Wreath Ceremony in Arlington Cemetery for Col. David Hackworth

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On May 22nd, Eilhys England Hackworth, the widow of Col. David Hackworth celebrated his legacy with a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Found below is a video of the wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown.

As we approach Memorial Day, we give thanks to the many who have sacrificed their lives to keep this country free.

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More on Military Helmet Recall

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We had previously reported that the US Army had recalled 44,000 military helmets that failed to meet the required government mandated test standards.  The manufacturer, ArmorSource in Hebron, Ohio, is now under investigation by the Department of Justice.  To determine if you have been issued a defective helmet, please consult the guide below that was furnished by Stars and Stripes:

Defective Helmet Checklist

In an interesting, but by no means surprising development, the Stars and Stripes reports that these defective military helmets had actually been subcontracted to UNICOR, the Federal Prison Industries.  A spokesperson for UNICOR indicates that production has been suspended.  Apparently, a new investigation has been instituted to determine how many other military contracts have been awarded to the Federal Prison Industries.

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44,000 Military Helmets Recalled

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse, it has now been reported that the US Army has recalled 44,000 helmets which failed to meet US Army testing standards.  In an article reported in Yahoo news, helmets manufactured by ArmorSource in Hebron, Ohio currently issued to troops serving in Afghanistan were recalled following an investigation by the US Justice Department.

According to Brigadier General Pete Fuller, who is quoted in the article, the helmets were issued to American troops in 2007, including soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Says General Fuller, “We don’t know where they (helmets) are. So they could be on some soldier’s head in either Iraq or Afghanistan. They could also be anywhere else in the world.”

ArmorSource, claiming to have been surprised by the investigation, has issued a one-page statement on their website claiming they will cooperate with the investigation into the defective military helmets.

General Fuller indicated that  ArmorSource manufactured 102,000 helmets under a 2006 contract at a cost of $250 a piece. Of that number, 44,000 were distributed to troops and have been recalled, while 55,000 are still in storage and the military refused to accept the remaining 3,000.

In yet another glaring indictment of the DoD military procurement process, it is worth recapping the current ongoing investigations:

  • body armor currently worn by our frontline troops failed to meet minimum test protocols as reported by the GAO and IG and is currently being investigated by the Committee for Government Oversight and Reform;
  • the standard issue M4 carbine is not effective for combat in Afghanistan according to US Army sources;
  • the DoD Inspector General has reported on serious deficiencies in the supply of spare parts for the M2 heavy machine gun deemed essential for combat in Afghanistan.

As Roger Charles, Editor of SFTT, has reported “the shoddy procurement process within the DoD only confirms that the problems indentified by SFTT are truly systemic and not unique to body armor.”

If we would accord our brave heroes the same level of oversight that we pay to defective brake pedals, most of our troops would probably be in a stateside repair shop since the combat equipment we are providing them seems best suited for paintball warfare.  Where is the outrage?

Richard W. May

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M-14, AK-47 seem better than M4

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The recent disclosures that the standard issue M4 may not be the best military carbine for US troops in Afghanistan has prompted considerable debate both within and outside the military community.  I recently visited the Fox News Site which currently has 58 comments to an article which compared the AK-47 to the M4.

Now I am not a gunsmith and have little intelligent commentary to add to the debate, but I was struck by the knowledge and articulate views of the readers who weighed in on the subject.    I am hesitant to reprint the Fox photograph of the two weapons, since one astute reader (panadox177) pointed out that the M4 (weapon shown below)  is actually a picture of the “semiautomatic civilian AR-15 with a flat top upper and a 16″ barrel, instead of the correct 14.5″ barrel found on a real M4.”  Happy to receive any feedback on this observation:

AK-47 and M4 (below)

With the recent DoD Inspector General report detailing the problems of sourcing spare parts for the M2 Heavy Machine Gun, our troops now seem to woefully under-armed on the Afghan battlefield.  Clearly, the M4’s lack of lethal effectiveness over 300 meters as documented by Maj. Thomas Ehrhart is a most pressing issue, but “fixable” according to most of the experts who commented on the Fox report.

