Utah GIs familiar with equipment shortages

Published December 9, 2004 12:23 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two Utahns killed in the line of duty in Iraq served in units that grappled with equipment deficiencies.

On Jan. 31, Cpl. Juan Carlos Cabral, of Washington Terrace, and two other soldiers were killed when a homemade bomb hidden along the roadway exploded near their unarmored Humvee near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

This spring, 500 soldiers in the Utah National Guard's 1457th Engineer Battalion were packing up to return home when the Pentagon ordered them to remain in Iraq indefinitely, even though they had worn out their heavy equipment on major work projects in Baghdad.

The Utah soldiers credit their parent command, the 1st Armored Division, with getting them home when they could not get up to combat strength. The division, which also had served the required year in Iraq, then headed back to Baghdad where, within a week, eight soldiers were killed in a car bomb attack.

Equipment problems also plagued the Marines' Fox Company, headquartered in Utah and Nevada, during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Fox Company was issued 13 trucks to transport infantry, rather than the standard armored land-sea vehicles. Marines piled sandbags into the trucks, which provided their only armor.

They were short on ammunition, hand grenades, signal devices, chemical weapon detectors and heavy guns. They shared night-vision goggles and body armor, and stripped needed equipment from wounded comrades. They had no spare parts to repair weapons, radios, trucks or Humvees. And until the end of the fighting, they had no spare tires.

On March 29, 2003, Marine Staff Sgt. James Cawley, 41, of Layton, died when a coalition Humvee rolled over him during the push to Baghdad. Fourteen Marines in Fox Company were wounded.

The Utah Reservists rescued a pinned down Marine artillery unit and fought their way into Baghdad, where their only big gun jammed. The 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines was later honored by the Reserve Officers' Association as the nation's finest Reserve infantry unit.

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