View Full Version : Not All Humvees Are Equal In Combat

04-30-05, 09:33 AM

Not All Humvees Are Equal In Combat

By Ralf W. Zimmermann

After the end of major combat operations in Iraq in 2003, the Army experienced a painful reality check.

As should have been expected, insurgent attacks shied away from heavy U.S. armor but focused increasingly on lightly armored wheeled vehicles, especially the HMMWVs (or Humvees”). Soldier complaints about the armor problem grew. Voiced through family members and then through the media, congressional involvement ultimately led to budgetary action. Frantic orders for soldier body armor, add-on armor kits for soft-skin vehicles and a factory redesigned armored Humvee finally reached America’s industrial base. Sadly, between June 2003 and the end of 2004, close to 300 troops were killed while riding in Humvees.

I sensed that things were improving, when at the end of March 2005, I found several sources which corroborated that improvements were at hand. Official statements claimed that by April 2005, the Army would have 22,000 armored Humvees in Iraq, a remarkable improvement from about 300 armored Humvees available there in 2003.

That’s the official spin, but is everything really okay for the troops on the beat?

For the troops in the field, slapping a few armored plates on the old Hummer didn’t resolve the entire survivability problem. Although bolt-on armor for older Humvees was a decent interim fix, I recently received a letter from a trustworthy and highly professional noncommissioned officer involved in dangerous convoy operations explaining why a fully redesigned vehicle is preferable to the older rig with bolt-on armor:

“I have been wondering – is there a really push to get up-armored Humvees to everyone over here?

“We are driving old M1025 Humvees with bolt-on armor, and it seems that most everyone else is driving M1114s, the factory up-armored Hummer. When I asked the command about the improved vehicles for our unit, I was told that nobody knew. We patrol a dangerous sector in Iraq, one that’s heavily hit with IEDs and ambushes and routinely sends crews in M1025s into that area. We‘ve been pretty lucky that so far, no one has been killed. I’ve personally seen what an IED will do to an M1114, and it is not pretty. I’d hate to see what a direct hit does to a weaker M1025.”

My NCO friend clearly explained why survivability remains a vital issue in Iraq:

“In my humble opinion, I believe we need the M1114s. The reason: Almost all of the IEDs I found were outside my vehicle at less than 10 feet distance. Thankfully, for IED hunting missions, we use M1114s. Unfortunately, battalion has only six of them, but all are worn out and routinely overheat at speeds faster than 55 mph.”

“My own raggedy M1025 is barely hanging in. It’s a scrapper and has been in theater for over three years. Last week I broke down several times while escorting convoys. With nearly 100,000 miles on it, we spend every waking moment in the Mr. Goodwrench mode. My entire unit is in the same boat.”

“The point: We could really use more M1114s! Recently, I escorted a convoy of trucks, all loaded with two M1114s per truck. I found it ironic that we were escorting M1114s in a M1025 with bolt-on armor. When I asked where those better Hummers were going, I found out that they were to be held in storage until needed. I do understand that some units need the M1114s more than us, but if there are excess stocks, our higher-ups should issue some of these rides to outfit our unit …. ”

I know that this NCO isn’t a slouch and complainer. Opinions like his ought to warrant a follow-up and I do appreciate that there are many good leaders out in the field who understand the man’s plight and are trying to do right by the troops. You also have to give credit to our hard-pressed logisticians, trying their best to improve troop survivability. Fielding over 22,000 improved vehicles is nothing to scoff at.

But one also has to realize that the devil is often in the detail of the fielding process. Maybe the field issue priorities deserve another look.

The newest and best-armored Humvees probably shouldn’t go into storage or to outfits in the business of mainly chauffeuring VIPs – particularly those publicity-hungry politicians who don’t know the difference between an M4 carbine and a WWII-era M4 Sherman tank. The best equipment also shouldn’t be found in Green Zone parking lots. It should go lightning-quick to the grunt-types and those units who put their necks on the line every day to keep the beans, bullets and fuel flowing all over Iraq.

DefenseWatch Senior Military Correspondent Lt. Col. Ralf W. Zimmermann, USA (Ret.) is a decorated Desert Storm veteran and former tank battalion commander. His recent novel, “Brotherhood of Iron,” deals with the German soldier in World War II. It is directly available from www.iUniverse.com and through most major book dealers. Zimm can be reached at r6zimm@earthlink.net or via his website at www.home.earthlink.net/~r6zimm. © 2005 LandserUSA. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.