I was, however, amused that one commenter suggested bringing back the M-14 (the weapon I fired in Basic Training) which was eventually phased out in favor of the M-16 (essentially an early version of the now modified M4) for Viet Nam.  I still remember the training officers telling us to “keep your weapon clean and well oiled” since it had a proclivity to jam (sound familiar?).    I seem to recall that the Viet Cong were using the trusty AK-47 which didn’t jam and still seems to work after 60 years of warfare.  We can put a man on the moon, but have difficulty building a serviceable and effective military carbine.  Go figure!

Richard W. May

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DoD Waste and Incompetence Cited by IG in sourcing spare parts for M2 Heavy Machine Gun

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Thanks to Mother Jones writer Adam Weinstein who brought this item to our attention, SFTT has reviewed a recent DoDIG report  (Department of Defense Inspector General) that documents yet more absolutely blithering incompetence inside the multi-billion dollar DoD Procurement bureaucracy.  The issue in this case is spare parts for the M2 .50-caliber Heavy Machine Gun (“HMG”), better known as “Ma Duece” by those who rely upon it to reach out and “touch” Jihad Johnny in a memorable way.

M-2 Heavy Duty Machine Gun

 

This DoD IG investigation was kicked off by field reports of slow-to-no response for critical spare parts needed to keep their M2’s in “lethal” condition. When DoD IG inspectors looked into cited complaints, they found a level of incompetence that would be laughable were it not for the reality that these M2’s are life-saving to our troops and death-dealing to our enemy when they are fully functioning. But, when M2’s are sidelined for lack of spare parts, we all know who pays the price in blood and gore for not having their HMG to hammer through mudwalls or to nail some jihadii who is out of range of the pathetically under-powered M-4 carbine

Here’s what the DoDIG folks staked out as their objective on this investigation: “What We Did: We determined whether the Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) used appropriate and effective contracting procedures to provide customers with critical application M2 machine gun parts.”  Now for the meat of their findings: 

DLA did not have effective internal controls in place to ensure appropriate and effective contracting procedures related to contract quality assurance, product quality deficiency report processing, spare part kit assembly, and oversight of contractor deliveries. Specifically,

  • Contractors provided at least 7,100 non-conforming parts on 24 contracts.
  • DLA did not adequately process 95 of 127 product quality deficiency reports.
  •  DLA did not deliver 60 spare part kits on time to support a U.S. Army program to overhaul 2,600 M2 machine guns and provided non-conforming parts in kits.
  • DLA did not pursue adequate compensation from contractors who were significantly late in providing critical parts on 49 contracts.

As a result,

  • Warfighters had to wait for critical M2 gun parts as DLA had backorders on 7,183 requisitions for 60,701 parts during a 12-month period. Priority group 1 comprised 4,097 of these requisitions for 40,333 parts.
  • A US Army program to overhaul M2 machine guns was negatively impacted.
  • DLA missed opportunities to identify contractors with performance problems and obtain adequate compensation.
  • Because of the quality problems, the Government spent at least $655,000 in funds that could have been put to better use.
  • DLA missed an opportunity to obtain approximately $405,000 in contractor compensation for late deliveries.
  • DLA has initiated several corrective actions to improve the quality of M2 machine gun parts.
  • Implementing our recommendations should improve DLA’s internal controls over contracting.

 Here’s the DoDIG “kicker” for DLA:  “. . . establish controls and implement measures to improve its contract quality assurance procedures, product quality deficiency report processing, spare part kit assembly, and contractor delivery oversight . . .”  This is equivalent to the DoDIG telling the Secretary of Defense that no such effective controls and measures are currently in place. That’s right, in 2010, after over eight years of combat in Afghanistan and seven years of combat in Iraq, the desk-jockeys of DLA do not have a minimally-acceptable process that gets our frontline troops the right spare parts for their M2’s in a timely fashion.

The sad truth is that no one involved demonstrated even a minimal concern about getting critical spare parts to those whose very survival might well depend on getting them in a timely manner, i.e., before their next firefight. 

There is more to this report that I will be covering in a subsequent article.  However, for those who have followed SFTT’s investigation of the mix of unexplainable behavior and incompetence that produced the Interceptor Body Armor fiasco, this report on the shoddy procurement process within the DoD only confirms that the problems indentified by SFTT are truly systemic and not unique to body armor. 

