BAGHDAD -- Twenty-three Army reservists who refused a dangerous mission to transport fuel in Iraq will face punishments such as extra duties or reduction in rank but won't be court-martialed, the military said yesterday.
Separately, a US soldier appeared in military court to face a murder charge for the death of an Iraqi man in an impoverished Shi'ite Muslim quarter of Baghdad, scene of clashes between US troops and insurgents this year.
The reservists from the 343d Quartermaster Company are being disciplined for failing to follow orders under Article 15, which means no court proceedings will be held and the identities of the soldiers involved will not be released, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan said.
The soldiers failed to report on Oct. 13 for a mission to transport supplies from Tallil air base near Nasiriyah to Taji, north of Baghdad. They said they balked because the vehicles were in poor condition and did not have armor. They also said complaints to their commander went unheeded.
"They felt they didn't have the proper equipment to do the mission they were ordered to do and are being disciplined for failing to follow orders," Boylan said.
Boylan said 18 of the soldiers had been punished and the others would face reprimand this week.
While most had been expected to face administrative punishment, officials had said earlier that courts-martial were possible for some of the reservists. Refusal of orders during a time of war can be punished by death, discharge, forfeiture of pay and benefits, or confinement.
The father of one of the reservists said he expected his son to receive a pay cut and a reprimand.
"This was about as lenient as possible. I think it's fair," said Rickey Shealey of Quinton, Ala., whose 29-year-old son, Scott, is a private with the unit. "I'm glad it's over with. I don't care if he comes back as a private or a general. I just want him to come back."
Brigadier General James E. Chambers, commanding general of the 13th Corps Support Command, which manages the provision of fuel, food, and ammunition across Iraq, decided to deal with the reservists under Article 15 proceedings rather than by courts-martial based on "evidence and recommendations," Boylan said.
Boylan declined to comment on the quality of the evidence.
Military investigators found that some of the soldiers' complaints, including concerns about vehicle maintenance and protection, were credible and actions were taken to address the issues.
US convoys, particularly larger ones that include trucks carrying oil and other military supplies, are routine targets for insurgents, who have used roadside bombs and ambushes to deadly effect on the country's roads and highways to try to derail American-led reconstruction efforts.
Boylan said the soldiers were expected to remain in Iraq until their 12-month tour of duty ends in March.
One of the reservists, Specialist Major Coates, has said he was properly trained but acknowledged that when he arrived in March, officials "did not tell us we were infantry now."
In October, Coates said he and his fellow soldiers had not banded together to refuse to perform their duties, but had chosen individually to do so. If soldiers act as a group in what the military considers a mutiny, they could receive a more severe punishment than if they acted individually.
Meanwhile, Specialist Brent May, 22, of Salem, Ohio, faced a military court on a charge of murdering an Iraqi in Baghdad's Sadr City. May is attached to Company C, First Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, from Fort Riley, Kan. He was charged in September on three counts of premeditated murder. But at yesterday's hearing, conducted on a US military base, officials ordered May to face only one charge. It was not immediately clear why the number of charges were reduced.