armored Calvary Regiment out of M1A1 "Abrams" main battle tanks and M2
"Bradley" fighting vehicles and put them in armed humvees. Shinseki followed
Riemer into the big office in the Pentagon and immediately set about taking
the Army's tracked vehicles away and replacing them with faster wheeled
The watch words for these staff members are "situational awareness,"
"speed beats bullets" and other such nonsense that ignores the truth that in
war that all eventualities must be taken into account. What value is there
in knowing exactly where an enemy is located without sufficient firepower to
drive him out of that location. The illogical notions of Gens. Riemer and
Shinseki put the Army in the precarious situation of being too light to
protect its soldiers and accomplish its mission, because its tracked
vehicles from the first 13 months in Iraq have not been replaced with fresh
armored vehicles for the newly arrived units. The wheeled vehicles that took
their place are a pipedream. One estimate sets the number of remaining main
battle tanks in Iraq at less than 70, down from 400 last year. So, the enemy
is fixed in Fallujah. What are the commanders supposed to use to spearhead
an attack against his fortifications? It certainly cannot be the wheeled
vehicles that are the legacies of Generals Riemer and Shinseki.
Lonnie Shoultz is a former Special Agent with the U.S. Treasury Department
who served in combat in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division and 5th
Special Forces Group, where he received the Purple Heart medal on several
occasions. He is an often published and quoted military analyst and can be
reached at <>.