It is absolutely unacceptable that we seem unable or unwilling to provide our men and women serving in harm’s way the proper equipment to do their job and come home alive in one piece.  Folks, we have a serious problem in our military procurement system and unless  Americans raise their voice and say “enough,” it is likely to continue that way.  Find out what you can do to support SFTT’s mission by becoming a Member or by Volunteering your services to get the SFTT message across to our Congressional and military leaders. 

Roger Charles

Senior Investigative Reporter and Editor

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USMC General Cartwright argues for change in military procurement

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General James CartwrightIn a refreshing but somewhat rambling presentation, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USMC General Cartwright, suggests diverting money from high-tech military procurement programs to give our troops the proper combat equipment to fight the “low-end wars” that we are in for the “next five to ten years.”  In an article published in the Army Times, staff editor John Bennett writes that General Cartwright said that “there is nothing out there that tells us we won’t be wrapped up in these conflicts for as far as the eye can see.”  His remarks were at a sponsored forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Echoing a message that seems to be coming from many quarters both inside and outside the Capital beltway, General Cartwright argue that the  US military will be “persistently” wrapped up low-level regional conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq “in different places and at different levels” for the foreseeable future.  Citing Secretary Gates, General Cartwright stated that if the DoD “continues pursuing expensive weapons packed with countless advanced subsystems, it will be able to afford only a handful of each platform.”  Furthermore, he argued that the current economic environment placed a serious constraint on military spending.

Calling for a greater “partnership” with our allies, General Cartwright suggested that the men and women in the field will play a far greater role in these conflicts.  “The question is, how many bomber squadrons do we need versus how many troops expert at stability operations,” said Cartwright.  “We need quantity more than quality.”  If this is, in fact, the new military doctrine of engagement then it seems reasonable to expect that greater attention will be focused on make sure the grunt on the ground has the best equipment possible.  Certainly, this is long overdue given the attention now focused on the poor quality of our body armor and more recently, the failings of the M-4 rifle.

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M-4 Rifle Not Suitable for Afghan Battlefield

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In yet another alarming sign that US troops do not have adequate combat gear, the US Stars and Stripes now reports that the US Army standard-isssue M-4 rifle may not be the best weapon of choice for Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain.   This disclosure comes on the heels of a new Congressional inquiry on body armor procurement and testing procedures.

 

Slobodan Lekic of the Associated Press reports that the “U.S. military’s workhorse rifle (the “M-4″) is proving less effective in Afghanistan against the Taliban’s more primitive but longer range weapons.” The M-4 is simply a revamped version of the Viet Nam era M-16 that was designed for close combat. 

Several reports are circulating within military circles, but one recent study by Major Thomas P. Ehrhart strongly suggests that the M-4 as presently configured is not the proper weapon for the Afghan terrain.  Bullets fired from M-4s don’t retain enough velocity at distances greater than 1,000 feet  to kill an adversary. In hilly regions of Afghanistan, NATO and insurgent forces are often 2,000 to 2,500 feet.

To counter these tactics, the U.S. military is designating nine soldiers in each infantry company to serve as sharpshooters, according to Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, who wrote the Army study. They are equipped with the new M-110 sniper rifle, which fires a larger 7.62 mm round and is accurate to at least 2,500 feet.

According the AP report, “At the heart of the debate is whether a soldier is better off with the more-rapid firepower of the 5.56mm bullets or with the longer range of the 7.62 mm bullets. ‘The reason we employ the M-4 is because it’s a close-in weapon, since we anticipate house-to-house fighting in many situations,’ said Lt. Col. Denis J. Riel, a NATO spokesman.”

While there have been persistent reports of weapons jamming, these new studies strongly suggest that our frontline troops do not have the proper weapons to engage the enemy.  We remain hopeful that our military leaders will take decisive action to quickly remedy this situation rather than wait several months or years for the GAO or IG to issue after-action reports concluding what we already know:  the US military’s 40 year-old M-4 ain’t up to the task!   Indeed, our troops are still waiting for proper body armor after years of stone-walling by our military brass.  Let’s take action and get our troops the equipment they deserve. 

