Marine Corps Dropped the Ball

Thursday, May 24, 2007

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Who needs up-armored vehicles?! Apparently our Marines deployed into a war zone where IEDs are one of the most prevalent threats don't need them badly enough for the Marine Corps to act on the urgent request.

The Marine Corps waited over a year before acting on an "priority 1 urgent" request to send blast-resistant vehicles to Iraq, DANGER ROOM has learned.

According to a Marine Corps document provided to DANGER ROOM, the request for over 1,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles came in February, 2005. A formal call to fulfill that order did not emerge until November, 2006. "There is an immediate need for an MRAP vehicle capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats," the 2005 "universal need statement" notes.

Back then -- as now -- improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- represented the deadliest threat to American troops in the region. "The expanded use" of these bombs "requires a more robust family of vehicle capable of surviving the IED... threat," the document adds. "MRAP-designed vehicles represent a significant increase in their survivability baseline over existing motor vehicle equipment and will mitigate... casualties resulting from IED[s]."

When my husband was in Iraq, which was during the initial invasion, he was issued a flak jacket, with no plate armor. Flak jackets repel shrapnel and 9mm rounds, but that's the extent of the protection. Plate armor was selectively distributed and, to his knowledge, the most anyone in his unit got, was one plate, which they could choose to wear over the chest or the back. None of the HMMWVs in his unit were up-armored. Instead, they were issued an older flak jacket to jury-rig a little more protection. They could choose between draping them over the canvas doors or sit on them to protect... well... you get it. They were, however, issued two, count-em two, MOPP Suits, to protect against chemical weapons. My husband got trench foot -- in the desert -- because the of the protective boots. How many chem weapon attacks did they face? That would be none.

This initial miscalculation was somewhat understandable. We invaded Iraq, ostensibly, over banned weapons, and everyone, except those of us smart enough to listen to Scott Ritter, believed they'd face chem weapon attacks.

You would think that by 2005, after all the lives and limbs lost to IEDs, the Marine Corps would have considered the urgent request for sufficiently armored vehicles, well, urgent. Bureaucratic ineptitude was only part of the problem, in this case. According to Marine Corps spokesman Bill Johnson-Miles, the problem was one of manufacturing and supply.

To Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the stunted response is another example of how "the suits and the bureaucrats in Washington don't seem to have the same sense of urgency as the guys in the field."

"This is what happens when industry isn't put on a war footing," he adds. "It's like the military families are at war, and everyone else is out shopping."

Remember national war efforts? Remember when we were a nation at war, not just a military at war?

We Can Do It! (Rosie the Riveter)