U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Zachary Wilkinson, a patrolman with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, inserts a cleaning rod through the barrel of an M4 carbine. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather M. Norris

Hill to DoD: Fix the gear

The American Legion called reports that soldiers are being sent to combat with deficient gear and lack of training "completely unacceptable."

"The American Legion supports our troops' missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they must have the best equipment and training that we can possibly give them," National Commander Clarence E. Hill said. "Representatives like Ike Skelton and Solomon Ortiz should be commended for bringing these serious concerns to the attention of the Pentagon leadership."

The two House members wrote in a Dec. 10 letter that they are "greatly troubled" by what they have been told by soldiers. For instance, a military historian found that the M4 carbine failed at critical moments during a July 2008 firefight in Afghanistan, in which nine U.S. soldiers were killed.

"Even though these weapons routinely rank lower than other military weapons in testing, they are still being issued as the Army's weapon of choice," the lawmakers wrote.

"I am also concerned that troops are reportedly being taken from boot camp and being sent to combat, with little or no additional training," Hill said. "Soldiers are also saying that their rucksacks are poorly designed and make it difficult to fire their weapons.

"My question to military leadership is, ‘Who has the backs of our troops?' The American Legion would like some answers. Training and equipment should be factored in as essential costs of war, just like VA health care. We will take this issue up with the secretary of Defense and even the president of the United States if it is not addressed quickly."