Skip to comments.Soldiers in Iraq too vulnerable, says Army specialist
Posted on 05/16/2004 5:01:44 AM PDT by Cannoneer No. 4
WAR COMPLAINT: Lack of preparation, protection may have cost life and limb, Portage soldier says.
BY JERRY DAVICH
Times Staff Writer
U.S. military leaders failed their soldiers with inadequate combat equipment, vehicles, leadership and training during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a local soldier believes.
Poor planning from day one may have cost American lives and limbs, wrote Army Spc. Christopher Heldt, 24, from his position at the Baghdad International Airport.
"Many soldiers have been riding in unprotected HUMMVs for over a year, all the while roadside explosive devices have been the biggest threat we face... on the most dangerous streets in the world," e-mailed Heldt, a Portage native.
Soldiers are forced to create makeshift protection gear for the all noncombat vehicles by either placing sandbags along the floorboards and frames or hiring local natives to weld steel on the sides and bottom, he said.
"Neither is as effective as the true armored HUMMVs we need," he wrote.
Heldt, like many soldiers there, didn't receive his bulletproof Interceptor Body Armor, or IBA, until September, three months after arriving at his current base, he said.
"How many soldiers could have been saved if they had the armor to begin with?" he asked.
The last straw for Heldt, who works in the Army's finance unit, came earlier this month when the Army extended his year-long "boots on ground" tour of duty another 90 days, through the June 30 transfer of power deadline in Iraq.
That's when he began voicing his concerns publicly.
Military officials, Heldt claims, went against their word by keeping exhausted, disgruntled soldiers in the hot zones "who have already sacrificed enough."
"Beyond one year takes it to another level," he wrote. "Many of us are tired, worn out and ready to go back. We deserve that much."
Heldt enlisted with a friend in 2001 mostly because "it was time to grow up." After growing up on the fly, he arrived in Baghdad in late May 2003.
"Who takes blame for not being prepared?" he asked. "We cannot change the fact that many soldiers died because there was a lack of protection... (or) the lack of planning of rotating the troops out in a timely manner."
Very few fellow soldiers there have accepted the recent 90-day extension as "We have a mission to accomplish, let's stay to get it done," he wrote.
"Most of the soldiers, including myself, never thought we would be here beyond one year. One year in a combat area has been unheard of since the Vietnam War."
Heldt said too many soldiers were marched into Iraq without specific purposes and training. And too many units were doing jobs that had no relation to their training.
Yet, when these concerns were voiced to superiors, the reply was a familiar echo: "We're working on that," he wrote.
What Heldt misses most about home is normalcy.
After a year of waking up in tents and walking outside into sandstorms, Heldt misses the simple things, he said. Like hopping in a car to go to the store, or downing a tall cold one, or seeing his wife's smile every morning.
"I may be the one in the desert in a hostile area, but she, without question, is the one who deserves the praise of everyone," he wrote. "She has helped me through this in more ways than she will ever know."
Heldt's four-year enlistment ends next April.
"I am getting out as soon as I can," he wrote.
Indeed their plan is working.
Army Spc. Christopher Heldt, 24, like Hanoi John this youngster knows so much more than the generals. (/sarcasm)
The military, not just the Army is working transformation using desert and urban scenarios. Lets hope that does not change much in the next 6 or 7 years. I would like to see some work being done in more restricted maneuver areas such as Bosnia or even central Europe, but funding constraints do not allow for that. No work being done for a South or Central America scenario. Let's not even open that can of worms.
Hey! With all due respect I'll have you know that 'Da Mare', Richie Daley is PROUD of that fact. Not any city can be 'MURDER CAPITAL', USA.
I mean he must be. After all why would there be a sign at the city limits on Archer Ave just east of Harlem Ave, that says;
/sarcasm off And no, there's no such sign there, I just like mocking that spoiled little punk
Sorry but production of Armored Humvees and development of a better armored vehicle for urban warfare should have been stepped up right after Somalia. The man has a point.
The fact that HUMVEEs are unarmored has been a vulnerability that the Iraqi irregulars have exploited, through their IEDs, the weapon of choice in breaking up patrols.
There have been reports of GIs lining the interior of their HUMVEE with salvaged body armor, and this seems to be somewhat effective, at least in preventing secondary schrapnel from torn pieces of the vehicle itself from further injuring the passengers. It should not be too involved to install a similar feature designed as an integral part of the vehicle during manufacture, on the side walls and beneath the floor boards. Compared to armor plating of similar effectiveness, the weight advantage would more than compensate for the relatively higher cost of the design.
