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Inquiry: Are Soldiers Sent to the Battlefields Under Equipped?

16 December 2009 One Comment

Back in 2004, under the Bush Administration, it was revealed that the men and women of the US armed forces were sent to war without the proper equipment, now five years later, according to John Donnelly’s report at Congress.org, under the Obama Administration, the problem persists.

Soldiers’ complaints spur inquiry

Senior Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee have asked Pentagon leaders to explain repeated reports of inadequate equipment and training for troops headed to war.

At issue are rucksacks that cut off soldiers’ circulation, uniforms that do not provide sufficient camouflage in Afghanistan and that fall apart too quickly, and rifles that jam during use, according to committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Texas) chairman of the Subcommittee on Readiness.

Also of concern, the members said, were reports that troops are being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan “straight from boot camp” without enough stateside training.

The legislators expressed their concerns in a Dec. 10 letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Copies were also sent to Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Army Secretary John M. McHugh.

With roughly 200,000 U.S. military personnel slated to be deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan by mid-2010, the conditions faced by troops in harm’s way, always a worry on Capitol Hill, are expected to become even more of a congressional preoccupation in the months ahead. The Armed Services leaders’ letter underscores those concerns.

“These soldiers are fighting today on the front lines of Afghanistan, and we implore you to take their concerns to heart and see what we can all do to give them the tools they need,” Skelton and Ortiz wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Congressional Quarterly.

Skelton and Ortiz said they heard the complaints from infantry and airborne troops in Germany and Italy preparing to deploy to battle.

One of the allegations was that troops were being sent directly from boot camp to war without extensive training. “Many of the NCOs [non-commissioned officers] we spoke to would like to see their soldiers receive more training before deployment, a sentiment with which we strongly agree,” they wrote.

As for equipment, “numerous complaints” were heard about standard-issue “Army small assault packs and large rucksacks.” The rucksack, a new model, is made of plastic and its straps, soldiers reported, are “cutting off circulation to their arms and hands, making it virtually impossible to fire their weapons,” the members wrote. Many soldiers are using their own money to buy another kind of rucksack that they consider superior, the chairmen added.

Other complaints concern troops’ uniforms. In Afghanistan, soldiers said, the camouflage version of the Army combat uniform “does more to put our soldiers in harm’s way than to protect them,” according to the letter.

Read the full report.