National Guard Equipment Shortage
All that work has uncovered a growing crisis, deteriorating equipment.
Vehicle breakdowns riddled the Guard's three day ride to New Orleans. While the breakdowns were bad, Missouri's senior officer said that the most serious problem is with communications. He said that Missouri soldiers simply do not have the radio equipment they need.
"Communications means the difference between a soldier who gets wounded, whether he lives or dies," Staff Sergeant Jason Walling said.
So Walling took matters into his own hands.
"I bought these little Motorola hand-held radios so we can talk amongst ourselves, it cost me 100 something dollars, but if that little bit of communications is what it takes to keep one of my people alive, or one of my people unharmed totally, then its worth it, worth every penny," Walling said.
Other guardsmen relied on radios supplied by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff.
"I think if it weren't for the police radios it would've been a lot worse. We used the police radios and we were able to utilize their assets, their repeaters, their communications center, and we augmented with our radios and cell phones," Lieutenant Steven Person said.
The radio shortage is not new. A November 2004 report to Congress reveals the Guard couldn't use 20 to 30 year old radios in Iraq, because they are not compatible with the Army's newer radios.
"There's a difference between what you're authorized and what you're assigned. Authorized you look at a resource document, and you're supposed to have this many sincgar radios. Assigned is what you actually have. We're about 50% fill on our assigned on the radios," Adjutant General King Sidwell said.
The numbers look worse when it comes to vehicles. The Missouri Guard has just 38% of the humvees they're allotted. The Guard is hoping for newer vehicles but for now some of their vehicles a Blazer are so old, their replacement parts aren't even in the system," Sidwell said.
The Blazer is what the guard considers a substitute vehicle.
"In those shortages a lot of times you get substitutes, and the substitutes are not, they're substitutes for training, but they're not deployable to a theater of operations," Sidwell said.
They were sent to Louisiana though, because many deployable vehicles were left overseas. Many are in Iraq and Kosovo.
An April 2004 report to congress and the Secretary of Defense outlined the problem well before Katrina hit.
"Some state officials we spoke with voiced concern about the preparedness of their guard units for recurring state emergencies . . . Given the level of the guard's ongoing support to overseas operations," state officials said in a statement.
The guard reports a $15 Billion shortfall in their 2005 equipment budget.
"All the equipment we have here is backfield equipment, that's why it's so old," Captain Verland Mcbride said.
Guardsmen said that old equipment slowed down their response to Katrina.
"The first day when we got ready to leave we had two breakdowns right here before we could even get out of the driveway, which is kind of embarrassing when you're trying to get somewhere, you've got two breakdowns, but they got them going, it took a while, it put us behind," Specialist Danny Johnson said.
The Guard managed to get its job done in spite of sub-standard and non-existent equipment. One guardsman even fixed a truck's broken fuel line with a sharpened stick.
Senators Kit Bond and Arlen Specter of Vermont are asking congress for $1.3 billion just for guard equipment.
Guardsmen said that they welcome any help they can get. But Adjutant General Sidwell said he does not think the money will go far enough.
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