The deadly roadside attack by insurgents yesterday in Iraq leaving 14 U.S. Marines dead identified a persisting weakness in the Bush administration’s post-war Iraq efforts: the inability to provide up-armored vehicles to all our troops in Iraq.
The AP reports that the 14 Marines were riding in a “lightly armored vehicle.” This description indicates the Marines were not equipped with the many varieties of up-armored vehicles which were specifically designed to provide the best protection available against roadside bombs. The Marine Corps Inspector General recently concluded that “a quarter of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force’s Humvees lack sufficient armor to protect troops against roadside bombings.”
In June, the New York Times reported that one of the most heavily equipped humvees, the M1117 (the so-called “Rhino Runner”), lost its funding prior to the invasion of Iraq, and the Defense Department has been excruciatingly slow to reallocate the necessary funding. While Secretary Rumsfeld was equipped with the Rhino on a recent trip to Iraq, soldiers are still driving around in largely-unprotected vehicles. As proof of the Rhino’s abilities, the Times wrote:
Last fall, for instance, a Rhino traveling the treacherous airport road in Baghdad endured a bomb that left a six-foot-wide crater. The passengers walked away unscathed. “I have no doubt should I have been in any other vehicle,” wrote an Army captain, the lone military passenger, “the results would have been catastrophically different.“
A reserve guard unit in Hawaii recently experienced first-hand the improvement of riding around in an up-armored humvee:
Spc. Nick Tuiolosega, 29, a reservist from American Samoa, was injured April 21 in an older Humvee when a land mine tore through the bottom of the vehicle. He suffered a leg injury, and was medevaced to Hawai’i.
Since then, the battalion has had several similar strikes on up-armored Humvees with better results.
“Hit the same place, the same spot, and they suffered minor injuries,” said Maj. Mike Peeters, the executive officer for the battalion. “Words can’t describe how happy we are to have (the new up-armored Humvees).”
Regardless of his vacation plans, providing all units in Iraq with the best equipment possible must be an urgent priority for President Bush.