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Special Defense Department Briefing

Presenters: Major General John Sattler, Director of Operations for CENTCOM; Lawrence Di Rita, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
April 30, 2004
Special Defense Department Briefing

SATTLER:  I guess, it’s afternoon there.  Good afternoon, everyone.  John Sattler here.  Just wanted to make a brief opening statement, concerning all of the – all the forces and equipment that those forces brought into the theater. Probably about 90 days out before the rotation was to take place, each of the incoming commanders and their staffs came forward and they conducted what we call a “pre-deployment site survey,” PDSS.  On the Pre-Deployment Site Survey, the incoming commander comes in, brings additional staff and some of his subordinate commanders and they meet face to face with the commanders that they’ll -- and the staff officers that they will actually replace.  During this Pre-Deployment Site Survey, we do an analysis based on the security environment, based on the terrain they will operate in. Whether it’s going to be urban or rural.  Then they make the decision as to what equipment they will need to bring here, organic or if it’s equipment that’s not organic to their unit and they make that decision as to what additional equipment they’ll need outside their normal staple of equipment. 


Once they have done this initial assessment and they’ve talked back and forth with their – there’s crosstalk with the individual, they will replace concerning tactics, techniques, procedures, things that the unit on the ground has developed over time to stay ahead of the enemy, they go back to their home base. 


And the planning continues then to prepare to move that equipment forward and those forces forward.  And then about -- in most cases, somewhere between 45 and 30 days prior to deploying over, they come back and, again, they bring some subordinate commanders and select  members of their staff and they do a final assessment to finalize exactly what equipment and resources they will need.  And it’s during this final time that, again, they talk and trade – they look and see if anything’s changed since the initial assessment.  They go back and then they finalize the plan to prepare to move their forces and their equipment forward. 


All of the decisions that are made on the equipment are, in fact, made by the incoming commanders – those that go up to – in this case, Lieutenant General Sanchez – are forwarded to our headquarters, where General Abizaid slaps the table of approval and then that equipment is then put into the movement flow to come from the United States or overseas into the areas of operations.  And then we, once again, perform the movement of the equipment forward with the forces.  And there’s about a 10- to –14-day period what we call “right seat and left seat ride,” where, once again, they occupy the ground with the unit that they will replace. 


They patrol with them, they go on operations with them beside them.  For the first week, they’re in the left seat and then the second week, they’re in the right seat.  And once they’ve passed on all of that environmental knowledge that comes over time, then the departing unit moves on back out of the area and then we have a transfer of authority runs at the end of that right-seat, left-seat ride, where the incoming unit now takes charge of the location. 


So the equipment is, in fact, based on the commander’s assessment.  He does a troop-to-task as to what equipment he will need and that’s the equipment that he brings with him.  And with that probably a little longer than I want an opening statement, I’m prepared to go ahead and take your questions. 


Q:  General, this is Will Dunham with Reuters.  Can you say – can you quantify the amount of equipment that has been brought back into Iraq in recent weeks, how many tanks, other armored vehicles, etc? 


SATTLER:  Yes, Will, I can.  The Marines out to the west requested a company of M1A1, which is 14.  Those were already out there.  And when the 1st Infantry Division requested two companies of tanks be forwarded from Europe.  And as we speak, 23 of those tanks have already arrived and the other five tanks will be here in the next two to three days.  So the totals are 14 for the Marines and 28 for the 1st Infantry Division. 


And if I might and I apologize again for being a little bombastic here.   Just to give you an idea, I had the opportunity to command the 2nd Marine Division for the Marines, prior to coming to this job.  And inside the division -- a division of about 16,500 warriors -- there was 58 – five, eight – M1A1 tanks that supported the entire division.  The tank, it’s a marvelous weapon system.  It has its time and its place, but it does not linger over the entire battlefield.  It is used at the time, at the commander’s choosing, to wage the battle and it’s used when it’s necessary.  And when we need an M1 tank, only an M1 tank will answer that question.  But there’s plenty of time on the battlefield, keeping in mind there are nine infantry battalions inside that division and not one tank in any of those nine infantry battalions. 


So I just wanted to sort of give a little bit of a ratio to give an idea, at least from a Marine Corps perspective, of how many tanks have actually supported a division. 


Q:  Just a follow-up, how many other – approximately how many other armored vehicles are involved? 


