Reservists Reportedly Refused Convoy Mission

From Associated Press

October 15, 2004

WASHINGTON — The Army is investigating reports that several members of a reservist supply unit in Iraq refused to go on a convoy mission, the military said today. Relatives of the soldiers said the troops considered the mission too dangerous.

The reservists are from the 343rd Quartermaster Company, which is based in Rock Hill, S.C. The unit delivers food and water in combat zones.

According to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss., a platoon of 17 soldiers refused to go on a fuel supply mission Wednesday because their vehicles were in poor shape and they did not have a capable armed escort.

The paper cited interviews with family members of some of the soldiers, who said the soldiers had been confined after their refusals. The mission was carried out by other soldiers from the 343rd, which has at least 120 soldiers, the military said.

Convoys in Iraq are frequently subject to ambushes and roadside bombings.

A whole unit refusing to go on a mission in a war zone would be a significant breach of military discipline. A statement from the military's press center in Baghdad called the incident "isolated."

"The investigating team is currently in Tallil taking statements and interviewing those involved. This is an isolated incident and it is far too early in the investigation to speculate as to what happened, why it happened or any action that might be taken," the coalition press information center said in the statement, sent to The Associated Press in Washington.

In the statement, U.S. military officials said the commanding general of the 13th Corps Support Command had appointed his deputy commander to investigate the incident.

The statement did not confirm several aspects of the relatives' stories, including the number of soldiers involved and the reason they refused the mission.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq -- north of Baghdad -- because their vehicles were considered extremely unsafe, Patricia McCook of Jackson, Miss., told The Clarion-Ledger. Her husband, Sgt. Larry O. McCook, was among those detained, she said, saying her husband had telephoned her from Iraq.

The platoon being held has troops from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi and South Carolina, said Teresa Hill of Dothan, Ala., who told the newspaper her daughter Amber McClenny is among those being detained.

Patricia McCook said her husband told her he did not feel comfortable taking his soldiers on another trip.

"He told me that three of the vehicles they were to use were 'deadlines' ... not safe to go in a hotbed like that," she said, according to the newspaper.