Republican-Style Troop Support
El Commandante…. Le roi pitoyable….President Bush has long equated supporting the troops with supporting his war of choice. If you’re one of those liberal types who pointed out that Saddam Hussein (dictator and tyrant that he was) was not connected to Al-Qaeda and had no ties to 9/11, then you didn’t support the troops.
He told us, in effect: if you think the soldiers sent to war deserved to be properly equipped and properly protected, you don’t support the troops. If you think our wounded soldiers deserve the best medical and psychological care in the world because they weren’t, then you don’t support the troops. If you think soldiers deserve to be paid enough for their families to live on without Food Stamps, then you don’t support the troops. And on and on.
Here’s just another example of how Dear Leader and his soon-to-be-gone Republican-controlled Congress have shown their support: even though we’re spending billions in Iraq (mostly by losing it or paying mercenaries and war profiteers like Halliburton and its subsidiary, KBR) our troops are running their vehicles and equipment longer and harder than thy were designed for, and the repair lines are back-logged because there wasn’t enough money to keep the repair facilities going full-time and full-staff.
The Army and Marine Corps have sunk more than 40 percent of their ground combat equipment into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to government data. An estimated $17 billion-plus worth of military equipment is destroyed or worn out each year, blasted by bombs, ground down by desert sand and used up to nine times the rate in times of peace. The gear is piling up at depots such as Anniston, waiting to be repaired.
The depletion of major equipment such as tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and especially helicopters and armored Humvees has left many military units in the United States without adequate training gear, officials say. Partly as a result of the shortages, many U.S. units are rated “unready” to deploy, officials say, raising alarm in Congress and concern among military leaders at a time when Iraq strategy is under review by the White House and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
Across the military, scarce equipment is being shifted from unit to unit for training. For example, a brigade of 3,800 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division that will deploy to Iraq next month has been passing around a single training set of 44 Humvees, none of which has the added armor of the Humvees they will drive in Iraq.
The military’s ground forces are only beginning the vast and costly job of replacing, repairing and upgrading combat equipment — work that will cost an estimated $17 billion to $19 billion annually for several more years, regardless of any shift in Iraq strategy. The Army alone has 280,000 major pieces of equipment in combat zones that will eventually have to be fixed or replaced. Before the war, the Army spent $2.5 billion to $3 billion a year on wear and tear.
Workers at Anniston take pride in patching, rebuilding and testing the broken-down gear and returning it to like-new condition. Often, they must innovate by taking parts from wrecked vehicles if new parts do not exist or have not been ordered in time.
“The supply system can’t keep up with us,” said Rodney Brodeur, division chief for turbine engines, speaking over the clang and whir of his workshop. It is projected that in 2007, Anniston will rebuild 1,400 turbine engines for M1 tanks, compared with 800 this year. [all emphasis mine]