AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar – To reduce the amount of military cargo hauled in vulnerable ground convoys across Iraq, the U.S. Air Force has begun airlifting much larger quantities of materiel to bases around the country.
The stepped-up effort started several weeks ago at the urging of Gen. John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and involves cargo planes carrying vehicles, tank tracks, tires, generators and other goods that normally move over land routes.
Such transport is more expensive and less efficient, but senior Air Force officers say the unusual undertaking has become necessary to protect the lives of U.S. troops and civilians who otherwise would attempt to ferry the items by dangerous ground convoys.
Convoy security became a hot issue last week when soldiers in Kuwait complained to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that they were being sent to war without sufficient armored equipment to protect them. Pentagon officials have since issued statements saying that the concerns of the soldiers are being addressed and that armored transportation will be provided to troops headed into Iraq.