US National Guard’s aging combat taxis find new use in fight against Ukraine

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WASHINGTON — At least five states are sending aging M113 armored personnel carriers to Europe to support the Pentagon’s race to send equipment to Ukraine.

On Friday, the governors of Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia announced that at the request of the Defense Department, they were handing over M113s from their fleets to the ‘Ukraine. The aid stems from President Joe Biden’s April 13 announcement of an $800 million package including 200 M113s, among more than a dozen other capabilities.

“Governors are the commanders-in-chief of their respective national guards, and they take pride in doing so,” U.S. National Guard Association spokesman John Goheen said Friday.

The U.S. Army considers the M113, its Vietnam War combat taxi, obsolete and stopped buying them in 2006. As fighting in Ukraine’s Donbass region faces a rainy and muddy spring, the M113 – which has tracks and weighs much less than an Abrams tank ― could offer the nation’s forces transportation and protection against small arms fire and artillery effects.

“You need mobility on the battlefield, and protected mobility is even better,” Goheen said.

After the Indiana National Guard received the request, its technicians at Camp Atterbury inspected, repaired, and road tested their M113s. From there, the vehicles were staged for transport and could be seen driving away on flatbed trucks.

“We were ordered to ship them by order of the president, to provide military equipment to Ukraine,” said Indiana National Guard Joint Chiefs of Staff Director Brig. General Justin Mann said in a video. “So we had short notice, the team did a full technical inspection and we are able to prepare all these things in advance, in less than five days. So a monumental, Herculean effort from our maintainers, doing a great job and getting this gear ready.

The latest announcement on the M113s came Thursday from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

“Reports of war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces in their ongoing attacks on Ukraine are heartbreaking and demand serious action,” Cooper said in a press release. “North Carolina stands with the people of Ukraine and stands ready to support their fight for democracy and freedom.”

A North Carolina National Guard spokesperson said the M113 is an excellent multi-purpose utility vehicle that was deployed to Iraq with state guard units and is still in use.

“They’re not just parked somewhere, they’re all operational,” Lt. Col. Matt Handley said of the vehicles. “The M113 has undergone upgrades over the years and is still functional.”

In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine announced that his state was not only donating M113s, but also that his law enforcement agencies were sending 75 anti-ballistic and riot helmets as well as 840 pieces of body armor, including vests and plaques, through the Ukraine Relief Fund. , a non-profit organization.

Separately, the Pentagon acknowledged on April 29 that a Florida National Guard unit that left Ukraine in February continues to train Ukrainian troops in Germany and another undisclosed country on radar and tactical vehicles. .

“The National Guard is able to quickly support equipment and training efforts,” National Guard Bureau spokesman Wayne Hall said in an email. “The first shipment of equipment was made two days after the president authorized support on April 13.”

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