News Releases

Don’t Send Washington’s Troops to Iraq Without Life-Saving Body Armor, Murray Urges Defense Secretary

Feb 06 2004

In a letter, Senator Murray asks Secretary Rumsfeld for his “personal assurance” that Washington’s 81st Brigade at Fort Lewis will have equipment before its March deployment

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to ensure that the 81st Armor Brigade at Fort Lewis has the equipment they need before deployment to Iraq next month.

Murray is concerned that the 81st Brigade will not have critically-needed Interceptor body armor in Iraq along with other basic items such as insect repellant, desert camouflage and modern web gear.

“I am writing to ask for your urgent help to ensure that our soldiers being deployed to Iraq have the life-saving equipment and supplies they need to complete their missions safely and successfully,” Murray wrote in her letter to Rumsfeld.

In January, Senator Murray visited Fort Lewis and Camp Murray and met with family members of the 81st Brigade. Murray was surprised to learn that Guard and Reserve troops still had not received some of the life-saving equipment they will need during their upcoming deployment in Iraq. Next week, the 5,000 member Brigade will move to Fort Irwin, California for final training before being deployed to Iraq in March.

“Our country’s Guard and Reserve soldiers are sacrificing on the front lines, but they continue to be treated as second class-citizens. They are told to pay for equipment that is routinely provided to members of our regular armed forces,” Murray wrote. “Our Guard and Reserve troops deserve the full support of our government, including the tools necessary to accomplish their mission.”

Murray’s concerns were heightened last year when news reports and letters from her constituents indicated that Guard and Reserve troops were not being adequately supplied. In October, Murray voted to provide an additional $87 billion to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In November, Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army would have new Interceptor body armor on every soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom by the end of December.

In her letter, Murray made two requests, “First, please give me your personal assurance that all members of the 81st Brigade will be provided with Interceptor body armor prior to their deployment to Iraq. Second, please update me on the status of the 81st Brigade’s requisition orders.”

The Text of Senator Murray's Letter Follows:

February 6, 2004

The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon, Room 3E880
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

I am writing to ask for your urgent help to ensure that our soldiers being deployed to Iraq have the life-saving equipment and supplies they need to complete their missions safely and successfully.

As you know, about 5,000 members of the 81st Armor Brigade at Fort Lewis, Washington will be deployed to Iraq next month. I continue to hear of Guard and Reserve units from across the country being deployed without critical equipment and supplies.

I am especially concerned about the apparent lack of Interceptor body armor. One of the reasons I voted for the President’s $87 billion supplement for Iraq and Afghanistan in October was to ensure that our troops get the equipment they need and that the Pentagon has promised. In November, Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army would have the new Interceptor body armor on every soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom by the end of December. However, it is my understanding that the 81st Brigade has not yet received this critical, life-saving equipment.

In addition to body armor, I understand that other supplies have still not been received – from new “web gear” to insect repellant and camouflage. When I visited the 81st Brigade last month, I was shocked to hear that their desert camouflage had not arrived. They were planning to deploy with their standard GORE-TEX camouflage.

Our country’s Guard and Reserve soldiers are sacrificing on the front lines, but they continue to be treated as second class-citizens. They are told to pay for equipment that is routinely provided to members of our regular armed forces. Our Guard and Reserve troops deserve the full support of our government, including the tools necessary to accomplish their mission.

I am writing with two requests. First, please give me your personal assurance that all members of the 81st Brigade will be provided with Interceptor body armor prior to their deployment to Iraq. Second, please update me on the status of the 81st Brigade’s requisition orders.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,


Patty Murray
United States Senator