SATTLER:  Of the armored vehicles, the only other armored vehicles right now, when we did the initial assessment back a number of months, we thought that we needed  1,000 up-armored humvees.  That would go ahead and beyond on the routes on the streets to go ahead and carry our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen, as they did their daily patrols. 


As the enemy changed his tactics and techniques, we upped that number where we have now in theater about 2,500 up-armored humvees.  We’re in the process of order – there are additional up-armored humvees on contract that will flow in, approximately another 2,000 that will flow in between now and in December.  So at that point, we’ll have approximately 4,500 up-armored humvees.  But again, once the commanders, when the enemy changes tactics, the commanders did their assessment, they came forward with an additional requirement, that requirement was immediately put on contracts.  And as a matter of fact, we were able to surge the production rate by a factor of three to get those coming in. 


Now in addition, we also have up-armored kits which we have, in fact, installed 8,000 up-armored kits to go in and protect windshields and doors of an additional 8,000 vehicles.  But those are in addition to the up-armored humvees that I just spoke to. 


Q:  How many soft-sided remain and do you plan on putting the armored kits on those? 


SATTLER:  I don’t have the – all we get is – we went to each commander and they came forward with their requirement for hardened humvees.  Some humvees are not required to be up-armored, even with the additional armored kits or to be replaced by up-armored humvees.  When the commanders came forward, these numbers I just walked through are based on what the commanders across all the divisions stated that they needed – this includes, obviously, Afghanistan.  But they stated that they needed to go and meet their requirement. 


I do not know the number of normal humvees that would still be in the theater after we replace the up-armored and we also hang the armored kits. 


Q:  General, Jim Miklaszewski with NBC.  Many critics, including many up on Capitol Hill, point to this as another example of how ill-prepared the U.S. military was for the aftermath of major combat.  Was it shortsightedness not to have more of these up-armored humvees or at least more equipped with the up-armored kits, following the major combat? 


SATTLER:  Jim, as I mentioned, no one said no to anyone.  The commanders who came forward and did the Pre-Deployment Site Surveys, who brought their subordinate commanders and their staffs with them, as they looked at the environment, we made the call -- they made the call and we supported them, based on the enemy situation at the time.  No, we did not predict that that enemy situation or security environment would change.  So at the time that we went forward and we did that troop to task and we task organized both the personnel and equipment, we made the call, based on what the environment was at that time.  And we put some additional on top of that, for a little bit of a buffer, but that’s the way the equation was worked out, Jim.


DI RITA:  Let me add to that, if I can.  What the general said is they tripled the production rate.  Well, that suggests that two years ago when this budget first got put together for the current year we’re in, somebody thought that the current production rate was about right.  Wartime changes a lot of things.  And in previous wars, the United States has demonstrated a surge capacity to produce things that are needed in the current war and that’s what going on here. 


To say that the budget and the program and the number of humvees that were being cranked out, according to the budget that – as the Secretary’s talked about, starts about three or four years ago and worked its way finally to today was somehow insufficient.  Well, it’s almost designed to be insufficient because it’s – you can’t project that far in advance.  So when this additional need for armor was determined, what did we do, we do what we’ve historically done in this country – we surged the production of things in war.  And that’s what’s going on here.  And there is a significant surge in production for the purposes that the commanders have asked. 


Q:  Then why not bring in more Bradleys, for example, General?


SATTLER:  Well – and we still have a substantial number of Bradleys that are in the theater at this time.  The feeling is that, you know, the Bradley has its place in its mission, as does the up-armored humvee, does the soft-skinned humvee.  The feeling now is that we feel that the up-armored humvee, the 2,000 that we have in the – I’m sorry, the 2,500 that we have right now on the street and the additional 2,000 that are coming in, that they meet our requirement.  So if the commanders would come forward and state that they needed additional, no one has said no to any commander at any level, if that commander comes forward needing either additional equipment of any type or additional resources.  So at this point, the capability that’s provided, the assets that are in the theater are, in fact, meeting what our commanders have told us we need. 


DI RITA:  And to just add to that point, each of these has its pluses and minuses – Bradleys versus APC.  Other APC’s versus humvees. Remember when this portion was put together, General Abizaid, when he talked about it and the other commanders talked about what was expected at the time these forces would arrive in theater would be a lighter, more mobile force, they made a virtue out of it because that’s – you think Abizaid said we finally have the force configured – words along this line, this isn’t a direct quote, but – we finally have a rotation of forces that’s configured for the circumstance we find ourselves in and we feel good about that.  Well, the circumstances have changed.  And as a result of those changed circumstances, they’re getting different capabilities. 


