The Pentagon said Thursday it is investigating a Kentucky National Guard soldier’s complaint that an improperly armored military truck may have contributed to the death of a member of his company in Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Brad Rogers, who is with the 2113th Transportation Company in Paducah, Ky., complained in an e-mail to friends and co-workers in Kentucky that soldiers in his unit are driving old M915 tractor-trailers that frequently break down.
Rogers called the trucks “a dinosaur” and said they are equipped with only one armored panel on each side and are not fitted with protective glass, or ballistic windows.
Rogers said he decided to speak out about the dangers to his unit after a fellow soldier, Sgt. James A. Sherrill, was killed last Sunday when a bomb exploded near his military vehicle.
Sherrill, 27, died when a piece of metal went through the truck window and hit him around his left temple, Rogers said.
“I feel in my heart that Sgt. Sherrill would still be with us if he had had ballistic windows,” Rogers wrote.
Rogers, who lives in Hebron, Ky., just south of Cincinnati, asked his friends to help bring the issue to the attention of the media and Congress.
The e-mail touched off a flurry of activity in Washington, with several lawmakers demanding that the Pentagon investigate.
“I strongly believe that if our government is unable to fully equip our military men and women, we need to bring them home immediately,” Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., said in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Rep. Anne North, R-Ky., said “making sure every soldier, regardless of rank or role, has the best equipment possible must be a top priority.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Nancy Ray said military brass is aware of Rogers’ concerns. “We are looking into it,” she said.
Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, called Rogers’ letter “very disturbing” and said it echoed similar concerns he has heard from other soldiers and their families.
“It’s sad and tragic that more than two years after the beginning of this war, we have soldiers that are not being provided with the most basic life-saving equipment that a soldier would need in a battle situation,” Strickland said.
After other soldiers raised questions about the lack of armored vehicles last year, Rumsfeld promised that only those Humvees and other vehicles that have been upgraded with armored protection would be allowed to leave U.S. bases on combat patrols or convoys.
“There will not be a vehicle moving around in Iraq anywhere outside of a protected compound that does not have the appropriate armor,” Rumsfeld said Feb. 3.
Strickland, who has been urging the administration for more than a year to provide adequate body and vehicle armor to the troops, said Rogers’ letter shows that not enough has been done. He charged that there has been a lack of concern about the issue at the Pentagon and in Congress.
“There is just not a sense of urgency, and it is because it is somebody else’s kid out there in danger rather than the sons and daughters of us who serve in this administration or in this Congress,” Strickland said.
(E-mail Michael Collins at CollinsM(at)shns.com.)