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Reservists punished for resourfulness
December 13, 2004 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Six reservists from the unit located in my hometown of Springfield, OH were court-Martialed for scrounging abandoned military vehicles so they could do their jobs delivering fuel to troops on the front line. Any other war previous such recycling would have gotten them commendations for resourcefulness, but because this only highlights the administrations lack of troop support and the war's poor equipment disbursement from military contractors showing their incompetence, someone has to pay for doing their jobs.
posted by Dome-O-Rama (34 comments total)

 
...and yet we (americans) still voted for an administration that not only allows this to occur, but almost requires this to occur by not having solid planning...

...we deserve what we get...but not them...
posted by photodegas at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2004


well, destroying them afterward looks a little foolish..and suspect
I mean, if you just did it, and then left them somewhere...i dunno. Courts martial seem a little rough
posted by das_2099 at 10:38 AM on December 13, 2004


also, Springfield is my home town too. Been back lately? Looks like someone dropped a big ol bomb full of allentown, PA on it.....
posted by das_2099 at 10:38 AM on December 13, 2004


"They destroyed it. They did the enemy's job. ... Those trucks could be used for other units."

Riiight. Abandoning equipment on the side of the road, not delivering parts to units that need them is a part of fighting the enemy. Doing everything you can to deliver fuel to the units that need it is helping the enemy. And their are still people who voluntarily enlist!?
posted by c13 at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2004


On the bright side, at least the military won't be extending their tours of duty.
posted by ilsa at 10:42 AM on December 13, 2004


Aren't the abandoned vehicles supposed to be there for the Iraqi folks to catch on fire, dance, prance, and party around? How dare these folks deny the sacrificial burning of abandoned US vehicles. I am shocked, absolutely shocked to find that US soldiers are pillaging abandoned vehicles for parts.

Everyday, I miss the beloved dysfunctional team that is the Army; and then I read the news, and it all fades to a no no no no head shake back to reality...
posted by buzzman at 10:46 AM on December 13, 2004


Appropriating vehicles to carry out orders was standard practice in WWII. My Dad was an MP in a motor pool and has many stories about the Jeeps his outfit took from beside the road in order to get a job done.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:56 AM on December 13, 2004


Aren't the abandoned vehicles supposed to be there for the Iraqi folks to catch on fire, dance, prance, and party around? How dare they be denied the sacrificial burning of abandoned US vehicles. I am shocked, absolutely shocked to find that US soldiers are pillaging abandoned vehicles for parts.

Everyday, I miss the beloved dysfunctional team that is the Army; and then I read the news, and it all fades to a no no no no no head shake back to reality...
posted by buzzman at 10:58 AM on December 13, 2004


Damn it.. "there", not "their"...
posted by c13 at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2004


Hey das, yeah I get back all the time I just live south of Dayton now so I'm not far from the parents at all. But let's talk. Hit me up off my profile here I have some cool pics of this place back home that most people never even knew existed.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2004


"Instead of taking the trucks back to their rightful owners, the first thing was erasing the identity marks and dumping them off at bases," Wicker said. "They destroyed it. They did the enemy's job. ... Those trucks could be used for other units."

I'm lost here concerning the use of "destroyed.”
Are the trucks considered “destroyed” here because "identity marks" were "erased"?
Or, the trucks are no more by actually being ruined completely?

Then hearing; Last week, the military said it would not court-martial any of 23 other Army reservists who refused a mission transporting fuel along a dangerous road in Iraq, complaining that their vehicles in poor condition and did not have armor. ...you have to say: WTF Army.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:05 AM on December 13, 2004


Pentagon bean-counters have no interest in assisting soldiers. When I had been in Vietnam for 6 months, someone decided that only the flight crews in our helicopter-support unit were authorized to have flak jackets. They collected the jackets from the rest of us, and we spent the rest of our tours unprotected from the periodic mortar attacks our compound received.

I assumed they'd reissue the jackets to soldiers who needed them. Wrong. They were burned.

There is no room for logic in the American military mind.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:12 AM on December 13, 2004


Another former Sprangfielder. Thanks, Dome-O, nice post. email in profile for the alumni association
posted by theora55 at 11:13 AM on December 13, 2004


thomcat, I'm with you. In what sense were these vehicles destroyed? The one was cannibalized for parts, and the frame was buried, apparently, but the others were returned to military bases.

Where is Bill O'Rielly's bullshit indignation when it matters? Instead of whining about the dire threat to the Christmas holiday from secular extremists, maybe he should be doing something worthwhile.
posted by Tullius at 11:19 AM on December 13, 2004


The tribune (registration req.) has a lot more:
"Kaus also said she could not determine which unit the trucks belonged to, so she could not return them. In fact, the vehicles and trailers in question were never reported stolen, according to transcripts of court-martial proceedings.

