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|Mon, 04-07-2003 - 6:55pm|
Troops go without, a sign short war was planned
Monday, April 7, 2003
By RON MARTZ
COX NEWS SERVICE
WITH CHARLIE COMPANY, TASK FORCE I-64, NEAR BAGHDAD -- After nearly two weeks of daily contact with Iraqi forces, the soldiers of Charlie Company rested yesterday.
But the soldiers were unable to do any of the things front-line troops normally do on such days because supply lines have been unable to keep pace.
The soldiers did not read their mail because none is being sent forward. The soldiers did not enjoy a hot meal because field kitchens have not been brought forward to provide them some respite from prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat.
The soldiers did not enjoy a shower or have a chance to wash their sweat-soaked, bloodstained clothes because water has become critically short.
And the soldiers were unable to repair tanks and other armored vehicles because parts for them are lacking. So, they are scavenging from other vehicles to put together enough firepower to keep the pressure on Iraqi forces still holding out in Baghdad.
"You've got to expect things are going to break when you run them as hard as we have," said 1st Sgt. Jose Mercado, 40, of Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, the top enlisted soldier in Charlie Company.
The shortages are evidence that higher command did not plan on this war lasting more than five days. Troops left Kuwait with a five-day supply of water, food, ammunition and critical spare parts. In addition, repair teams followed the combat vehicles into Iraq. But with the war now well into its third week, keeping the troops supplied has become a problem higher command apparently is having a hard time solving.
In Baghdad on Saturday, troops spent more than 15 minutes under fire trying to salvage a tank with a fire in its fuel cell. They were not so much concerned about the tank as about the parts that could be scavenged.
Troops grumble good-naturedly about the shortages. Still, they chafe at the fact, as soldiers have for years, that while rear-echelon troops enjoy daily showers, fresh food, clean clothes and beds or cots to sleep in, they do without any of those.
Sensing troops needed a morale boost yesterday, task force officials bought 20 cartons of cigarettes from a local merchant, divided them among the five companies and sold them to the soldiers for $1 a pack.
"But what I would really like is a Pepsi with some ice. That would make my day," Mercado said.
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