OLDER HUMVEES FOUND LACKING IN
TROOPS VULNERABLE TO BLASTS, BUT
THE BETTER-ARMORED VEHICLES ARE
IN SHORT SUPPLY
The Hartford Courant
Dec. 22, 2003
One in four soldiers killed in Iraq were hit by blasts
from homemade roadside bombs that tougher-built
vehicles might have deflected.
Yet it could take more than a year for the U.S.
military to get specially armored Humvees to some
units in Iraq and to many members of the National
Guard and reserves.
Most of the units that could benefit from armored
Humvees don't have them because the Department
of Defense hasn't built enough to go around. And
the few units that already have them are generally
regular military units. The National Guard and
reserves, although taking an increasing role in the
conflict, are saddled with second-hand, sometimes
Realizing the need, the Pentagon has a new
commitment to get the armored Humvees to Iraq,
but the effort has become a race against budgets
and production levels.
Nobody has to tell the 143rd Military Police
Company from Hartford about the bombs known
as improvised explosive devices. The remotely
detonated devices have seriously wounded four of
its soldiers in Baghdad, including the 143rd's
Members of the company line their 1980s-vintage
Humvee doors with old bulletproof vests and put
sandbags on the floor. They hope such jury-rigged
armor might slow down a bomb's blast.
They know that the older Humvees they use, with
aluminum bodies and fiberglass hoods, provide no
more protection than a Ford Explorer. The trucks
aren't going to protect them from roadside bombs
or, for that matter, from a volley of 7.62mm
The vehicles that do offer such protection are
slowly trickling into Iraq. They're called
``up-armored'' Humvees, enhanced by Ogara-Hess
& Eisenhardt Armoring Co. of Ohio.
``We know this for certain: There are people that
have come home alive and well without injury as a
result of this,'' said Bob Mecredy, president of the
aerospace and defense group at Armor Holdings
Inc., parent company of Ogara-Hess & Eisenhardt.
each, twice the cost of a regular Humvee. The
military has been slowly buying the modified
versions for a decade, giving them to military police
and other security forces.
``The up-armored Humvee was never intended to
be procured for all units in the Army,'' said Maj.
Gary Tallman, an Army spokesman at the
Pentagon. But with soldiers being killed every
week in Iraq, many of them riding in Humvees, the
commanders have changed that strategy, he said.
Tallman said the Army was surprised by the
intensity of the ``localized violent combat.'' A
decision was made to get up-armored Humvees to
non-security units, Tallman said. That change in
strategy led to a scramble.
For instance, units such as Connecticut's 248th
Engineer Company, working west of Baghdad, are
vulnerable to attack as they drive several miles to
work sites. It will be up to U.S. Central Command
to decide whether the 248th is eligible for
up-armored Humvees. Such trucks would be a big
improvement from when the unit was merely given
steel plates to weld to its vehicles as it prepared its
convoy into Iraq.
Tallman said the Army was shipping up-armored
Humvees to Iraq as fast as they could be built or
moved from other areas. Vehicles have been moved
from around the world, including 600 from Europe
and others from the Balkans. At last count, there
were about 400 left to ship. The rest will rely on
Ogara-Hess & Eisenhardt is the only company that
produces armored Humvees, so U.S. forces can get
new ones only as fast as assembly lines make
them. Production is expected to increase from 80
per month to 220 per month by next spring,
``It's just going to take time,'' Tallman said.
Under the new requirements, an additional $230
million has been funneled toward the effort. There
are currently about 1,500 armored Humvees in
Iraq, but Acting Secretary of the Army Les
Brownlee acknowledged in a U.S. Senate hearing in
November that the Army needs at least twice that
number. Even when 3,000 of them reach Iraq, the
number of armored units would still represent only
a quarter of the more than 12,000 Humvees in the
The Humvee -- technically the High Mobility
Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle -- replaced the
Jeeps that had been used for decades. Since its
origin in 1985, the Humvee has become the
military's most common utility vehicle. AM
General Corp. has built more than 140,000.
``It's a utility vehicle,'' Tallman said. ``It's not a
The 143rd has Humvees dating back at least 17
years. Even though the 143rd has been doing police
work in Baghdad, it hasn't received any armored
Humvees. That's because the 143rd is a National
Guard unit and makes do with hand-me-down
``That's exactly the issue,'' said Maj. Gen William
Cugno, leader of the Connecticut National Guard.
``It's time to change.''
Cugno said that during a visit to Kuwait this year
he spotted a group of 88 armored Humvees ready
to be shipped into Iraq. He pulled every string but
was unable to secure them for his Connecticut
``We're going to get them soon, but not soon
enough,'' Cugno said. ``We should have had them a
long time ago.''
The Army has estimated that all the soldiers who
need them will have the armored vehicles by 2005.
But Cugno knows that his units are lucky to have
suffered only injuries so far.
``I thank God every day that I've had no kills,'' he
``It takes a great amount of effort for the National
Guard to get its equipment,'' said Mecredy, who is
also a retired Army officer. ``The up-armored
Humvee has been no different.''
Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, director of the Army
National Guard, recognizes that reservists have
often been shorted on the best equipment.
``There are no front lines today, and every soldier
must be a warrior, must have the training and the
equipment to carry the fight to the enemy,'' he said
in a recent statement. He acknowledged that
National Guard units ``have equipment that has
been in the inventory for many years and is at least
one generation behind their active counterparts,''
and that the equipment ``is often less capable and
Some members of the 143rd doubt they will get
armored Humvees before they are scheduled to
come home next year. But Mecredy thinks they
might, maybe as production hits its height in the
Mecredy said that almost $500 million has been
dedicated this year and next to making new
up-armored Humvees. That would pay for about
2,600 vehicles, enough to meet what the military
says it needs in Iraq.
Until the money catches up with the 143rd, the
soldiers will drive the old Humvees.
In June, Spec. Albert Kim and Pfc. Joshua Clark,
both members of the 143rd and Connecticut
residents, were in a Humvee when it was hit by a
blast from an improvised explosive device. Both
were wounded and are still undergoing medical
evaluation in Connecticut.
In September, the unit's commander, Capt.
Gregory Samuels, was leaving an Iraqi police
station when his Humvee was hit, injuring Samuels
and Pfc. William Zampaglione, who was in the gun
turret. Samuels went back to Iraq on Dec. 8, but
Zampaglione is still undergoing medical evaluation.
Improvised explosive devices have killed 60 Army
soldiers in Iraq and injured many more, according
to the Pentagon.
In October, U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd
District, went to Iraq and met with Connecticut
troops. When he returned, he sent Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld a report of his trip. In
his memo, Simmons listed the concerns of troops,
including that they were at higher risk without the
A Nov. 12 response from Brownlee described the
movement of existing armored Humvees from
elsewhere in the world and said that none would
leave Iraq as long as they were needed.
Simmons, retired after 37 years in the Army and
Army Reserve and now a member of the House
Armed Services Committee, said armored Humvees
were also needed to boost morale. He said he had
been content with the Pentagon's response, but
understood why soldiers wanted the best
``There's an alternative,'' he said. ``Let's get it over
While units in Iraq wait, some are being given
armoring kits as a temporary measure. The kits can
make Humvees a little safer, but they aren't a
substitute for specially designed armor.
Even if the Connecticut troops come home
unscathed, Cugno knows they still need better gear
because the guard is seeing more action all the time.
``There are going to be a whole lot more missions
for the guard,'' he said.
While the military has armored vehicles, such as
tanks, they're not right for certain jobs in Iraq,
``We can't do day-to-day business in a tank,''
Tallman said. ``You need highly mobile troops
going around doing the jobs they need to do.''