GENERAL'S UP-ARMOR PLEA IGNORED

For more than a year, Maj. Gen. William Webster, the head of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, had been asking his bosses for the money to toughen up his armored personnel carriers. And for more than a year, his requests went nowhere.Then, in December, Tennessee National Guard Spc. Thomas Wilson scorched Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for not armoring up American vehicles. Within days, Inside the Pentagon notes, Gen. Webster's long-ignored plea was finally answered.

m-113a2.jpgWebsters request for additional armor for his M113 [personnel carriers] had languished at Army headquarters since October 2003, a month after he took command of the 3rd ID, as it is called... The requirement for up-armored M113s was just one of more than 50 operational needs statements Webster submitted at the time...Initially, the 3rd ID flagged other requirements as more critical than the M113 up-armor effort, sources said. The division was requesting hundreds more radios, machine guns and trucks with the first priority being to shoot, move and communicate when they returned to Iraq, said one Army insider.But field commanders became increasingly uneasy last summer as casualties mounted in Iraq from ever more sophisticated insurgent tactics. M113s in Iraq were becoming vulnerable to roadside bombs and mines, Army officials say. Its light armor can stop pistol and rifle fire and shrapnel, but thats it, said one.The 3rd ID commander began pushing in earnest last August to up-armor his personnel carriers, according to sources and documents. His quest met considerable opposition at Army headquarters and at the services Forces Command, where senior deputies argued the M113s existing light armor allowed it agility in urban terrain, and said it should be sufficient against an insurgency that lacks traditional armor of its own, sources said.The three-quarter-ton armor that gets plated onto the humvees, for example, limits its carrying ability and puts additional strain on the transmission, according to service officials...In mid-October, Webster officially requested that Army headquarters in Washington approve a $20 million armor upgrade for about 450 M113 troop carriers... In view of the estimated $1 billion being spent for Iraq operations each month, proponents of the up-armoring view it as a relative bargain. The M113 -- essentially a box on top of its tracked chassis -- is easier to armor-plate than the humvee and can be done at one-fifth the cost...At this time, the division does not have a viable mix of active and passive add-on armor systems for its combat and combat support vehicles that will help prevent casualties and losses, [Webster] wrote, citing an increasing sniper, roadside bomb, improvised explosive device, mortar, rocket propelled grenade, anti-tank missile, machine gun and small arms threat in theater...Webster sought delivery of all add-on armor systems [no later than] 15 January 2005, [a] letter states, [when the 3rd ID would be returning to Iraq]...It was not until a late-December meeting at the Pentagon that the 3rd ID was assured Army support for getting up-armored M113s, sources said. The can do attitude of a new head of force development at the Armys G-8 programs office, Maj. Gen. Stephen Speakes, may have played a role in the shift, according to some officials.This crazy nonsense is because there was an unwillingness to admit three things: the Iraqi insurgency is a rebellion against the U.S. military occupation, it was steadily worsening, and U.S. soldiers were at serious risk in wheeled vehicles, says retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, a former armored cavalry officer who led troops in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
THERE'S MORE: The number of troops on the ground matters more than what kind of vehicle they ride around in, argues this Knight-Ridder story (via Steve Gilliard). Take the Iraqi city of Mosul, for example, where 5,000 Stryker Brigade troops replaced 20,000 from the 101st Airborne.
The men of the 101st moved around Mosul in Humvees but sustained few casualties, even though some of their Humvees lacked armor.Conditions in Mosul, however, have gotten worse since the [more heavily-armored] Strykers arrived.Visiting the town of Hammam al Alil, south of the city, Lt. Col. Todd McCaffrey said the area had become a "planning, bedroom community for terrorist cells "that coordinate attacks in Mosul...""We spend a lot of time trying to separate the populace from the insurgency," said McCaffrey, who's with a unit of the 25th Infantry Division that deployed to Iraq in late September. "Obviously, when you go from the 20,000 that the 101st had to 5,000, there's a clear change."A steady stream of Army units has been sent to reinforce the troops in Mosul during the past two months, increasing the American presence to some 12,000 soldiers, according to Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of the Stryker brigade."You win this thing with boots on the ground, not by throwing more vehicles at the place," said 1st Lt. Ed Mikkelsen of the Stryker Brigade.
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