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Troops who refused Iraq mission said detained, released

Army reassigns 5 of 19 soldiers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The grandfather of an Army Reserve soldier whose platoon refused to deliver supplies in Iraq said his grandson told him yesterday that he and other soldiers had been detained by military authorities but were later released.

Meanwhile, military officials said commanders reassigned five members of the unit.

Some in the platoon had told relatives they refused to deliver tainted helicopter fuel in poorly maintained vehicles by traveling a dangerous supply route without an armed escort.

The Army is investigating up to 19 members of the platoon, which is part of the 343d Quartermaster Company based in Rock Hill, S.C.

The unit delivers food, water and fuel on trucks in combat zones.

A criminal inquiry was expected.

Harold Casey said his grandson, Justin Rogers, 22, called him yesterday to tell him that he and other soldiers were put under armed guard after refusing to deliver the supplies.

"The fuel was contaminated for the helicopters," Casey said his grandson told him. "It would have caused them to crash. . . . They saved lives."

Major Richard W. Spiegel, spokesman for the 13th Corps Support Command & Logistic Support Area Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, denied that the soldiers were detained. He said the soldiers were simply told to remain in the unit's area until an investigating officer contacted them.

US Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, said he filed a congressional inquiry Friday and was told by a military liaison that the soldiers were detained but not arrested. The unit has at least two members from Mississippi.

Casey, in a telephone interview from his Louisville home, said his grandson told him that some of the soldiers already had been reduced in rank.

He said Rogers's rank had been reduced from sergeant to specialist and that he and another soldier, Sergeant Larry McCook of Jackson, Miss., were being transferred to the Alabama-based 2101 Transportation Company.

McCook's wife, Patricia McCook, said her husband called Friday and said the soldiers had been released after being detained.

She told The Clarion Ledger of Jackson that her husband said five members were reassigned because "they said these five really instigated the entire process."

A coalition spokesman in Baghdad said "a small number of the soldiers involved chose to express their concerns in an inappropriate manner, causing a temporary breakdown in discipline."

Military officials said the commanding general of the 13th Corps Support Command, Brigadier General James E. Chambers, had appointed his deputy, Colonel Darrell Roll, to investigate and a team under Roll's command was questioning soldiers about the incident.

On Wednesday, 19 members of the platoon did not show up for a scheduled 7 a.m. meeting in Tallil, in southeastern Iraq, to prepare for the fuel convoy's departure a few hours later, a military statement said.

The mission was carried out by other soldiers from the 343d, which has at least 120 soldiers, the military said.

A commanding general has since ordered the 343d to undergo a "safety-maintenance stand-down," during which it will conduct no further missions as the unit's vehicles are inspected, the military said.

The platoon has troops from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

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