Iraq Unit Refuses Risky Mission

It's supposed to be unthinkable for soldiers in wartime, troops refusing to follow orders in a combat zone. But with U.S. casualties in Iraq mounting, American commanders are being forced to think about it.

In one case that is still under investigation, members of a U.S. Army logistical unit may have rejected an order they considered too dangerous.

With many of Iraq's major roads turned into shooting galleries, 19 members of an Army reserve unit are for refusing an order to deliver a convoy of fuel trucks, reports CBS National Security Correspondent David Martin.

One of the members of the unit, Sgt. Larry O. McCook, told his wife they refused to go because the trucks they were driving weren't adequately protected.

"They don't have bulletproof protection on the vehicles, they just don't go fast at all. It's just not safe to be in a hostile territory,'' said Patricia McCook, relaying her husband's words.

Other soldiers told their families the fuel they were supposed to deliver was contaminated and there was no point in undertaking the dangerous drive.

Amber McClenny left this message on her mother's answering machine.

"Hi Mom, this is Amber. This is a real, real big emergency. I need you to contact someone. I mean raise pure hell. We yesterday, we refused to go on a convoy to Taji. That is above Baghdad. We had broken down trucks, non-armored vehicles and we were carrying contaminated fuel. They are holding us against our will. We are now prisoners."

This is the first known incident of a unit refusing to carry out a mission in Iraq. The soldiers have now been released and told that depending on their attitude, they could either get off with a reprimand or be court-martialed for mutiny.

They belong to the 343rd Quartermasters Company, a reserve unit of 120 soldiers which deployed from its home base in Rock Hill, S.C. last December. The unit now operates out of Tallil.

An e-mail from the command which runs the resupply mission in Iraq says the soldiers had some valid concerns, which Sgt. McCook told his wife are are being fixed.

"Right now they are having the vehicles technically inspected and they're going to put bulletproof armor on the vehicles," said Patricia McCook.

The lack of armor on trucks and humvees to protect soldiers in Iraq has been a long simmering problem which for one unit came to a head this week. Their commander calls it a temporary breakdown in discipline.

But the troubling question remains: are soldiers in Iraq beginning to think the mission is not worth the risk?

The Clarion-Ledger of Mississippi reported that U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., planned to submit a Congressional inquiry on behalf of the Mississippi soldiers to launch an investigation into whether they are being treated improperly.

"I would not want any member of the military to be put in a dangerous situation ill-equipped," Thompson told the newspaper. "I have had similar complaints from military families about vehicles that weren't armor-plated, or bullet-proof vests that are outdated. It concerns me because we made over $150 billion in funds available to equip our forces in Iraq.
  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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