Father Explains Soldiers' Mission Refusal

Army reservists refused to carry out what they considered a dangerous supply mission in Iraq (search) last week only after another military outpost rejected the fuel they were to deliver, according to the father of one of the soldiers.

The soldiers had just returned from a 3 1/2-day journey to deliver the fuel to a city north of Baghdad (search), but military officials there found that the supplies were contaminated, said John Coates, who said he spoke to his son Thursday.

When the soldiers returned to their base with the fuel still in the tankers, their commander ordered the platoon to prepare for another transport mission, this time to a hotspot of guerrilla activity, Coates said.

"I guess he wanted somebody to take it," said Coates, whose son is 26-year-old Spc. Major Coates.

The Army announced last week it was investigating up to 19 members of a platoon from the 343rd Quartermaster Company, based in Rock Hill, S.C., after they refused to transport supplies from Tallil air base near Nasiriyah (search) to Taji north of Baghdad.

Families of several of the soldiers have said the men would not have taken such drastic action without compelling reasons. Some said the commanders did not act on complaints that the convoy was hauling contaminated fuel or that their vehicles were in poor working order and were not sufficiently protected with armor.

Another member of the unit, Spc. Reeves Williams, 19, of Maiden, N.C., told his mother, Genia White, that he helped carry out the delivery with eight other soldiers after initially refusing to do so.

"My son has strong convictions," White told the Hickory Daily Record for a story in Wednesday's editions. "For him to say no, there is something definitely, definitely wrong."

Ricky Shealey of Quinton, Ala., told The Associated Press that his son, Spc. Scott Shealey, said the trucks earmarked for the mission had hauled jet fuel and were then loaded with diesel fuel without purging the tanks.

The platoon's soldiers told their commander that trucks broke down four times during their previous mission, John Coates said. They urged their commander to ride on the new mission through hostile territory to see how faulty the trucks were. The officer refused.

"That's when they banded together," John Coates said. "They were wore out."

Soldiers with drawn weapons took the troops into custody, John Coates said.

The commanding general of the 13th Corps Support Command, Brig. Gen. James Chambers, denied the fuel was contaminated. He said Sunday the Army is adding steel armor plating on unarmored vehicles and upgrading maintenance.

The Iraqi tanker trucks used by the platoon appeared to date from the mid-1960s "because of the condition and the way it looked," John Coates was told by his son. The trucks regularly overheated and couldn't reach a top speed much beyond 35 mph, John Coates said.