Originally created 01/03/06

Guard forced to leave vehicles



COLUMBIA - South Carolina National Guard units that deployed to Iraq last year had to leave $50 million in equipment in Iraq and they aren't sure when the items will be returned or even replaced, officials say.

The units were asked to leave 24 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 169 heavy transport trucks and Humvees, and hundreds of radios, weapons, tools and other equipment, said Col. Ronald Huff, the Guard's deputy chief of staff for logistics.

"Overall, we left 750 pieces of equipment there," said Col. Huff, who recently completed a report to the National Guard Bureau - its national headquarters - detailing what Palmetto State units left behind.

"They were things that were needed (in Iraq) to keep up the war effort, and to keep the Army from having to ship more equipment over there," Col. Huff said.

He estimated the value of the items to be $50 million.

The 122nd Engineer Battalion, based in Edgefield, brought back many of its dump trucks, but they were nearly useless on return, Col. Huff said.

"The condition of the equipment was terrible. About 70 percent of it wasn't working," he said.

During its year in Iraq, the 122nd repaired Iraqi schools, built soccer fields, improved military bases and destroyed seized ordnance. It worked in areas around Baghdad.

The unit's trucks are being repaired at the maintenance workshop at McEntire Joint National Guard Base near Eastover. A recent visitor there was shown how entire doors, grills and gas tanks on a five-ton dump truck had to be replaced. Despite the repair, the nearly 30-year-old vehicle still bears rusty smudges.

Across the road, an Apache helicopter is undergoing refurbishment.

The 151st Aviation Battalion's 16 helicopters were sent to Iraq, and 16 returned. It will take about nine to 12 months to get all the choppers a going-over.

Other units affected include the 1st Battalion, 178th Field Artillery based in Georgetown; the 3rd Battalion, 178th Field Artillery based in Lancaster; and the 133rd Military Police Company from Florence, said Col. Huff.

Lt. Col. Pete Brooks, a National Guard spokesman, said no major exercises or events have had to be canceled because of the equipment problems and shortfalls.