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  • America at Risk: Military Went to War in Iraq With Unarmored SUVs

    Rebuilding Iraq during the raging insurgency was no easy task. It required ingenuity, courage and innovative ways to get the job done—sometimes with equipment that offered little protection from the car bombs and rocket attacks launched by America’s enemies.

    For veterans of the Iraq war like Col. Kerry Kachejian, it was a life-changing experience to work on the unprecedented reconstruction project. As an Army Reserve engineer, Kachejian was tasked with restoring some of the most basic services for the Iraqi people as well as building schools, hospitals and police stations.

    He did this work with a sport-utility vehicle, an automobile that lacked armored protection and was more suited for America’s highways than Iraq’s dangerous streets.

    “The closest unit was organized, staffed, equipped, and deployed so quickly there was no spare military equipment for it,” Kachejian recalled in an interview with The Heritage Foundation. “We in the reconstruction side were precluded from buying anything. We could only lease. So finding a contractor that would lease us a combat vehicle in combat, we were striking out everywhere.”

    Without armored fighting vehicles that could stand up to ambushes and attacks, Kachejian recalled how the SUVs were modified—ripping off the tailgate to make room for a gunner and hanging personal body armor out the window to stop or slow down a AK-47 round.

    “Without armor, when you’re moving down an Iraqi road in a sport-utility vehicle, the one thing you have is speed,” Kachejian said. “So we would drive as fast as we could, sometimes 80 to 110 miles per hour. It was somewhat like a ‘Mad Max’ movie, rolling down the road in a sport-utility vehicle.”

    Kachejian told his harrowing story in a book called “SUVs Suck In Combat.” It chronicles some of the war stories that Americans never heard about the readiness challenges facing our military. The Heritage Foundation chose to profile him as part of a three-part video series that will run during Protect America Month, which showcases why we must commit to protecting the United States in an increasingly dangerous world.

    With budget cuts looming as a result of Washington’s misguided approach to defense, America faces an alarming national security risk, according to Heritage’s James Carafano.

    “America’s military went into Iraq unprepared for the aftermath that followed because we had underinvested in defense for almost a decade,” Carafano said. “We took a peace dividend after the Cold War that cut too deep—compromised readiness and underinvested in the equipment and training our men and women in uniform needed.”

    President Bill Clinton’s actions led to a situation similar to what played out in the Carter years and now could be repeated under President Obama.

    The worst step the nation could take is repeat that mistake again.

    “When you come out of war,” Kachejian said, “there’s always a risk because of potential budget cuts that you’ll cut too far. You don’t want to cut so drastically that we wind up with a situation that we would up with after Vietnam, where much of the Army had money to go out and do physical fitness training, to wash their trucks and paint rocks. … We’ve got to have a ready and relevant military.”

    This is the first of a three-part series on the risks of budget cuts to America’s military. It was produced and directed by Will Lamborn. Brandon Stewart and Alison Meyer assisted with production. For more videos from Heritage, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

    Posted in Featured, Scribe [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to America at Risk: Military Went to War in Iraq With Unarmored SUVs

    1. Bobbie says:

      Ridiculous to be put in this position! EVER! Presently Obama protects the enemies over the intentional good will of America by putting America in this position while he reduces drastic amounts of America's defense. America starts it off even though completely hated by who knows who in the middle east, the insurgents means nation building is up to the nation. No one can control behavior that isn't their own and some won't control their own and the ones that won't control their own are the ones Obama appeases. Obama stands no one accountable when they're in the wrong. America is proof since he's been in office.

    2. Ryan Pugh says:

      THIS is why the military and defense should NEVER be stripped of spending, during war time or peace time. As Col. Kachejian points out: "Peace dividends" that cut too deep leave our military, and therefore our nation, vulnerable if/WHEN we are drawn into war again. Do not doubt that there still are and always will be those that envy and hate the United States of America for our freedom, opportunity and prosperity, and will make every effort to bring us down. Our military should always be at the peak of readiness, because we do not know when that readiness will be tested. Ronald Reagan was dead on: "Peace through Strength." Even before we were ready for WWII, the world knew that the US would be a force to reckon with: Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto feared Japan had "Awoken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve." But we should never sleep, or at least do so with one eye open and our great military ready to wield!

    3. As a vet, I love our military boys, but come on. During the earlier wars, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, we used jeeps, Unbloody armored, under powered jeeps. When the Hummers came out, I thought kool, wish we had em. So, let's not make a mountain out of this. We use what we have available at any given time. The matter has been resolved. Oh, and by the way, (this is for you Bobbie) obummer (as much as I despise him) had nothing to do with what equipment we had going into the Iraqi conflicts.

      Our military is and has been for a long time, the best equipped military in the world. Even the Marine Corps, the step-child of the military who gets the "hand me downs" is better equipped than most armies in the world.

      • Bobbie says:

        Back in those earlier wars technology wasn't nearly what it is today! He's the commander in chief, Michael. You're implying he had nothing to do with reducing the defense budget? Ridiculous! If Mr. Obama had nothing to do with making sure America's troops are properly equipped, he should have!
        I do thank you for your service.

    4. Bill says:

      Ok GOOD YOURE WORRIED ABOUT THE TROOPS HAVING PROPER ARMOR ON THEIR VEHICLES. WHAT ABOUT CONGRESS DECLARING WAR LIKE IT'S SUPPOST TO. OR HOW ABOUT THE PRESIDENT GOING TO CONGRESS TO GET A DECLARATION OF WAR. JUST GETTING CONGRESS APPROVEAL IS NOT ENOUGH ACCORDING TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION. YOU NEED A DECLARATION OF WAR. BUT HEY WHAT DO I KNOW. I JUST READ THE U.S. CONSTITUTION.

    5. pete says:

      Flew helicopters in Vietnam for two years without armor protection. What's the beef?

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