Sanders: Protect Our Troops

The Army will begin large-scale procurement of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles to protect soldiers from makeshift bombs in Iraq. Senator Sanders had pressed the Pentagon to step up production of the heavily armored vehicles after soldiers from Vermont contacted him with their concerns. USA Today reported on Monday that the Pentagon approved an Army request for a 600 percent increase in production of the new vehicles.

The Army will begin large-scale procurement of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles to protect soldiers from makeshift bombs in Iraq. Senator Sanders had pressed the Pentagon to step up production of the heavily armored vehicles after soldiers from Vermont contacted him with their concerns. USA Today reported on Monday that the Pentagon approved an Army request for a 600 percent increase in production of the new vehicles.

After receiving appeals from Vermonters serving in Iraq, Sanders responded by writing and calling top brass at the Defense Department. "It has come to my attention that soldiers serving in Iraq from my state of Vermont do not have the proper equipment to carry out their mission," the senator wrote in a June 8 letter to Army Secretary Preston M. Geren III. "Soldiers have already lost their lives due to the fact that they were in vehicles not built for this difficult mission," Sanders said. In the letter Sanders also questioned how, after more than four years of war in Iraq, the Bush administration still has not properly planned for the proper protection of our service men and women.

For more than two years, requests from field commanders for better armor-protected vehicles were largely ignored. The Pentagon about face, Sanders said, is welcome news.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) account for 70 percent of the casualties in Iraq. The greatest threat from these IEDs today comes in the form of roadside bombs that blow through the weakly-armored bottoms of conventional vehicles, according to Major General Dennis Hejlik. With a heavily-armored, V-shaped hull that deflects the force of the explosion, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles hold a significant advantage over vehicles such as the widely-used Humvee. This advantage has been shown in the success of the new vehicles deployed by the Marine Corps in Anbar Province. In some 300 IED attacks on these vehicles, there has not been a single casualty.

Sanders and others remain concerned about the current capacity to produce the new armored vehicles. Tom Miller, who was the head of the Marine Corps Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program in 2005, said then that a modest request for 1,200 of the vehicles could not be filled. Senator Sanders believes that we should not rely on foreign countries to supply our service men and women with such crucial equipment. With a country as advanced as the United States we surely have the capability to produce these vehicles in America in a fast and efficient way.

Read Senator Sanders letter to the Army secretary.

Read the article in USA Today.