Friday, July 29, 2005

Officer says isle troops
need better arms mix

The commander of the Hawaii National Guard troops in Iraq says in an internal Army memo that his soldiers need laser-guided handguns and heavy machine guns to ensure that innocent people are not killed during convoy operations near Balad, according to a Washington, D.C., newspaper.

The classified memo, written by Brig. Gen. Joseph Chaves who commands the 3,500-member 29th Brigade Combat Team, was revealed yesterday by the Washington Times. The memo said that soldiers have used "excessive" and "unauthorized deadly force" in Iraq to defend supply convoys because they did not have the proper weapons, according to the Times.

In the memo, dated March 15, Gen. Chaves tells top commanders in Baghdad that he does not have the right mix of weapons to fire from the turrets of armored Humvees and other vehicles that guard supply trucks.

The memo was apparently written four weeks after the 29th Brigade began its mission in Balad.

The newspaper said it sent copies of the memo to the Pentagon, the command headquarters in Baghdad and Camp Anaconda. A Pentagon spokesman said its policy is not to comment on classified documents. Spokesmen in Baghdad and at the camp had no comment, the newspaper reported.

"Previously, reports indicated that excessive use of force, to include unauthorized deadly force, was employed by some convoy escorts," Chaves said in the memo.

Chaves said soldiers were forced to use M-2 machine guns and MK-19 grenade launchers, which apparently killed unintended targets.

He said soldiers, when attacked, have no time to reach down inside their armored vehicles to retrieve more accurate weapons.

Chaves suggestion was to arm his soldiers with handguns in addition to rifles and carbines.

By equipping soldiers with laser-guided 9 mm Beretta pistols, Chaves said, a soldier could be sure of the target before pulling the trigger.

Soldiers of the 29th Brigade have spent most of their time guarding convoys that move in and out of Logistical Support Area Anaconda, which is 50 miles north of Baghdad.

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