Richard W. May

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SFTT featured in Greenwich Newspaper

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The Greenwich Post featured a front-page article in this week’s edition describing Eilhys England Hackworth’s heroic campaign to help insure that our frontline troops have the best body armor, helmets, combat boots, rifles and sidearms available.  In an article entitled “Col. Hackworth: Soldiers’ Group Notches Victory,” staff writer Chris Davis describes some of the successes that SFTT has achieved to make sure that our brave heroes have the best combat gear possible.   It is a cause worth fightling for and, I am pleased to reprint the article in its entirety.

QUOTE

May is a special month for Eilhys England Hackworth, chairman of the Soldiers for the Truth Foundation (SFTT), which she co-founded in 1997 with her late husband Col. David “Hack” Hackworth.

Col. Hackworth is “America’s most valor decorated soldier,” according to the SFTT Web site.

“This month marks the fifth anniversary of David’s death,” she said at her home in Greenwich recently, “and the fifth anniversary of my promise — my deathbed promise — to him to continue on with our fight to protect America’s front line troops.”

Her mission is to get them the best available basic five critical pieces of combat gear that give them the best chance possible to get home alive and in one piece — helmet, rifle, sidearm, boots and body armor. And Ms. England has the lowdown on them all, thanks, she said, “to years of brainwashing by my husband.” She says the equipment we send our troops into harm’s way with is lethally substandard.

The helmets our troops use in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, are not up to the technology that exists today. Not only that, she added, they are also “so grotesquely uncomfortable that soldiers tend to not want to wear them.

“To me, as an American citizen,” she said, “it is extremely offensive that our football players have more effective and more comfortable helmets than our front line troops — 18- and 19-year-old kids, out at the tip of the spear, protecting our cushy good life. These kids deserve to come back and enjoy it too.”

The standard issue rifle is “a jammer,” Ms. England said, a variant of the rifle issued in Vietnam. Ask Jessica Lynch, the West Virginia private who was taken prisoner during an ambush in Iraq in 2003. In 2007, she told Congress that her M-16 rifle had jammed and she was never able to fire it.

As for side arms, the bullets that standard issue pistols shoot “can’t stop a determined opponent,” Ms. England said. “People can fire five shots into a determined opponent and they’ll still keep coming at you, perhaps take you down.”

Boots should be appropriate to the mission and the terrain. An infantry army travels on its feet.

“You can do the math,” she said. “If they don’t have the right shoes, they can’t make the distance to do their missions. Clearly you don’t give somebody the same footwear if they’re in the mud somewhere than if they’re in the sand. And that’s what they do. They tried to develop an all-purpose thing. There’s no such animal.”

She said SFTT would be reaching out to Nike to see if it could develop “the right foot stuff.” Then would come the business of swaying the Department of Defense (DoD) procurement system to use it, a chore that takes “time and public outcry,” she said.

“It’s not a question of money,” she said. “That’s ridiculous. We pay $400,000 to families for the death of a soldier. And that’s a drop in the bucket compared to taking care of people when they come home missing half their brain or both legs.”

“There’s no way that one organization — or 50 organizations — could raise the money and buy our own equipment and send it to the troops.”

Her strategy is to “take truth to power,” she said. Get senators and congressmen to initiate inquiries.

And as of last week, that strategy has started to pay off with the fifth item of vital gear — body armor. “We’ve accomplished what corporations pay lobbyists billions of dollars to do with just our outreach of who we can go to,” Ms. England said, “because they know we talk the truth.”

Body armor has been an issue with SFTT since day one. SFTT takes credit for bringing the issue under scrutiny by alerting the media, leading to a five-part NBC News investigative report and a pro bono Freedom of Information lawsuit against the Pentagon requesting access to autopsy reports on soldiers who died from chest wounds while wearing body armor that should have protected them. The Pentagon has refused to honor the request and the case is now before a federal judge.

Meanwhile, thanks in no small part to the advocacy and influence of SFTT, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates questioning the DoD’s acquisition, testing and quality assurance of its body armor and armored vehicles and inviting the DoD to the Hill for a briefing.

The letter cites a report from the Defense Department’s own inspector general that found “that body armor that was recorded as having passed testing had actually failed.”

“That’s more than an intellectual accomplishment,” Ms. England said. “It will result, we hope, in a lot coming out that should. Soldiers for the Truth is a little tiny engine that could.”

