When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addressed troops in Kuwait who were scheduled to deploy to Iraq, he got an earful.
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers there.
"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.
Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced them. "Now settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."
"You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time," Mr. Rumsfeld finally said.
Another soldier complained that active-duty Army units sometimes get priority over the National Guard and Reserve units for the best equipment in Iraq. Rumsfeld tried to deny that allegation but said there's no way to prove that there's no discrimination. (No one mentioned the fact that the Government has to pay out more benefits when a 'regular army' soldier gets killed vs. someone from the National Guard or Reserves.)
FYI: The troops refer to the pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass that they are forced to scrounge for and bolt on to their trucks for protection against roadside bombs in Iraq as "hillbilly armor."
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