Local General on Reservists' Disobedience

Nineteen Army soldiers are back on duty but could be facing some serious charges after refusing to deliver supplies in Iraq. The soldiers are reservists based in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Their unit is responsible for delivering food, water and fuel to troops in combat zones.

But last week, they refused to go on a convoy mission claiming it was too dangerous. The soldiers were also concerned they'd be traveling in broken-down vehicles with no armed escort and that the fuel they were to deliver was tainted, which could cause helicopters to crash.

With the Third Infantry Division preparing to go to Iraq in just a few months, many in the Coastal Empire and Low Country are talking about the reservist unit failing to obey orders.

WTOC spoke with Lt. Gen. Donald Rosenblum (ret.) today about what happened. He says it is very important to follow an order from a commanding officer, no ifs, ands or buts.

"The most important thing of any military installation is discipline," Gen. Rosenblum said.

The former Fort Stewart commanding general says simply saying no to a direct order undermines all that the military stands for. "If the commanding officer said the mission is very important and you have to go, then you go. That's the backbone of any military organization. There's no excuse for it, frankly."

The reservists refused the order to deliver fuel to coalition forces fearing they would not be protected in their unarmored trucks.

"Those that did it need to be punished," said Gen. Rosenblum. "Particularly when you are in a convoy situation, there's no discussion, no labor management issues here."

This is the first known instance of an American military unit refusing to carry out a mission in this war, and Gen. Rosenblum predicting it will probably be the last, especially when the Third Infantry goes to Iraq.

"The Third ID soldiers are probably looking at this and saying it won't happen to us," he said.

The Army is investigating the condition of the trucks the troops were told to drive. The soldiers could face charges of failing to obey or even mutiny. Many family members of these troops say they must have been in real danger to not obey the command.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com