LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, IRAQ — While the Army plans to ship more
armored Humvees into Iraq, many troops are
upgrading their soft-sided Humvees on the cheap while they wait for replacements.
Conventional Humvees were not designed to face some of the most insidious
threats in the Iraq combat zone. Roadside bombs have killed more than 80
soldiers since the war began last March. Hundreds of other troops have been
killed when explosive devices were tossed into their vehicles or they were
Army officials said last week that up to 220 armored Humvees a month will be
produced in a new factory in the United States by this spring. In addition,
6,000 kits for armoring standard Humvees and other military vehicles also are
being sent to the region. The cost for the new vehicles and upgrade kits is
roughly $177 million.
In the meantime, some soldiers are turning to local metal shops to upgrade
their conventional Humvees as best they can.
That's what soldiers from the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion did. The
battalion, a California National Guard unit, brought 13 vehicles into Iraq,
including 12 unarmored Humvees, when they arrived in March 2003.
They since have hired Iraqis to install makeshift armor on all their
vehicles. At $2,000 apiece, each vehicle's floorboard and cargo areas were
lined with steel. Steel doors were added, along with steel enclosures for the
gunners on gun trucks. Sandbags on the floor and crossed fingers do the rest.
So far, none of the unit's 113 soldiers has been seriously injured or killed
while patrolling an area from LSA Anaconda, about 50 miles north of Baghdad,
north to Kirkuk.
"We have been very, very lucky," said Staff Sgt. Anna Berber-Giddings, a
driver for unit commander Lt. Col. Drew Ryan.
The improvised armor has its drawbacks. On one recent trip to Iraqi villages
near LSA Anaconda, Berber-Giddings had to repeatedly check the loose-fitting
latches on her door to keep it from swinging open while she drove.
When the rear driver's side door of the vehicle kept flying open,
Berber-Giddings tied a string across the loose-fitting latch to keep it closed.
Some soldiers put an extra-long string on the door latch so they can hold the
door closed while they're speeding down the road.
"We have made do," Berber-Giddings said.
The Army has frowned upon such improvised armor, warning that the untested
steel may shatter when hit by a projectile such as a rocket. That could send
hot shrapnel into the passengers.
The Army recently ordered an Alabama National Guard unit to remove the
improvised armor it placed on its vehicles before the unit deploys to Iraq,
according to news reports. It said the unit would be provided with official
Army armoring kits.
Ryan, the 223rd commander, admits the jerry-rigged upgrades leave much to be
desired, but he said felt he had no choice.
"I'd have a hell of a time writing a letter to a parent, saying their son or
daughter was killed because the Army supply system couldn't provide the proper
equipment," Ryan said. "I decided I had to do what I could."
The unit also has installed the official Army armor upgrade on five of its
vehicles. The Army kit armors the soft sides of the Humvee and adds a
It doesn't, however, provide armor for the vehicle bed, which still leaves it
vulnerable to the roadside bombs popular with Iraqi insurgents.
Army officials said there are between 800 and 2,000 armored Humvees in Iraq,
where 130,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed.
Army spokesmen said the service requires 4,000 armored vehicles in Iraq and
Afghanistan — 3,200 in Iraq alone.
However, all 3,200 vehicles aren't expected in the war zone until mid-2005.
Sound Off...What do you think?
Join the discussion.
This article is provided courtesy
of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as
a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and
has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and
1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been
in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen
in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf
War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the
Stars & Stripes Website
Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.