Q:  General, can I just follow up also on this soft-skinned humvee.  The numbers I had gotten the other day were that there are still thousands of soft-skinned humvees.  Can you explain, I guess, why they wouldn’t want those up-armored – why, I mean, it seems like that’s the vehicle you use most?  People in every position, in the Army, Marines are now vulnerable to attack by IEDs and everything else.  So why would they not want those thousands of soft-skinned humvees up-armored? 


SATTLER:  The humvees that are moving in the areas where there’s threat or a threat exists, those are the ones and the ones who are doing the patrolling, the ones who are doing the convoy security for the trucks, etcetera, those are the ones that are seeing the combat.  Those are the ones that are up-armored right now and those are the ones where the trucks that are going along with them having been recipients of the armored kits that reinforce the doors and the windshields.  The other ones that are not in harm’s way do not require the armor. 


Q:  I guess my question is who’s not in harm’s way over there, given the situation with IEDs?


SATTLER:  There are some rear areas where the vehicles are being used, that don’t travel the routes where the IEDs are located or where the ambushes are taking place.  So on the bases, moving inside the logistics areas where they -- you know, in some of the bases and some of the log areas are extremely large.  So there are a lot of vehicles that don’t leave the cantonment areas.  So those type vehicles where there is no threat inside the compound, those do not need to be up-armored. 


Q:  General, with the arrival of the 28 tanks for the 1st Armored Division, how many tanks do you have in the country and also can you say whether the Marines that received the tanks that they requested, are those tanks already in-country? 


SATTLER:  The tanks that the Marines requested are on Marine lines.  So those 14 – that one company that the Marines requested are there.  The other tanks went to the 1st Infantry Division, the first ID.  Those 28 tanks, as I mentioned, aren’t all there, but the remaining will be there in three days.  I do not want to discuss the overall, you know, number of anything of weapons systems, be it tanks, be it Bradleys, be it whatever.  So I really don’t want to get into that finite number that are in the theater. 


Q:  When did the Marines get their tanks and could you tell us – you said that all 8,000 up-armored or armored kits are not all in Iraq.  Can you divide those between Iraq and Afghanistan for us? 


SATTLER:  I do not have those numbers.  We actually did a troop-to-task.  We took a look at the environment both in Afghanistan and Iraq and the number of forces, did the ratio and looked at the threat of the preponderance of both up-armored humvees and the preponderance of the add-on armor kits are, in fact, in Iraq.  I do not have that breakdown. 


Q:  And the Marines got the tanks when?


SATTLER:  Marines got the tanks within about – it was a bulk of – we had talked to General Abizaid both in the, you know, meaning it wasn’t a formal request – it was a discussion between the commanders and the tanks were moving forward.  And within about 10 days, they had them in their line.


Q:  General, is the fact that you’re bringing in M1 tanks – the 28 M1 tanks -- should the public take from that that the threat you’re facing is a lot more sophisticated than these thugs and former regime elements, the disparate groups that we’ve been led to believe, are attacking the U.S., but this is a much more sophisticated threat?


SATTLER:  No, we should not assume that.  These are intimidators.  They’re the same thugs and intimidators that Saddam Hussein used to maintain power.  They rule through coercion.  They want the country to go back to the old ways.  Because they’re there and they’re fairly ruthless, there’s not -- an M1A1 tank sends a very strong message.   RPGs, machine guns, small-arms fire cannot stop the M1A1 tank or the M1A2.  Therefore, bringing the tanks forward, having the commander to have those in their toolbox, so that they can ply and use, as necessary. When the M1A1 tank is needed and it comes forward, it sends a very powerful message.  So it has nothing to do with the sophistication of the enemy.  It just has to do with the fact that if, in fact, the enemy uses ambushes, uses barricades, you can bring a tank up and you can neutralize that rather quickly.  It does not take hundreds of tanks, it takes a small number of tanks used at the appropriate time, and used with the proper tactics, techniques and procedures, i.e., along with infantry. 


STAFF:  Okay, folks, thank you very much.  That’s about it for our briefing today.

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