All Trucks in Iraq Have Some Form of Armor, General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BALAD, Iraq, Dec. 16, 2004 All of the medium and heavy trucks soldiers drive in Iraq have some form of armor on them, said the logistics boss in the country during an interview Dec. 14.
Army Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, the commander of the 1st Corps Support Command, spoke to reporters traveling with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. The chairman was in the region to bring a United Service Organizations tour headlined by Robin Williams to entertain servicemembers in the region.
Fontaine said that soldiers have not waited for kits to arrive from the United States to add armor to heavy and medium trucks that are the logistical workhorses in Iraq.
As early as August 2003, soldiers took armor from Iraqi vehicles and began welding it into their vehicles. It is not level-one armor, which is the kind put onto the vehicles at the manufacturer, Fontaine said. But the steel used is the same as in the add-on kits that have been arriving in Iraq.
There are some trade-offs with adding armor, he said. "The trucks have less power because you have a heavier truck," he said. Drivers also have to be careful because the center of gravity on the trucks changes, too.
But armor is only part of the equation in protecting servicemembers. Soldiers have been learning new tactics, techniques and procedures to deal with the improvised-explosive-device threat. "Every time we do a convoy or a combat logistics patrol, we learn from going out there," the general said. The truckers are well trained to identify suspicious activity and sites on or near the roads.
For instance, "it could be a dead dog," he said, noting that insurgents have stuffed the carcasses of dead animals with explosives to be set off with wireless detonators.
Even the nature of transporting logistical material has changed. In the past, military convoys would consist of 10 unarmored trucks bringing supplies up from a rear area, Fontaine said. In this new environment, convoys have gun trucks interspersed in the lineup; all trucks have communications; and all truckers are trained not only in driving, but also in soldiering.
In fact, they are not even called convoys anymore; they are "combat logistics patrols."
If soldiers on such patrols spot suspicious activities, they can call on other assets for assistance. A variety of coalition capabilities can check out the area.
Intelligence windfalls from local Iraqis and from documents found in Fallujah also have helped. "We found enough equipment in Fallujah to stock a Best Buy," said a 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing official at Al Asad Airfield earlier in the day.
In addition, the command has established four more logistics bases in Iraq. This eliminates a lot of the travel that was once necessary, officials said.
Fontaine also said the Air Force has increased the amount of materiel being flown in, further reducing the need for convoys. C-17s bring the equipment to a logistics base, and C-130s take it to forward operating bases. "There may be more cost (for the flights), but the cost in lives is more important," he said.