Conway: Revisionist history on MRAP timeline
By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jul 25, 2007 19:09:51 EDT

Criticism of the pace of the Marine Corps’ acquisition of blast-resistant vehicles is based on revisionist history, the Corps’ top commander said Friday.

Commandant Gen. James Conway addressed the Corps’ timeline of pushing Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to troops in Iraq during a luncheon last week. Recent reports have emerged that Corps officials denied requests from commanders in Iraq for the vehicle as far back as 2005. However, Corps officials say the service sent the best equipment available at the time.

“I think some of our 20/20 hindsight suffers from a little bit of blurriness on the facts of the matter at the time,” Conway said at a National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon in Washington, D.C.

In 2005, Marines faced a different threat than they are seeing today, namely side strikes on vehicles, Conway said. Maj. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, the one-star deputy commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force at the time, signed an urgent needs statement calling for “mine resistant, ambush protected” vehicles, but only four existed in Marine territory in Iraq at the time. “And we were having pretty serious maintenance issues with them,” Conway said.

M1114 up-armored Humvees were readily available at the time due to an existing Army contract, he said.

“It took us time to observe the effects of the [MRAP] against the underbody attacks, in particular, to make the determination that with — whatever it was — 200 or 300 attacks and nobody killed, this isn’t necessarily just an engineer vehicle or just an EOD vehicle. It’s not necessarily just a niche vehicle; it can save lives,” Conway said.

The request made in 2005 did not point to a specific vehicle design, Hejlik said in a letter Conway referenced during his speech.

“Frankly, the term ‘Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle’ meant nothing to me at the time, other than additional force protection for our forces,” Hejlik said in a July 16 letter to Marine Corps Public Affairs addressing the issue.

The M1114 increased force protection, he added in the letter. “The up-armored M1114 was the right choice in early 2005, just as an MRAP capability was the right choice in 2006.”