Senate Committee Tasks Army with Morale Review after Stripes' Report

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Fri Nov 21 21:54:24 MST 2003


*****   Friday, November 21, 2003
Senate committee tasks Army with morale review after Stripes' report

By Patrick J. Dickson <dicksonp at stripes.osd.mil>, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Saturday, November 22, 2003

WASHINGTON - The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday tasked 
the Army with providing a point-by-point assessment of Stars and 
Stripes' recent "Ground Truth" series, in which a significant number 
of troops in Iraq were laboring under difficult conditions and said 
morale was low.

Committee Chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., told Acting Secretary of 
the Army Les Brownlee, "I think it's important that you submit to the 
record a point-by-point perspective as to [Stripes'] findings, and 
how those findings coincide or do not coincide with information that 
you have in your profession."

Brownlee and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker appeared 
before the full committee to testify on a number of topics.
Warner opened the hearing expressing concerns that while a level of 
dissatisfaction is part of an "arduous" military life, "the level of 
griping raises some alarms. And we'll learn from you today exactly 
what corrective measures and how you've examined the root causes and 
hopefully eliminated some of those problems."

Warner noted in particular "issues concerning the equitable 
availability of services, such as mail, PX facilities, e-mail and 
phones, as well as different standards between the Army and the Air 
Force," which he said he witnessed firsthand.

These issues and others were covered in the series, which ran in 
mid-October. It resulted from Stripes reporting on conditions and 
morale among troops in Iraq, 2,000 of whom responded to a lengthy 
questionnaire.

"When that Stars and Stripes article came out," Warner said, "it 
caused a considerable jolt among the ranks here in the Congress."
SASC spokesman John Ullyot said it's a common procedure to ask those 
testifying to provide more detail.

"That is a written communication to the committee offering a more 
detailed answer than is possible in a hearing setting," he said, and 
added there was no specific deadline.

"It's understood that it's 'as quickly as possible,' within limits 
required for further research," Ullyot said. "Senator Warner believes 
this is valuable information that Stars and Stripes was able to bring 
into the debate, and is interested in pursuing this. We'll be 
following up directly with the secretary of the Army on that."

The Army was looking at the request and needed to figure out how to 
staff it, according to one Army official.

"We will provide a timely, appropriate and objective response to the 
committee's request," added Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin.

Warner pointed out that 34 percent of those who filled out the 
questionnaire rated morale as low or very low.

In his testimony, Schoomaker had a different appraisal of soldiers.

"They are smart, morale is solid, and Š they are proud of their 
service and what they accomplished.

"They understand why we are deployed in places that we are. They know 
why we're there. There is an intensity of focus and a dogged 
determination to succeed that is absolutely extraordinary."
 
Troop safety

Brownlee and Schoomaker answered pointed questions on a range of 
topics dealing with the war in Iraq.

Brownlee said it could take until summer 2005 for the Army to have 
enough "up-armored" Humvees, which are modified to better withstand 
the potentially fatal blast of a land mine or other ordnance. He said 
the Army is hoping to speed up the process by examining options for 
putting armor on existing vehicles.

Senators pressed him to move quickly.

"I don't think we can accept an '05 deadline," Warner said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., questioned whether Humvee manufacturing 
lines were running 24 hours a day.

"It is inconceivable that with our manufacturing capability that we 
cannot produce that kind of a vehicle more rapidly and replace it," 
he said.

Brownlee said he understood plants were operating at capacity and 
were trying to open new production lines.

Regarding the shortage of body armor, Brownlee said the Army has 
increased production "to the maximum rate the industrial base is 
capable of." At the current rate of production, all soldiers and 
contractors should have the armor by the end of December, he said.

The helicopter anti-missile defenses came under scrutiny after a 
CH-47D Chinook transport helicopter was shot down Nov. 2 in Iraq, 
killing 16 soldiers. It did not have the most advanced defensive 
systems available, though it did have a standard package of defensive 
chaff and flares.

Brownlee said the Army will equip Chinooks that are in Iraq or headed 
to Iraq. But he said it takes three weeks to rewire a helicopter and 
the Army can't remove all from service at once. He did not say how 
long the process would take.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=18838>   *****

Eric W Cramer, "Brownlee, Schoomaker address Senate Armed Services 
Committee": <http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/read.php?story_id_key=5440>

*****   Stripes Reporters Visited Nearly 50 Camps in Iraq to Gauge Sentiment
Stars and Stripes, European Section, Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Even before the war in Iraq started, the mail started coming in to 
Stars and Stripes.

The letters page was filled with notes from servicemembers raising 
concerns in the Middle East. Many complained about living conditions, 
inequities and problems with the mail.

As the warfighting force evolved into a stabilization force, the 
letters continued to flow into Stripes offices. Between June and 
September, Stripes printed 200 letters from troops in the deserts of 
Iraq and Kuwait and other remote outposts that have led the fight 
against terrorism.

Roughly 60 percent complained about various things, ranging from 
living conditions to redeployment dates back home. The remaining 40 
percent urged the others to get on with their duty. . . .

<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17458&archive=true> 
*****

"Ground Truth, Day 1": 
<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17515&archive=true>

"Ground Truth, Day 2": 
<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17516&archive=true>

"Ground Truth, Day 3": 
<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17517&archive=true>

"Ground Truth, Day 4": 
<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17518&archive=true>

"Ground Truth, Day 5": 
<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17519&archive=true>

"Ground Truth, Day 6": 
<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17522&archive=true>

"Ground Truth, Day 7": 
<http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=17532&archive=true>

-- 
Yoshie

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