Tell It to the Marines

It's not just the "weekend warriors" in support positions getting short shrift -- and insufficient equipment -- in Iraq. The Boston Globe reports that an "estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment to operate in [Al Anbar] a region the size of Utah."

An investigation by the Corps' inspector general notes, "Most infantry, logistics, and security battalions require approximately twice the number of .50-caliber machine guns and more M240G and MK19 machine guns than they would normally possess." Radio and satellite tracking systems are also in short supply. And armored vehicles? Not only are our fighting boys stuck with 1,000 vehicles lacking undercarriage armor (to protect against roadside bombs), but also the armored Humvees they've got are breaking down more easily because they were never designed to carry the weight of all that armor. Hello?

So what's a poor Marine to do? Ask Dad, of course. DailyKos helpfully flags a story from The Arizona Republic about a local man's shopping list for his about-to-be-deployed son: flak jacket with steel trauma plates, a Camelbak (water pouch), special ballistic goggles, knee and elbow pads, a "drop pouch" to hold ammunition magazines and a load-bearing vest. Dad doesn't support the war, but he supports his son, and so dug up the $600 that Uncle Sam couldn't.

The sad news is that this is old news. Since a few months into the war, local newspapers have been carrying stories about how families and, at times, entire communities banded together to raise the money to properly outfit Iraq-bound troops and their vehicles. (My favorite was the high school shop class that up-armored Humvees.) Long before Donald Rumsfeld was put on the spot at what was supposed to be a happy photo-op Q&A with support troops in Kuwait, Reserves and Guard units were struggling with "hillbilly" armor. "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" was the question heard round the world. That was in December, and we still don't have a suitable answer.

Of course, the Pentagon did find an extra $100 mil or so to outsource a propaganda campaign that includes T-shirts and bumper stickers. Maybe the Marines could add them under their flak jackets and vehicle armor.