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CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday faced open criticism from his own U.S. troops, who complained about inadequate armor for Iraq and questioned a policy that stops them from leaving the military when their voluntary term ends.
The unusually blunt public exchange came at a town hall-style session with American soldiers at this camp 12 miles south of the border with Iraq, where more than 1,200 U.S. troops have died since the March 2003 invasion.
Hundreds of troops applauded a comrade who complained to Rumsfeld that U.S. forces were being forced to dig up scrap metal to protect their vehicles in Iraq because of a shortage of armored ones.
"Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? And why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" the soldier asked.
Rumsfeld asked the soldier to repeat the question.
The soldier said, "A lot of us are getting ready to move north (into Iraq) relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We're digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up, dropped, busted -- picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat."
"We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north."
Rumsfeld conceded that "not every vehicle has the degree of armor that it would be desirable for it to have," and said the Army was hurrying to provide more armored vehicles, adding 400 per month.
But Rumsfeld added, "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."
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