All Military Vehicles in Iraq Now Armored
All American military vehicles that roll across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq now have some form of armor protection, a top Army general said Thursday. “I’m comfortable that [the vehicles] have adequate protection for their mission,” Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb, commander of Third U.S. Army, said in a news briefing. As commander of the Fort McPherson-based unit, Whitcomb also has the responsibility to ensure that U.S. ground forces are properly equipped and supplied.
Whitcomb had been on the job little more than two months when a Tennessee National Guard soldier questioned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in December about a lack of armor on some of his unit’s vehicles. The resulting controversy produced congressional inquiries and charges that the Bush administration was not providing proper protection or equipment for soldiers in the war zone. But Whitcomb said even before the question was asked of Rumsfeld, military officials had started to increase the number of armored vehicles in Iraq because of the growing propensity by the insurgents to target convoys with roadside bombs. “Back in June 2003 it wasn’t immediately recognizable that it [the roadside bomb] was going to be the weapon of choice of the insurgents,” Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb said the armored vehicles in Iraq have one of three different protective packages. Level I armor is the protection put on at the factory. Known in military parlance as the up-armored Humvee, it has bulletproof glass in all windows and armor protection all around. There are about 6,600 of these Humvees now in Iraq. Level II armor is a factory produced add-on package that provides protection for the windows, sides, front and back. The tops and bottoms of the vehicles are not armored. About 10,800 of these Humvees and trucks are in Iraq. Level III armor consists of steel plates welded to the sides of vehicles. About 2,000 of these are in Iraq. The 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart took 900 Humvees to Iraq with Level III armor that was provided by the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. Whitcomb said eventually all military wheeled vehicles in Iraq will have Level I or Level II armor. Level III, he said, “is better than nothing but it’s a bridge to get to the other stuff.” Two facilities in Kuwait and eight in Iraq are working around the clock to provide the additional armor.
While armor for the vehicle fleet is an ongoing program, Whitcomb said body armor for soldiers, once in short supply, is no longer an issue. “Before any kid crosses the berm from Kuwait to Iraq he has the latest equipment, including body armor,” he said.
Good news indeed.