The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, August 27, 2004  

Insufficient Armor

A few hours ago I made contact by satellite phone with my source in the U.S. Army’s 427th Transportation Company, based in nearby Norristown, Pa.

I was informed this afternoon that the 427th is not yet in Iraq, contrary to my post of August 26, “U.S. Troops Still Lack Adequate Armor,” which was based on the best available information at the time. Instead, they currently are in Kuwait City. The reservists have been told to expect to be sent to Iraq “sometime in September.”

During the discussion I learned there are approximately 50 vehicles attached to the 427th, primarily palletized load systems (PLS), but also including four Humvees.

The Humvees already are “armored,” according to my source, who emphasized this process consists of replacing the Humvees’ original doors with reinforced steel doors. Most soldiers, though, consider this “remedy” inadequate, in part because the Army left the canvas tops on the Humvees, meaning any insurgent, rebel, or street urchin with a hand grenade could attack the vehicle from above.

My source tells me the Pentagon has indicated that January 2005 would be the earliest possible date for the “up-armoring” of the trucks.

Unofficially the reason for not armor-plating the vehicles is that the Pentagon simply “doesn’t have the money for it,” though my source adds that according to Army regulations no vehicle is supposed to enter any theater of operation without full armor plating.

The source said the Pentagon distributes to its troops a kit containing everything needed to properly up-armor the vehicles, but noted the 427th has been provided with no such kits.

The reservists’ unit for months has been on the receiving end of what they term “bull---- excuses,” “excuse after excuse after excuse,” and “a different excuse every time” regarding why the up-armoring hasn’t been addressed, adding that the Defense Department consistently has been short on specifics about deployment dates and the deficiencies in the unit’s equipment and materiel.

Moreover, morale in the group is so low that the unit’s platoon leader, already aware of the intervention by Rittenhouse to secure bulletproof vests, asked my source, in a sort of aside, to “make whatever calls it takes.”

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