In a meeting with 656th officers and leaders of other companies under his command in June 2003, Wicker, the 544th Maintenance battalion commander, asked the officers if they had any equipment that did not belong to them. Kaus and the other officers said nothing, Wicker said.

No one mentioned the stolen property, Wicker and others said, until a disgruntled soldier, Sgt. Charles Neely, reported the unit to Wicker as the company was preparing to end its tour and return to Ohio. Neely, who also took part in the theft of one of the trucks, was reduced to private as part of his sentence. Neely lives in Ohio; he declined to comment."
posted by teatree at 12:54 PM on December 13, 2004


The way I read it they're being court-martialed for lying about it, not doing it.

Why did they need to erase the identity marks to complete their mission?

On preview, from teatree's post. The Company Commander was less than truthful when questioned about the trucks. The Army takes a dim view of being deceived.
posted by forforf at 1:08 PM on December 13, 2004


There has got to be more to the story, or else I'm not "reading between the lines" sufficiently.

I figured the Army, of all places, would be a "by any means necessary" type of outfit. I assumed that the mission took precedent over, frankly, everything else.

Surely they would not have been CM'd over taking ENEMY vehicles and using/recycling the parts? Right?

Furthermore, how does the Army "steal" vehicles from itself? It was an Army vehicle, reoutfitted for Army use. It's not like these guys were building Hummers from parts and selling them to local militiamen.

I just don't get it. And I mean that in the most fundamental way possible.

And Kirth's story above makes me almost dizzy with incomprehension.

It all makes me want to do a very bad impression of Lewis Black.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:28 PM on December 13, 2004


The Army takes a dim view of being deceived.

But only when it's the rank-and-file doing the deceiving. If only they took this dim view universally: "Mr Bush, you told us we were going to find some WMDs here."
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:30 PM on December 13, 2004


Furthermore, how does the Army "steal" vehicles from itself?
The vehicles would be issued, signed out, to an outfit that would be responsible for them.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:47 PM on December 13, 2004


Please remember that the terms SNAFU and FUBAR originated in the US Army ages ago, and it seems that nothing has changed.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 3:34 PM on December 13, 2004


I'm with forforf. By erasing the vehicles' identifying information, the vehicles essentially fell out of the system, so that nobody else would know whether they were authorized to use them.

It would be irresponsible to speculate (and impossible to prove) how many Americans they killed or injured by letting these assets fall out of circulation). But it would seem that the malicious intent in blotting out the identifying marks would have been the reason for the court-martial.

On another note, apparently it is possible to "hide an elephant" in the army, as long as you steal its dog tags... (read books on group dynamics or professional conduct if "elephant hiding" is an unfamiliar idiom.)
posted by bugmuncher at 3:58 PM on December 13, 2004


Those vehicles were abandoned, bugmuncher. Left on the side of a road. They were already out of the system, and would not be instrumental in killing or injuring anyone.
It says so right in the article.
posted by c13 at 4:29 PM on December 13, 2004


They were already out of the system, and would not be instrumental in killing or injuring anyone.
It says so right in the article.


Looking... looking.....can't seem to find the words "would not be instrumental in killing or injuring.....looking more....maybe my mefispidey glasses will help......nope, can't find that text in the article. Maybe because IT'S NOT IN IT! just a thought

Thomcatspike is absolutely correct. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING in the military is "issued." Someone, somewhere signed for those vehicles. Apparently at some point it was determined that the vehicles had to be left behind, but that does not mean the the person who was responsible for them was off the hook. Someone was going to have to account for that property. This is a universal concept in the military. The soldiers who took the vehicles knew that.

Thier guilt wasn't in the fact that they appropriated the vehicles. It was that they made no effort to determine whom they should have been returned to and then conspired to cover it up "the first thing was erasing the identity marks and dumping them off at bases." BaseS. They didn't even just leave them all in one place. They removed the identifiers, then spread them around, most likely thinking that they were less likely to be noticed that way. It was the conspiracy that kicked their asses.

I was feeling rather sympathetic toward them until I read "I'm a Christian man . . ." As if being Christian, or at least claiming that you are somehow absolves you of absolutely any act. BS.

The only real upside to this article was reading that they managed to bring down a major with the enlisted grunts.
posted by Juicylicious at 5:42 PM on December 13, 2004


You can see the Tribune article here or here without registration.

From the article:

Kaus said in a telephone interview that she told the men "to do what they had to do" to move their supplies, but she did not tell them to steal equipment.

Birt said he inferred that they had her permission to take the vehicles. The other chief warrant officer, Christopher Parriman, was not charged in the thefts and left Iraq because of a medical disability before the investigation began. Parriman declined to comment.

Kaus said Birt and Parriman initially told her they had permission to take the vehicles from another unit. She said she learned in late May or early June of 2003 that the vehicles were stolen, but at that point the trucks had become an integral part of the unit's regular fuel convoys.