I retired as a First Sergeant and can guarantee that if this young Specialist had been in my unit and shot off his mouth like he did in this article he would have been a very unhappy camper while standing on my carpet (and yes I did have a carpet in front of my desk.) A finace puke clerk becoming a tactics expert - phooey!
Yer wrong and you've got to look at proportion. Cook county (Chicago) had an approximate population of 5,375,000 as reported by the 2000 census. The number of homocides for Chicago in 2002 was 647 or about 130 less than the total number of combat and non-combat deaths reported in Iraq (out of a troop strength of approximately 135,000). It's also fairly obvious that the vast majority of citizens in Chicago do not have a target on their collective backs while our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines do.
Give it a rest, Top. You know as well as I do that all soldiers bitch, moan and complain (Also, it's your right to hand them a toothbrush and come up with some innovative extra training). However, I've found that the most honest answers come from folks who don't know any better.
Thousands of retrofit armor kits have been shipped to Iraq for the unarmored Humvees. Over 2700 Armored Humvees have made it to ground in Iraq, and production on NEW ARMORED HUMVEES is hitting 1500 a month. They are being shipped to active duty military daily.
Seems that ALL media is failing to follow up on their research, or maybe they just want to IGNORE the fact that the Military usually has implemented corrections on these "reports", long before the stories are written. Media lying and deceiving us ALL? No surprise here...
Gruber stated that his company wasn't even supplied with waders to get ashore at Omaha Beach and actually got wet up to their waists and that additionally enemy gunfire had killed and wounded some of his comrades.
"If I'd known FDR and Ike were so dumb, I never would have (continued on pg. D3 Style section)
Counting sand grains in his off time comes to mind.
A trivial point to be sure, but it makes me wonder about the rest of the story.
Yup if the troops aren't bitchin they aren't hayyp and that goes for peacetime as well as war. However every troop knows that thare are standing orders against making statements to the press without either PIO permission ar a PIO rep present.
When I send for or go looking for a soldier in my unit, they know they are in big trouble.
I don't agree with what the Specialist did but your remark relects on you - not him. Inappropriate!
Well soldier, you had better reenlist, because you still ain't there yet.......
My troops referreed to me a lot as "the ghost" they never knew where I'd pop up. What the junior troops always forget is that Top was once a private just like they are now and probably knows more ways to screw up and off than they'll ever learn. I take it from the use of present tense that you are active duty. Keep up the good work brother never let the ossifers forget who really runs the Army.
Come on Top, give snuffles a break. A year at the air conditioned Airport hunting down pay discrepancies is enough to break anyone. Think of the horrors he's endured. Sticky keyboard keys, small monitor, walking way down the hall for coffee, dirty dusty field troops coming in with their muddy boots, smelling like goats and interrupting his online surfing.
There you have it. A REMF finance puke, who is ticked off at having to stay longer, wants to make trouble in order to get back at the powers-that-be.
Hey, specialist, the reason you don't have all that fancy armor stuff is because the combat arms guys (for the most part) already do--just stay at your desk, and they'll tell you when it's safe to come out.
Im just back from Iraq. Im a 1sgt for Il ANG, two Chinook Co's, over 220 young men and women. I've had my share of these whiners, since we were extended 4 times. Im finishing up my 30 day leave and will return to my full-time job as a Blackhawk inspector for the Il Guard the end of May.
well Top if nobody else has said it let me say welcome home and thanks for your service. YA know it took over thirty years for me to hear those words. I was wandering around Gettysburg, PA wearing my Nam Vet cap and a Korean war Vet (identified himself as such) walked up to me and said those words. Hell I'll admit it I cried like a baby so many things came out that I'd kept bottled up for years.
Again WELCOME HOME BROTHER AND MANY THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE!
That specialist needs an encounter with someone like General Patton. Needs his butt kicked.
Crap. We should NOT be reacting to enemy tactics (which zero in on our weaknesses). The essential problem here is that they do not fear us. The reason they don't fear us is that guys who grew up in the Clinton peacekeeping era are managing the war.
The US once was respected, and feared. Read about the Indian tribes, and what befell the cities of Germany and Japan. A loss of will at home leads to weakness abroad -- like somebody said, their plan ("they" being the nihilist/anti/Democrat/press element) is working.
We cannot win by wrapping the troops up in armored coccoons. They need to be out and about to win. We need to be in the enemy's face! The risk-averse culture of the conventional military guarantees a steady drip of casualties. Compare the initial results in Afghanistan or Northern Iraq when the operators were operating, to what happened when things got calcified under the command of Shinseki-type generals. That's why his troop numbers look accurate now -- for his approach, they are.
Criminal Number 18F
Well that's the way I feel about it. I figured his comments were inappropriate. They sound like 'rat talking points to me.
