WASHINGTON -- Commanders on the ground in Iraq are getting all the armored protection they determine necessary to do the job, the operations chief for U.S. Central Command told Pentagon reporters today.
Marine Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler, speaking via teleconference from U.S. Central Command's forward headquarters in Qatar, said ground commanders' requests for additional M1A1 tanks, "up-armored" humvees and kits to up-armor vehicles already in the theater are being filled quickly and completely.
The requests came from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force operating in western Iraq and the 1st Infantry Division in north-central Iraq.
The last of 28 additional M1A1 tanks requested in Iraq are expected to arrive within the next three days, Sattler said. "There is a time and place for those, and they send a very valuable message just by pulling one up to the front lines," he said.
But Sattler acknowledged during an April 29 teleconference that tracked vehicles aren't always the most appropriate vehicles to do the job. "Counterinsurgency requires you to get up to actually engage and work with the population, and that is tough to do from inside a tank or Bradley (fighting vehicle) or armored personnel carrier," he said.
In these situations, Sattler said wheeled vehicles and warriors on the ground provide the necessary "speed and agility."
Based on the current security situation, Sattler said commanders on the ground increased their initial request for 1,000 up-armored humvees to 2,500. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Larry DiRita said the Pentagon has "significantly surged production" to provide commanders in Iraq the additional 2,000 up-armored humvees they have requested. By December, Sattler said, the U.S. military will have 4,500 up-armored humvees in Iraq.
Commanders in Iraq also requested 8,000 up-armor kits to reinforce "soft-skin" humvees, he said. Up-armored humvees are used in higher-threat areas, primarily to conduct patrols and provide convoy security. Vehicles that travel exclusively on military compounds and other low-threat areas don't require the additional armored protection, Sattler said.
Sattler said the military is supporting all commanders' requests as quickly as possible. "They made the call, and we supported them based on the situation at the time," he said.