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General Topic Areas

Putting troops in danger (11)
Pay and benefits (5)
Recruiting (0)
Priorities (2)
Deaths due to Pentagon's negligence (3)
Mistreatment of troops (2)

Specific Issues and Cases

lightly armored vehicles (8)
Body armor (2)
Pentagon cuts to IDP and FSA (3)
Klamath Basin Fish Kill (1)
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Treatment of US troops

 
  

Project: Bush administration's treatment of US troops

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(1990s)

       To save money, US Army officials order just 50 percent of the ALQ-156 flare-launching systems needed for the Illinois-Iowa National Guard fleet of Chinook helicopters. The flare-launching systems allow helicopters to evade heat-seeking missiles. “A conscious decision was made not to buy as many as we need,” Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, later explains to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It's a decision that has some level of risk with it.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/27/2003]
People and organizations involved: Roger C. Schultz
          

1997

       Major Clifford E. Day at the Air Command and Staff College in Alabama concludes in a paper that the US military's reliance on soft-skinned Humvees during the operation in Mogadishu, Somalia “needlessly put ... troops in harms way without the proper equipment to successfully complete the mission.” [MSNBC, 4/15/2003 Sources: Critical Analysis on the Defeat of Task Force Ranger]
          

(2003)

       The Illinois-Iowa National Guard is deployed to Iraq. The unit is sent with 14 of its Chinook helicopters. However only two of them are outfitted with aircraft survivability equipment. The remaining helicopters will operate in Iraq unprotected. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/27/2003]
          

(January 2003)

       The Bush administration's proposed 2004 defense budget would cap raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, which is significantly below the average raise for military personnel of 4.1 percent. [The Army Times, 6/30/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

March 2003 and later

       US National Guard units deployed to Iraq are less well-equipped than their counterparts in the Army.
Helicopters lack aircraft survivability equipment which allows the helicopters to evade enemy fire. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/27/2003]

Guardsmen complain of shortages of body armor, night vision goggles, ammunition, radar, uniforms, boots, cold weather gear, and two-way radios. Some guardsmen say that the equipment shortage are at times so severe that if they were operating according to Army rules the lack of equipment would have amounted to an “automatic mission-abort criteria.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/27/2003; CBS News, 10/31/2004]

          

March 2003 and later

       The US military sends 12,000 soft-skinned Humvees, some with canvas-skinned doors, to Iraq along with hundreds of transport vehicles which are equally unprepared for deployment in combat zones. [The Washington Post, 12/26/2003; MSNBC, 4/15/2003; Daily Press, 9/26/2004]
          

March 2003 and later

       US military units in the Gulf, as well as those in the US preparing for deployment, contract local welders and steel fabricators to retrofit their light-armored vehicles with makeshift armor known as “Hillbilly,” or “Haji,” armor. [MSNBC, 4/15/2003; Daily Press, 9/26/2004; The Washington Post, 12/26/2003]
          

April 2003 and later

       Roughly 44,000 US troops deployed to Iraq are provided with Vietnam-era Flak jackets instead of the modern Interceptor vests developed during the late 90s and in use since 2001. Flak Jackets do not protect troops from most of the ammunition types being used in Iraq. By contrast, the Interceptor vest—made of layered sheets of Kevlar with pockets in front and back for boron carbide ceramic plates—can stop high-velocity machine-gun bullets, shrapnel and other ordnance. They are also significantly lighter, giving troops more maneuverability when they need to respond quickly to threatening circumstances. Even in cases where troops are provided with the modern vests, they often lack the essential ceramic plates. [New York Daily News, 9/30/2003; Los Angeles Times, 10/02/2003; The Washington Post, 12/4/2003; Associated Press, 10/13/2003] Worried for the safety of their sons and daughters in Iraq, parents begin purchasing Interceptor vests and ceramic plates from body armor companies in the US and shipping them directly to their children's units. Sometimes only the plates are available so soldiers improvise by taping the plates they have received from home to their Flak Jackets with duct tape—a practice that plate manufacturers say is unsafe. [Los Angeles Times, 10/02/2003]
          