Ms. England calls herself “a big picture strategist. I created and ran a top 50 marketing and PR agency on Madison Avenue. I ran it for decades until David kidnapped me and demanded that he be my only client and that I help him with protecting the troops.

“I loved my husband so much I would have followed him anywhere. I told him that I thought he was brainwashing me every night: ‘You will help me help the troops,’” she said with a smile, with Hack’s original rifle resting on the mantle above the fireplace in her living room. “Who else would extort on their death bed a promise from their wife who adored him to do this?”

At high noon on Saturday, May 22, friends, family and supporters will gather at Arlington National Cemetery to place wreaths at both the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at Col. Hackworth’s graveside and launch a year-long celebration of America’s most decorated hero.

UNQUOTE

Soldiers for the Truth is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit and apolitical educational foundation dedicated solely to help bring our troops home alive and in one piece.  If you find our mission compelling, please consider becoming a member or volunteer your efforts to this worthwhile cause.  Let our troops know that you stand behind them.

Richard W. May

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Chairman Towns Opens Inquiry into Quality of Troops’ Body Armor and Vehicle Safety

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In an important new development Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY), Chairman of the Committee for Oversight and Government Reform asks  Defense Secretary Robert Gates for explanations about the management of the Department of Defense’s (“DoD”) troop armor procurement and testing programs.  What follows is a reprint of the release:

The inquiry follows a DoD Inspector General (“IG”) report issued recently that identified problems with the Army’s body and vehicle armor testing process.  Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, DOoD has consistently struggled to deploy safe and reliable body armor to troops on the front line, and the IG has issued several reports outlining the challenges to DOD’s armor procurement policies and potential solutions. Chairman Towns, an Army veteran, is committed to ensuring the safety of our troops.

“For almost a decade, our troops have sacrificed life and limb to defend our nation.  At the same time, DoD has repeatedly struggled to manage its programs and testing related to protective armor, including body armor,” said Chairman Towns.  “If we are going to continue sending troops into harms way, we must know that DoD is doing all it can to provide effective and save body armor and armored vehicles.”

A January 2009 DoD IG report identified problems with the U.S. Army’s testing processes. The IG found, among other things, that testing of some body armor was not consistently conducted in accordance with contract requirements—and that body armor that was recorded as having passed testing had actually failed. A separate review of body armor testing by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) the Army did not follow established testing protocols, did not maintain certain internal controls, and recommended an independent assessment of armor test results.

The letter from Chairman Towns to Secretary Gates is the latest in a series of inquiries from the House Oversight Committee into Federal procurement and waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.  In the letter to Gates, Chairman Towns requested that DoD brief the House Oversight Committee on the Department’s efforts to ensure that our troops have effective and safe body armor and armored vehicles, as expeditiously as possible.

Specifically, the Chairman requested an overview of key ongoing armored vehicle and body armor acquisition programs of the Services, including the Army’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle program (MRAP); contractors involved in the maintenance or procurement of body armor or armored vehicles; and field experience with the effectiveness of protective armor, including body armor, along with any analysis comparing experience in the field with the results of laboratory testing.

“I am aware that DoD has made some progress addressing past problems with the body and vehicle armor provided to our armed services,” said Chairman Towns.  “However, I want to make sure DoD’s progress continues.  There is nothing more important than providing our troops with the best protection possible.”

SFTT Editor Comment:  We applaud Chairman Towns, Congressman Jim Webb and other Congressional leaders for their perseverance in helping to insure that our troops have the best protective gear possible.  Nevertheless, it is  reprehensible that our military leaders have taken little action over the past several years to deal with the disturbing issues raised in the March, 2008 IG report and the October, 2009 GAO Study.  The unreliability of body armor presently issued to our troops, shoddy test procedures and cozy relationships between military “testers” and armament suppliers have been well documented. It is disgraceful and does not reflect well on our military leadership who are entrusted to field an army with the best combat gear possible.  By letting our troops down, we let our country down.

When will the “true” military leaders emerge to make sure our troops have the best protective gear possible?  Studies are useful, but concerted action now would save lives and prevent traumatic injury.    We implore Secretary Gates to clean up the mess in our military procurement process.  We realize that billions of dollars are at stake, but so are the lives of the young men and women serving in harm’s way.  Let’s get our priorities straight.

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