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American Forces Press Service

Armor Effort 'Good News Story' for Troops

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2004 - "None of us wants to send a young man or woman into harm's way without adequate protection," said the top general in Kuwait today.

That's why soldiers and civilian technicians are working 24 hours a day to ensure all wheeled vehicles going to Iraq have some level of armor.

Army Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb, commander of the 3rd Army and Central Command's Combined Forces Land Component commander, said during an interview from Kuwait that the armor situation is "a good news story for our Army."

He said the need for armored wheeled vehicles became apparent in August 2003. That was when enemy forces turned to the improvised explosive devices to challenge coalition forces. "You name it and the enemy dreamed up a way to use it on our soldiers," Whitcomb said. The IEDs began having a "deadly effect" on soldiers, he added.

The first response was for local commanders to put armor on the vehicles. The situation begged for something better.

Armored Humvees were meant mainly for military police. But they were perfect for all troops in Iraq. First, the Army shipped all available armored Humvees to the Central Command region. Second, the service ramped up production from 30 per month to more than 400 per month.

Third, the service mass-produced Level 2 "add-on armor" for Humvees. This factory-produced armor replaces the glass in the vehicles and provides armor protection. The add-ons go on regular Humvees at two plants in Kuwait or another eight plants in Iraq. About 10,000 Humvees have Level 2 armor.

Also, there are now more than 6,000 Level 1 armored Humvees in the region today. Whitcomb said those are produced in a factory back in the states. "It essentially gives you protection, both glass and on the armament on the side, front, rear, top and bottom," he said. He likened Level 1 to "protection in a bubble."

The requirement in Iraq is for 8,100 Level 1 Humvees. "With the production we have today, we will get there soon," Whitcomb said.

But Humvees are only part of the story. Trucks and other wheeled vehicles need protection too. So the Army has developed Level 3 armor to attach to the families of trucks needed in the combat zone. To date, some 4,500 vehicles have been fitted with Level 3 armor.

There are 30,000 wheeled vehicles in Central Command. All but 8,000 have some form of armor protection. Many of those are tool vans and communications vans that have no need to leave a base camp. Whitcomb said Central Command "is in relatively good shape."

The general said the last full brigade that deployed into Iraq - the 256th Infantry - had around 1,000 wheeled vehicles. Just under 1,000 had some level of protection on them. No soldier is driving to Iraq in an unarmored vehicle, he said.

He said the goal is the same for the 278th Infantry and the 116th Infantry - the next two units that will deploy.

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