I missed a lot while I was away, but I don't think this story got too much attention. I read about it in an editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican:
Americans should be properly shocked to learn that the men and women of our National Guard are being sent into combat with poorer equipment than their regular-Army counterparts.
The case calling attention to that tragic inequality is one from early November, involving a Chinook helicopter carrying members of an Illinois-Iowa unit. It carried our troops into Iraq without antimissile defenses. It was shot down, most likely by a shoulder-fired missile. Sixteen citizen-soldiers were killed.
Now, from a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we learn that the lack of protection for the Guardsmen was calculated: The Pentagon ordered only half the high-tech defense systems the Guard needed for its fleet of Chinooks. "A conscious decision," Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, the Guard's director, told the P-D: a decision the Army made to save money....
The Post-Dispatch story is here. It notes that the problem goes far beyond anti-missile systems:
Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett, commander of the Tennessee National Guard, ... spoke recently with two members of the Guard's 1175th Transportation Company from Tennessee, who carry soldiers between Kuwait and the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
He related: "One of them told me: 'In Desert Storm, I was an active guy. I never knew until now that the Guard and Reserves got treated so differently. We have been promised and promised and promised body armor, and nothing's happened. Meanwhile, we're hauling active-duty guys just arriving in country - with body armor.'"
Insufficient radar equipment or other major gear for Guard units is bad enough, Hargett said, but he can't accept the failure to meet "the basic needs of soldiers" - such as proper uniforms, boots, cold weather gear.
"We sent people over without the desert camouflage. We were told they would get them when they got over there. Some did, some didn't," Hargett said.
And as the Post-Dispatch story reminds us,
The issue of equipping the National Guard is likely to intensify. Guard members will, by spring, assume a larger share of the U.S. presence in Iraq under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's troop rotation plan.
(In fact, while I was away I read, in a Taos News story that isn't online at full length, that the Taos National Guard is just now shipping out to Iraq for eighteen months. Hey, what's that all about? Isn't Iraq supposed to be a model democracy and a beacon of hope to the world by this coming June?)