May 27, 2003

       US serviceman Mike Quinn is fatally shot at a traffic control point in Fallujah during an ambush. According to his friend, Staff Sgt. Dave Harris, he was killed because he wasn't wearing his body armor. He had apparently given his vest to a young soldier who had not been provided with one of his own. [European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, 8/31/2003]
          

(Summer 2003)

       Pentagon officials indicate that they will not ask Congress to renew a temporary increase in monthly Imminent-Danger Pay (IDP) (from $150 to $225) and Family-Separation Allowance (FSA) (from $100 to $250) to US soldiers stationed in combat zones. The temporary IDP and FSA increases, which were put into effect retroactively in April, are set to expire on September 30. In August, when a journalist asks the White House about its views on the plan not to renew the pay increases, a spokesperson refers the reporter to a June Pentagon budget report which warned that the DoD budget can't sustain the higher payments. [The Army Times, 6/30/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/14/2003] But after the planned rollback of the benefits becomes a public controversy, the Pentagon issues a statement on August 14 saying that it intends to ensure that those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan “continue to receive this compensation at least at the current levels.” The statement says nothing about troops deployed on dangerous missions in other regions. [Department of Defense, 8/14/2003]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, US Department of Defense
          

(June 2003)

       The White House complains that certain pay-and-benefits incentives for US soldiers that Congress added to the 2004 defense budget are wasteful and unnecessary—including a proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to the families of soldiers who are killed in action. [The Army Times, 6/30/2003]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, Bush administration
          

(Summer 2003-March 2004)

       The US Army's official guidance on the issue of “hardening” soft-skinned Humvees and other lightly-armored vehicles includes a recommendation for soldiers to put sandbags on the floorboards to reduce the impact of explosions. Since the summer, the soldiers' preferred solution to the problem of unprotected vehicles has been to hire local contractors to add steel to the bodies of their vehicles (see March 2003 and later). [MSNBC, 4/15/2003]
          

September 25, 2003

       Department of Defense officials ask Congress not to renew a temporary increase in the Family Separation Allowance (FSA) and Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) for deployed forces that had been enacted in April. Instead, Defense suggests raising the Hardship Duty Pay for troops deployed only in Iraq and Afghanistan. David Chu, the department's top personnel official, says that the April raises were like “using a sledgehammer to hit a small nail.” The Pentagon's intent to rollback the FSA and IDP reignites a controversy that had sprung up during the summer (see (Summer 2003)) when it was first revealed that the White House supported the Defense Department's plan to save money by cutting back on the two programs. [Stars and Stripes, 10/4/2003] The final National Defense Authorization bill, which is passed by Congress in November, rejects the Pentagon's recommendations and renews the pay increases. [Sun Herald, 11/8/2003]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, US Department of Defense, David Chu
          

October 2003

       Approximately 600 sick or injured members of the US Army Reserves and National Guard are in “medical hold” at Fort Stewart where they are kept “in rows of spare, steamy and dark cement barracks in a sandy field” while doctors review their cases to determine how sick or disabled they are and whether or not they are eligible to receive benefits. Many of the soldiers in medical hold complain that they have been languishing there for “months” and that the conditions are “substandard.” Some soldiers also claim that the Army is trying to refuse them benefits on grounds that their injuries and illnesses are due to a pre-existing condition. Willie Buckels, a truck master with the 296th Transportation Company, explains to UPI reporter Mark Benjamin how he feels about the Army's treatment of the soldiers: “Now my whole idea about the US Army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen.” [The Coastal Courier, 10/22/2003; CNN, 10/19/2003; United Press International, 10/20/2003; United Press International, 10/17/2003]
          

October 2003

       More than 18 months after the US began its ground invasion of Iraq, US troops are still waiting for the Army to retrofit their supply trucks. [Daily Press, 9/24/2004; CBS News, 10/31/2004]
          

October 2003

       Army Pfc. John D. Hart telephones his parents in Bedford, Massachusetts and complains that he feels unsafe patrolling in his company's unprotected soft-skinned Humvees which do not have bulletproof shielding or even metal doors. A week later, the 20-year-old paratrooper and another soldier, David R. Bernstein, are killed when their vehicle is hit with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Taza outside the northern city of Kirkuk. The driver of the vehicle, Specialist Joshua Sams, will later explain to the Boston Globe that Bernstein had bled to death after being struck by a bullet that ripped through the Humvee. [Boston Globe, 10/20/2003; Boston Globe, 3/8/2004; MSNBC, 4/15/2003]
          

