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Humvees, the SecDef, and Military Protocol:

A few thoughts on last week’s infamous “Town Hall Meeting” held at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

The mainstream media splashed the confrontation across front pages and news telecasts around the world. The New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today all featured it as the lead story the next morning. Rummy had been called to the carpet by Army Specialist Thomas Wilson. This young man was having to “dumpster dive” for armor and glass so his vehicle would be safe to “head north.” Once again, the DOD and the Bush Administration were failing to adequately equip our men and women in uniform and one of our lower ranking soldiers was forced to make the world aware of it.

First, where was this guy’s commander? You don’t jump the chain of command, and in this case, I mean the entire chain. It’s military cardinal rule number one. About 15 seconds after that question was asked I would’ve had the young man standing in front of me while I offered him a quick refresher on this whole military thing. “Before you make a statement to the big guy, how’s about you complain to me first. Having the Secretary of Defense hear about it before I do, or my boss, or his boss, or his boss’s boss, is not a happy thing.”

Secondly, and much more importantly, Rumsfeld was right-on in the way he handled it. As quoted and subsequently criticized, he replied, “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” In my opinion, it wasn’t flip, it wasn’t nervous, it was typically diplomatic.

What Rummy could have said, and been 100 percent accurate, was:

    Well, young man, you can thank former President Bill Clinton, who in 8 years in office, never saw the need to evolve the military from a Cold War force to one that would be fighting future wars, one that would emphasize urban fighting and move away from ‘the linear battlefield’ doctrine. You can thank him for reducing Army Divisions from 18 to 10, otherwise you probably wouldn’t even be here. You can thank him and Secretary of Defense William Cohen for failing to program for these weapon systems back in 1997 and 1998, when they were developing and funding the Six-Year Defense Program (SYDP) under the DOD’s Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS).

    You see, soldier, we’ve never gone to war with the army we want. We were grossly undermanned and under-equipped entering World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Thanks to President Bush and a program called “Defense Priorities and Allocations System,” we’ve increased the production of Humvees from 15 to 450 a month. We’ve spent $1.2 billion since August 2003 on armor and armored Humvees alone. (Numbers courtesy of 2slick.blogspot.com and Soldier for Truth.org) We are adapting as we always have. You can be sure, soldier, that no Humvee heads north without “Level III” armored protection.

No doubt Specialist Thomas Wilson has been before his commander by now. No doubt he understands how complaints or concerns are to be elevated in the future. No doubt that the New York Times, Washinton Post, and USA Today will fail to cover the real issues.

At ease, soldier.

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