Rumsfeld Not Surprised at Tough Questions From Soldiers
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
NEW DELHI, India, Dec. 9, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he is not surprised that soldiers at a town-hall meeting in Kuwait Dec. 8 asked him tough questions. He is surprised, however, that the media has chosen to focus on the concerns of a few and ignore the overall positive tone of the event.
"It was a very fine, warm, enjoyable meeting. There were lots of questions; they covered the full spectrum," the secretary said today in a short briefing for reporters traveling with him. "There were questions that were highly complimentary and very friendly and very interested and very supportive."
Rumsfeld traveled to India shortly after the town-hall meeting, held at a hangar on Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
During that meeting, one soldier caused a stir when he asked Rumsfeld why his unit was having to get scrap armor and ballistic glass from refuse piles in Kuwait to armor-up their Humvees. Another soldier expressed concern that she and her husband joined a volunteer Army but that soldiers are now being held past their contracts involuntarily.
Regarding the armor, Rumsfeld explained that not all vehicles need to be armored for every mission. He said some Humvees are transported on other vehicles and are only used on secure installations.
"Depending on the purpose that a vehicle is going to be used for, the military makes judgments about what types of vehicles with what types of armor should be used," he said.
The United States is producing roughly 450 "up-armored" Humvees every month and sending them to units in Iraq.
More than 19,000 Humvees are in the area overseen by U.S. Central Command. Of those, 14,960 are in Iraq and are up-armored or have been modified at the unit level with "add-on armor" kits, said Eric Ruff, a Defense Department spokesman.
But beyond the specifics of the question, Rumsfeld said it's important for leaders to hear concerns from their troops.
"I think that's good for people to raise questions that they're interested in; it gives the senior military leadership that has the responsibility for these matters the chance to hear them and to listen to these concerns, to talk to people," he said.
Senior military leaders in Kuwait said they had no knowledge of soldiers using scrap to armor their Humvees. Rumsfeld said unit leaders would speak to the soldier who asked the question and find out "what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know."
Rumsfeld frequently holds town-hall meeting sessions with troops. "I think it's a very constructive exchange," he said.