Minor Sanctions for U.S. Troops Who Balked in Iraq
,Monday 06 December 2004

Baghdad - The U.S. military in Iraq has disciplined 18 soldiers who refused to go out on a transport convoy they thought was too dangerous, but the reservists will not face court-martial, a military spokesman said Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan said a further five would also face "non-judicial" punishment under Article 15 of the U.S. military justice code, making 23 troops disciplined in this way.

He declined to detail the sanctions. Article 15 gives commanders discretion to order brief detention of up to a month, loss of up to a month's pay, extra duties and loss of rank.

Asked whether the command had taken into account complaints by the reservists that the fuel trucks they were asked to drive through hostile central Iraq were not sufficiently armored, Boylan declined to comment beyond saying: "The soldiers' performances are all taken into account."

At a court martial, soldiers found guilty of refusing to obey an order can be sentenced to up to two years in jail.

Members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, based at Rock Hill, South Carolina, disobeyed orders to take their unarmored fuel tankers on a supply run from Tallil, near Nassiriya, in southeastern Iraq to Taji, just north of Baghdad, on Oct. 13.

They raised concerns about the safety and the condition of their vehicles and whether the convoy was getting adequate protection. Dozens of roadside bombs go off in Iraq every week, targeting U.S. convoys and putting the truck drivers and convoy guards who keep the army supplied in the front line.

Some relatives have said the soldiers believed they were delivering contaminated helicopter fuel.

The U.S. military runs about 250 convoys daily involving up to 3,000 vehicles to supply and equip its troops in Iraq.

The commander of the company was relieved of her duties after the incident. Other soldiers carried out the Oct. 13 supply mission, the military said. The 343rd Quartermaster Company returned to full duty on Nov. 11.