11/25/2004

Guardsmen Say They're Facing Iraq Ill-Trained

Guardsmen Say They're Facing Iraq Ill-Trained: "Members of a California Army National Guard battalion preparing for deployment to Iraq said this week that they were under strict lockdown and being treated like prisoners rather than soldiers by Army commanders at the remote desert camp where they are training.

More troubling, a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. 'We are going to pay for this in blood,' one soldier said.







They said they believed their treatment and training reflected an institutional bias against National Guard troops by commanders in the active-duty Army, an allegation that Army commanders denied.

The 680 soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment were activated in August and are preparing for deployment at Do�a Ana, a former World War II prisoner-of-war camp 20 miles west of its large parent base, Ft. Bliss, Texas.

Members of the battalion, headquartered in Modesto, said in two dozen interviews that they were allowed no visitors or travel passes, had scant contact with their families and that morale was terrible.

'I feel like an inmate with a weapon,' said Cpl. Jajuane Smith, 31, a six-year Guard veteran from Fresno who works for an armored transport company when not on active duty.

Several soldiers have fled Do�a Ana by vaulting over rolls of barbed wire that surround the small camp, the soldiers interviewed said. Others, they said, are contemplating going AWOL, at least temporarily, to reunite with their families for Thanksgiving.

Army commanders said the concerns were an inevitable result of the decision to shore up the strained military by turning 'citizen soldiers' into fully integrated, front-line combat troops. About 40% of the troops in Iraq are either reservists or National Guard troops.

Lt. Col. Michael Hubbard of Ft. Bliss said the military must confine the soldiers largely to Do�a Ana to ensure that their training is complete before they are sent to Iraq.

'A lot of these individuals are used to doing this two days a month and then going home,' Hubbard said. 'Now the job is 24/7. And they experience culture shock.'

But many of the soldiers interviewed said the problems they cited went much deeper than culture shock.

And military analysts agree that tensions between active-duty Army soldiers and National Guard troops have been exacerbated as the war in Iraq has required dangerous and long-term deployments of both.

The concerns of the Guard troops at Do�a Ana represent the latest in a series of incidents involving allegations that a two-tier system has shortchanged reservist and National Guard units compared with their active-duty counterparts."

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home