October 2003

       Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee claims that the Army has ordered as many “up-armored” vehicles as its contractors can produce, but says that they will not be ready until mid-2005. But Brian T. Hart, whose 20 year old son was killed in a soft-skinned Humvee (see October 2003), investigates the secretary's claim and learns that the armor manufacturers are not at full production. He takes this information to Senator Edward M. Kennedy who then helps him pressure the Army to speed up production and move the date that they will be available up to January. [Boston Globe, 3/8/2004]
People and organizations involved: Edward Kennedy
          

January 16, 2004

       The Department of Veterans Affairs announces that it is immediately cutting health care benefits to Category 8 veterans. The agency says that the decision to cut the benefits, which will affect an estimated 164,000 US veterans, is made because there is a growing backlog of veterans still waiting to receive their first treatment from a VA health care facility. Veterans classified as Category 8 are veterans who do not suffer from military service-related disabilities or health problems and who make $30,000 to $35,000 or more per year. [The Washington Post, 1/17/2003]
People and organizations involved: Department of Veterans Affairs
          

June 2, 2004

       The US Army announces the extension of its “stop-loss” program which means that thousands of soldiers scheduled to retire or otherwise leave the military will be required to stay in Iraq for the remainder of their unit's deployment. [Associated Press, 6/2/2004] Critics call the policy a “backdoor draft.” [CBS News, 10/7/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/18/2004]
          

June 13, 2004

       Spc. Eric McKinley from the Oregon National Guard is killed when his unarmored Humvee hits an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) outside of Baghdad. Also in the vehicle is fellow guardsman Staff Sgt. Sean Davis who suffers shrapnel wounds and burns. The Humvee had been fitted with plywood, sandbags, and armor salvaged from old Iraqi tanks. McKinley was supposed to have been discharged from the Oregon National Guard a few months before, but he was kept in Iraq because of the Army's “stop-loss” policy (see June 2, 2004). [CBS News, 10/31/2004]
          

(Late October 2004)

       Oregon national guardsman Sean Davis tells CBS 60 Minutes that his unit was not provided with enough ammunition when they were deployed to Iraq and that the guardsmen lacked night vision goggles and two-way radios. He explains they used walkie-talkies that they or their families purchased on their own. “And anybody can pick up those signals, you know,” he notes. [CBS News, 10/31/2004]
          

(Late October 2004)

       US Representative David Obey, a senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, proposes to reduce Bush's recent tax cuts for the roughly 200,000 Americans who earn more than $1 million a year in order to help offset the $1.5 billion cut in Bush's military construction budget. By reducing the tax break from $88,300 to $83,500 the government would be able to restore $1 billion to the budget. But the Republican majority on the construction appropriations panel immediately shoots down Obey's proposal. [The Army Times, 6/30/2003]
People and organizations involved: David Obey
          

December 2004

       Upon being released from Fort Hood, Texas, 27-year-old Spc. Robert Loria is presented with a $1,768.81 bill from the US Army. [Times Herald Record, 12/10/2004 [a]] Loria was seriously injured on February 9, when the Humvee in which he was riding was hit by a roadside bomb. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/21/2004] The explosion “tore Loria's left hand and forearm off, split his femur in two and shot shrapnel through the left side of his body.” [Times Herald Record, 12/10/2004 [a]] After four months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., he was sent to Fort Hood where he stayed several more months. When he is finally ready to leave, instead of receiving a check for the $4,486 he thought was owed to him, he receives a huge bill. The Army says he owes $2,408.33 for 10 months of family separation pay that the Army mistakenly paid him, $2,204.25 in travel expenses from Fort Hood back to Walter Reed for a follow-up visit, and $310 for unreturned equipment that Loria says was damaged or destroyed when his Humvee was attacked. Including taxes, the total amount Lori owes the Army is $6,255.50, almost two thousand more than the amount he thought was owed to him. After a local newspaper runs a story on his situation and causes a public uproar, the Army waives most of Loria's debts. [Associated Press, 12/11/2004; The Seattle Times, 10/11/2004; Times Herald Record, 12/10/2004 [b]]
          


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