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LSA ANACONDA, Iraq — Army investigators are trying to determine why 19 soldiers from a fuel platoon failed to appear for a convoy mission Wednesday at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq.

According to an Army report, some members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company refused to participate in the morning convoy. Relatives of the soldiers say they refused the mission because of safety concerns.

The company, a South Carolina-based reserve unit with members from several states, delivers fuel and water in tankers. Other soldiers from the company completed the mission hours later, according to an Army statement.

The supply route the soldiers were to have used is known as “Main Supply Route Tampa,” according to an Associated Press report. Many soldiers have been wounded there by roadside bombs and rifle and rocket-propelled grenade fire, the AP reported.

The 343rd Quartermaster Company has come under fire but has not suffered casualties since it arrived in March, according to Maj. Richard Spiegel, spokesman for the 13th Corps Support Command.

On Wednesday, 19 members of the platoon did not show up for a scheduled 7 a.m. meeting to prepare for a convoy mission a few hours later, according to the military statement.

A coalition spokesman in Baghdad told the AP that “a small number of the soldiers involved chose to express their concerns in an inappropriate manner, causing a temporary breakdown in discipline.”

Army investigators led by 13th COSCOM deputy commander Col. Darrell Roll traveled to Tallil on Thursday to begin an investigation. It is not believed that all 19 refused duty, Spiegel told Stars and Stripes. He could not discuss the details of the investigation until it is concluded.

The incident is also being investigated by the 300th Area Support Group, of which the 343rd is a part, for possible violations to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The soldiers have been asked to remain in their compound but are not under arrest or detainment, Spiegel said. Some of the soldiers have been moved to new quarters, which is not unusual in an investigation, he added.

According to the military statement, “initial indication is that the soldiers scheduled for the convoy mission raised some valid concerns and the command is addressing them.”

Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, 13th COSCOM commander, directed the company to complete a safety and maintenance stand-down after the incident to check all vehicles and conduct retraining.

Spiegel said investigators will look at whether the soldiers who did not appear for duty actually refused the mission.

“We don’t know if, or how many, people did this,” he said.

Other units will take over fuel delivery while the 343rd is in its stand-down. Every day, 13th COSCOM has 250 to 300 convoys on Iraqi roads, Spiegel said.


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