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GIs who refused fuel run won't face court-martial

Army to mete out lesser, nonjudicial punishments

Members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company work on a fuel truck in this undated family photo.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Five U.S. soldiers who refused to go on a supply mission in Iraq that they considered too dangerous will not be court-martialed, but will receive other punishment, the U.S. military said Sunday.

As many as 19 members of the Army's 343rd Quartermaster Company were under investigation after they refused an order to make a supply run through a dangerous section of Iraq on October 13.

The soldiers had been ordered to carry the fuel from an airbase near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya to Taji, north of Baghdad.

The soldiers said their fuel trucks lacked the armor needed for the mission and were in bad repair.

The decision announced Sunday involved five soldiers accused of failing to obey superiors, said Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, an Army spokesman in Baghdad. Rather than bring criminal charges, the Army will apply nonjudicial punishment, he said.

"The command expects to resolve these cases in the next few days," Boylan said in a written statement.

Under military law, nonjudicial punishment can include reprimands, reduction in rank, restriction to barracks or fines. Boylan said privacy restrictions prevented him from discussing what punishments are involved in these cases.

The 343rd Quartermaster Company is an Army Reserve unit based in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Its commanding officer and first sergeant were reassigned after the incident, and several other soldiers faced administrative action such as counseling or retraining.

"The 343rd resumed full operations on November 11 and is performing all missions as directed in exemplary fashion," Boylan said. "The investigation is still ongoing, although further action is unlikely."

Army officers said they did not consider the action a mutiny, and said the soldiers involved "raised some valid concerns."

In the aftermath of the incident, the Army ordered a safety and maintenance review.

Relatives said the soldiers told them that they were being ordered to deliver fuel that had been rejected by one unit as contaminated, and that they were being sent into a dangerous area.

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