So, apparently they knew they did something against the rules. Then they later tried to cover it up.

I tend to agree with forforf ( and on preview Juicylicious) that they didn't get in trouble for the initial scrounging as much for the cover up.

To give this kind of penalty for this case, but not court-marshal a group that refused a mission, is beyond comprehension.
posted by Bort at 5:49 PM on December 13, 2004


Just because the vehicles were "abandoned" or "left by the side of the road" does not mean that they were out of the system. They were still carried on the books as accountable property by the unit they were originally issued to.

I have a friend and former co-worker who is in iraq doing work for the DRMS. The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (no, really) gets rid of surplus/broken/obsolete equipment.

They took the vehicles, removed the ID, then conspired to hide the pieces. We can admire their willingness to go to great lengths to get the job done, but in this case they were wrong.
posted by fixedgear at 5:53 PM on December 13, 2004


Well, I hope people in other units learn from this. If the army supplies you with shitty broken trucks, and you have to deliver fuel, just refuse. The guys with empty tanks are just SOL. Abandoned trucks and needs of DRMS are a lot more important than lives of soldiers.

Jucylicious, the killing or injuring part came from bugmucher's comment, not from the article. The article, by the way, says they stripped one of the truck for parts. Should have they returned the parts to the units after they were done with them, or go back, reassemble the truck and then look for people who left them on the side of the road?
posted by c13 at 6:41 PM on December 13, 2004


Should have they returned the parts to the units after they were done with them, or go back, reassemble the truck and then look for people who left them on the side of the road?

The unit designation is on the truck, a simple call to that unit would have sufficed, and the two commanders could have worked out the details.


Well, I hope people in other units learn from this. If the army supplies you with shitty broken trucks, and you have to deliver fuel, just refuse. The guys with empty tanks are just SOL. Abandoned trucks and needs of DRMS are a lot more important than lives of soldiers.

Believe it or not the Army is organized to fight wars. Keeping up on materiel and logistics is kinda important. So what might seem common-sense at the micro-level can lead to serious problems at the macro-level. If there is a shortage of trucks, than the best solution is to send more. But if they're all lost and no one is tracking them, then its hard for the bean-counters to know to send more.
posted by forforf at 7:37 PM on December 13, 2004


Why did they have to cover up the fact that they needed to borrow another unit's vehicle? I'm mean, if they left it by the side of the road and weren't using it, wouldn't the vehicle be safer with another army unit that procured it?

I understand stand the first unit is still responsible for the vehicle and would eventually need it back, but isn't this just like needing to borrow a buddies car?

I don't understand why they had to peel off the decals.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 7:39 PM on December 13, 2004


My apologies for the superflous "stand."
posted by Colloquial Collision at 7:40 PM on December 13, 2004


At first I was ready to crucify the Army for getting down on these soldiers for trying to take care of themselves. I'm a firm believer that when Rumsfeld tried to field those questions about armor and stop-loss programs, "He did everything but slap the kid in the hospital bed," as Maureen Dowd of the NYT said.

However, I can understand that there is a need to keep track of these items like forforf said. Logistical skill is the forgotten aspect of the military arts, and there are a lot of examples of commanders who have disregarded logistical issues at their peril. (Several of them exist in this conflict.) So, my thinking is to give these guys some form of administrative punishment, but nothing worse than the military equivalent of a misdemeanor.
posted by Leege at 8:12 PM on December 13, 2004


Should have they returned the parts to the units after they were done with them, or go back, reassemble the truck and then look for people who left them on the side of the road?

Well no, but I think that you may be missing the point. They were charged, tried, and convicted based on their conspiracy, not for using the trucks. From what we can deduce from the bare facts that have been presented, at some point they realized that they had done something wrong and they tried to cover it up. The very fact that they apparently went to great lengths (removed identification, left the trucks at more than one location) is evidence that they had the intent to conspire to cover up an act that may or maynot have been a crime. As an aside, just about anything is a crime under the UCMJ.

I don't understand why they had to peel off the decals.

They didn't. They probably should have done what forforf stated above "The unit designation is on the truck, a simple call to that unit would have sufficed, and the two commanders could have worked out the details."
posted by Juicylicious at 8:16 PM on December 13, 2004


I'm a Christian man, but we can't expect our troops to kill those ragheads without the right equipment. I agree with Darrell Birt, that, for Christians like ourselves, the killing we needed to do completely justifies their actions.
posted by rusty at 10:31 AM on December 14, 2004


Perhaps if we shot a few, y'know as an example to the men so they don't do that?

Scrounging for parts, even if it shorts other units, goes back a long way.

But who really needs resourcefulness and initiative anymore?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:37 PM on December 14, 2004


(man I have to learn how to link so it goes to the part of the page I want)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:38 PM on December 14, 2004


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