AWOL Soldier Cites Army Inadequacies
Wed Jan 12, 7:55 AM ET
�Top Stories - Los Angeles Times
By Scott Gold Times Staff Writer
HOUSTON � An Army National Guard soldier said Tuesday
that the inadequate training and equipment he received
had led him to abandon his unit rather than face
deployment to Iraq (news - web sites).
"I guess I'm AWOL right now," Spc. Joseph Jacobo, 46,
said in a telephone interview from the Los Angeles
Among his concerns, Jacobo said, was that he had been
unable to find anyone at his Texas training base who
could fix his M-4 assault rifle, the primary weapon he
would carry in Iraq. The weapon jams, he said.
"They try to put old parts in new rifles," he said.
"It doesn't work. We're having all kinds of problems
with our automatic weapons."
Soldiers in Jacobo's Modesto-based National Guard unit
� the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment � went
public late last month with concerns that they would
suffer needlessly high casualty rates in Iraq because
of poor training. Military officials have denied the
soldiers' charges, voiced in an article in the Los
Similar tensions have arisen in other units as the
military, short on active-duty personnel, has given
National Guard and Reserve soldiers increased combat
responsibilities and lengthy overseas assignments.
The soldiers, who trained at the Army's Ft. Bliss
Training Complex, said there were equipment problems,
including trucks without adequate armor and a shortage
of night-vision goggles. They also said they had
received very little "theater specific" training to
prepare them for conditions in Iraq. For example, the
soldiers said they had learned nothing about convoy
protection or guarding against insurgents' roadside
Airing their concerns publicly, Jacobo said, only
seems to have made matters worse. He said soldiers who
were suspected of having spoken to the newspaper were
called "cowards" and "yellow-bellies" by their
supervisors. Equipment woes were not addressed,
commanders became more strict and morale reached new
lows, he said.
"They didn't change anything," Jacobo said. "How are
we supposed to have any pride?"
His unit is scheduled to deploy to Kuwait soon,
possibly by the end of the week, and then onto Iraq.
Jacobo said he has been absent without permission
since Jan. 2, when the soldiers were supposed to
return from a brief holiday leave.
Jacobo, who is married with two grown children, said
he was staying with relatives. He has spent much of
his adult life in the military, he said, including a
six-year stint in the Marines that took him to
Nicaragua. The message on his cellphone voicemail
concludes, "Semper fi" � the Marine motto that is
shorthand for semper fidelis, or "always faithful."
Jacobo said he decided to rejoin the National Guard
last year because he believed in the Iraq mission.
"I just thought it was the right thing to do," he
Jacobo faces a range of possible punishments. If he
rejoins his unit soon, he probably would face
"nonjudicial" punishment that could include extra
duties and a reduction in rank, said Lt. Col. Coennie
Woods, a National Guard spokeswoman in Washington.
Jacobo also could be declared a deserter because his
unit was preparing to go into combat when he
disappeared. In that case, Woods said, he could be
court-martialed, imprisoned for five years and
Woods said she could not comment further on the
situation. Military officials at Ft. Bliss did not
return calls seeking comment.