Most reading this won't know exactly what a Specialist is.
I'm glad you're just a civilian in an easy chair.
Welcome home, brother. HOOAH!
The Army like all the uniformed services has 9 enlisted grades E (for Enlisted) 1 through E9. THe paygrade of E4 can be either a Specialist or a Corporal depending on duties and MOS. A Corporal is an NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) an NCO can and does have the authority to exercise "command authority" the Specialist does not except as related to his primary duties.
While Corporals and Specialists are both E4s the Corporal rank/grade holds mor prestige. Both are pretty low on the totem pole.
I recall reading on how our Sherman tanks were also too lightly armored to stand up to the Panther or Tiger and even the MarklV. In the beginning we adapted by using our speed and maneuverability to get around behind them or call in artillery/air strikes. By the end of the war soldiers adapted by welding plate steel and tracks to the front armor which gave them a fighting chance against their rivals.
When resolve is a mile wide and an inch deep, yes, "it" may be working.
This is exactly my point. I read the headline to my wife who has no knowledge of the rank system. Her understanding was that "Army Specialist" meant an expert on all things Army. I suspect that hers is the far more common take.
Chew them out in private, reward them in public?
Where did you learn that?
Spoken like a true Army combat financier.
Translation: "I was forced to stay in Baghdad another 90 days living in relative comfort filling out finance forms and pulling guard duty on the ramp at Baghdad International Airport, all while forced to eat three hot meals a day served up by contractors. I couldn't come up with a better way to bitch about my personal plight, so I decided to whine about body armor and not enough armored HUUMVs. I just mailed off my own set of expos'e photos to Hackworth concerning the lack of concern by our leaders regarding combat duty related paper cuts, in order to make more out of my bitch than is warranted."
"Too many of the Humvees have plastic flaps instead of armored doors," Tauscher said. "We've passed two emergency appropriations for this war - one in April, the second in October - giving the President $166billion. We appropriated $900 million to find weapons of mass destruction but when we tried to take $300 million out of that $900 million and earmark it specifically for equipment for the National Guard and reservists in Iraq, the Republicans voted it down."
"It's difficult to believe that planning for the war failed to anticipate the need for better protective vests and more effective armor on Humvees," Kennedy said. "No soldier or Marine should have to serve in Iraq without it."ABC News quoted Kennedy, "It is inconceivable with our manufacturing capability that we cannot produce that kind of a vehicle more rapidly and replace it."
[House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan] HUNTER[, R-CA]: . . .we put in $240 million in a supplemental budget, which was line item, to pay for up armored Humvees. My colleague voted against the supplemental appropriation. My colleague voted against such supplemental appropriation so we in Congress bear some of the fault for not moving quickly enough to get this armor between our troops and those explosions in the road. You don't get those things for free. The answer is we have to do a lot more, I think we're going to have to go to bigger systems than Humvees. My recommendation is to use 5 and 7-ton trucks and Stryker vehicles on these heavy convoy operations instead of using what we have now, which is a Jeep.
[Rep. Jan] SCHAKOWSKY [(D), IL]: Well, you know, the $87 billion -- one of the reasons that I voted no is that I thought we can't trust this administration to spend this money well without a plan in Iraq.
This memo [General Ellis' 30 MAR memo]is just the latest example of this Administration's continuing disregard for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day in Iraq. The Bush White House went to war without being prepared and it has got to devote itself to making sure that the troops in Iraq have the equipment they need to win the peace. John Kerry knows what it is like to fight in war and will make sure American soldiers are protected as much as possible when they go into battle. The American militarys men and women deserve nothing less when they are in harms way.
A david HACKworth in the making. I bet this this idiot is verrrrryyyyyy sorry to contribute to the liberal cause.
Heldt enlisted with a friend in 2001 mostly because "it was time to grow up."
Sounds like SP4 Heldt hasn't achieved his objective. He joins an all volunteer Army and whines when deployed to a warzone for a period longer than he thinks is fair. One wonders how confident the others in his unit are in Heldt's commitment to accomplish the unit's mission.
To read the complaints of a finance clerk regarding lack of body armor is laughable. How often do you think SP4 Heldt draws his weapon and UBL of ammo to stand guard duty much less going on patrol?
To you and I and anybody who knows the deal it is. We are a small minority of the general US population.
Little Johnnie's mama and the Hand Wringers of America aren't laughing.
The other side has some extraordinarily skilled INFOWARRIORS.
Stay Safe !
Great tag line. Reminds me of Pegasus Bridge.
Ditto that.........Stay Safe !
Of course that E-4 is an expert