The American people should demand immediate answers from their representatives in Congress regarding this report:
Pentagon balked at pleas from officers in field for safer vehicles
Pfc. Aaron Kincaid, 25, had been joking with buddies just before their Humvee rolled over the bomb. His wife, Rachel, later learned that the blast blew Kincaid, a father of two from outside Atlanta, through the Humvee's metal roof.
Army investigators who reviewed the Sept. 23 attack near Riyadh, Iraq, wrote in their report that only providence could have saved Kincaid from dying that day: "There was no way short of not going on that route at that time (that) this tragedy could have been diverted."
A USA TODAY investigation of the Pentagon's efforts to protect troops in Iraq suggests otherwise.
Years before the war began, Pentagon officials knew of the effectiveness of another type of vehicle that better shielded troops from bombs like those that have killed Kincaid and 1,500 other soldiers and Marines. But military officials repeatedly balked at appeals — from commanders on the battlefield and from the Pentagon's own staff — to provide the life-saving Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, for patrols and combat missions, USA TODAY found.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates late last month, two U.S. senators said the delays cost the lives of an estimated "621 to 742 Americans" who would have survived explosions had they been in MRAPs, rather than Humvees.
The letter, from Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Kit Bond, R-Mo., assumed the initial calls for MRAPs came in February 2005, when Marines in Iraq asked the Pentagon for almost 1,200 of the vehicles. USA TODAY found that the first appeals for the MRAP came much earlier.
As early as December 2003, when the Marines requested their first 27 MRAPs for explosive disposal teams, Pentagon analysts sent detailed information about the superiority of the vehicles to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, e-mails obtained by USA TODAY show. Later pleas came from Iraq, where commanders saw that the approach the Joint Chiefs embraced— adding armor to the sides of Humvees, the standard vehicles in the war zone — did little to protect against blasts beneath the vehicles.
Despite the efforts, the general who chaired the Joint Chiefs until Oct. 1, 2005, says buying MRAPs "was not on the radar screen when I was chairman." Air Force general Richard Myers, now retired, says top military officials dealt with a number of vehicle issues, including armoring Humvees. The MRAP, however, was "not one of them." Something related to MRAPs "might have crossed my desk," Myers says, "but I don't recall it."