Human Rights

USA Theme B-1 - Page 12

Article Index
USA Theme B-1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8
Page 9
Page 10
Page 11
Page 12
All Pages

Orders for camouflage pants

At Goodwill Industries of South Florida, which trains and employs severely disabled people, orders for camouflage trousers have jumped 70 percent in the past year, said Dennis Pastrana, the organization's president and chief executive. Within a three-mile radius of the plant, per-capita income averages a mere $10,590 a year, but nearly 600 workers now have sewing jobs, more than double Goodwill's prewar level.

There's no sign that it will end soon. Hodo said military officials assured him the buildup will last at least another year, and Allen at O'Gara Hess said the same. The Humvee plant turned out 600 vehicles in 2002, 860 last year, and on Thursday the last Humvee on the assembly line sported a tag identifying it as the 890th vehicle so far this year. To get to one vehicle every 51 minutes, as the Army wants, O'Gara Hess will have to hire an additional 100 workers by July.

"At the rate I'm at, all these people will be here through 2006," Allen said.

As his shift neared its end, Don Meier, a 24-year-old still sporting an Army-issue crew cut and an Operation Iraqi Freedom T-shirt, took a break from installing heating and air-conditioning equipment into battle-ready vehicles he would have loved to have had a year ago.

Back then, he was a mechanic with the Army Reserve's 478th Engineering Battalion, ducking mortar rounds and pulling up the rear as troops pushed toward Baghdad. He recalled watching Pvt. Jessica Lynch and her crew set off on their ill-fated supply mission last spring. He and his comrades were driving basic Humvees that his plant now loads with 3,000 pounds of glass, steel and ceramics to protect the soldiers who followed him to Iraq.

When Meier returned home -- on July 26, 2003, he said with relish -- he first found work stocking shelves at an AutoZone store. Then a friend told him that O'Gara Hess was hiring at $11 an hour, with full benefits. He might get to meet acting Army secretary Les Brownlee or Gen. Paul J. Kern, commander of the Army Materiel Command, on their frequent plant visits.
"It's a regular job to pay my bills with," Meier said, "but at the same time, I know if you get one of these vehicles, you're well off."
Bo Gilmore, another former military man, said: "To be able to do something like this, protecting our troops, that's invaluable."

 © 2004 The Washington Post Company
Uncle Sam, Heel Thyself_of Human Rights violations_15032004