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Army: GIs refused mission because of safety concerns

U.S. Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers says the soldiers are being questioned about their refusal.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Eighteen soldiers who refused to make a fuel delivery in Iraq were concerned about their safety and vehicle maintenance, the U.S. military said Sunday.

The military initially did not indicate what caused the soldiers to refuse their mission Wednesday.

But Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers said Sunday that preliminary findings indicate the soldiers were concerned about whether the equipment used would keep them safe.

"I can't think of anything that we're not doing right now to better protect our convoys," Chambers argued. "We are working constantly to find better ways to protect them."

Family members said the trucks weren't armored and were too slow to operate in dangerous areas.

Sgt. Larry O. McCook was among those who refused the mission. He told his wife, Patricia, that the equipment was not right for the job.

"They don't have bulletproof protection on the vehicles," Patricia McCook said. "They just don't go fast at all. It's just not safe to be in a hostile territory."

Chambers said all convoys are escorted, and there is also air support in areas of high insurgent resistance.

He also revealed that the soldiers had been moved to a separate location for questioning after their refusal to carry out the mission.

Family members reported receiving urgent telephone calls and e-mails from the soldiers after the incident. Many told their relatives they had been detained. (Full story)

The military released a statement last week that said no soldier had been arrested or detained.

Chambers said the soldiers have been returned to duty and are doing maintenance and safety training until they are recertified to do their mission.

The soldiers are part of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, which is part of the 13th Corps Support Command, or COSCOM. The company is from Rock Hill, South Carolina.

The company delivers meals, water, fuel, ammunition, medical supplies and repair parts every day to U.S.-led coalition forces.

The 13th COSCOM has suffered 26 fatalities since April and has conducted tens of thousands of missions during that time, Chambers said.

The investigation includes an assessment of what led to the soldiers' actions and will determine whether the Uniform Code of Military Justice was violated, Chambers said.

Investigators will make recommendations on what actions are necessary.

Chambers called the incident "isolated" and said it "will not affect our ability to serve the coalition forces."

Other soldiers in the same unit eventually carried out the mission.

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