FAST CHAT: AMBER MCCLENNY

McClenny, 21,made headlines in October when she and 22 other members of 343rd Quartermaster Company stationed in Iraq refused to carry out a mission with unarmored vehicles. The soldiers were threatened with charges of mutiny, and held under armed guard while investigated. McClenny spoke to Eve Conant by telephone from her base in Tallil, Iraq.

How did your unit get to the point where you simply said 'no' to a direct order?
We didn't have any armor on our vehicles. We were exhausted. They wanted us to drive farther north than we had ever gone, to deliver fuel we knew was contaminated. When they asked me I said 'No, no way in the world.'

How's the Army punished you?
I've been demoted from specialist to private first class. I get about $400 less per month than I did before. For thirty days I have to work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. with one hour off, seven days a week.

How is morale at your base?
Ever since we got here things have been swept under the rug. We've had one suicide attempt, and one guy locked and loaded his weapon in another soldier's face. You'd never hear about it. Ninety percent of my unit has gone to "combat stress" for counseling. I don't recall any good news this past year.

What hurts morale the most?
It's mostly knowing that your chain of command doesn't care about you. The more fuel missions we do, the better it looks on our superiors' records. They make rank. We weren't even licensed to drive fuel vehicles to begin with. We have a better commander now.

And how's your armor?
The metal we've welded into our trucks is scrap metal about a quarter of an inch thick. It's all homemade. But I guess scrap metal is better than nothing at all.

Would you do it again, refuse that mission?
I wouldn't change a thing. It's time we stood up for ourselves. I think there have been some good changes because of what we did: I've heard that if you order armor now, you can get it within 45 days.

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