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Shootdown highlights our weaknesses

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  • Shootdown highlights our weaknesses

    Shootdown highlights our weaknesses

    By Karl Nugent

    The writer, a master sergeant, is an infantry small-unit leader with 22 years in the Marine Corps.
    November 2 will be frozen in time forever.

    At 9 a.m. that day, an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying soldiers headed for leave was blasted out of the sky over Iraq. The toll was 16 soldiers killed and 20 injured. It was the worst single attack on U.S. troops since the end of offensive combat operations in Iraq.

    As I sat on my couch watching the news that Sunday morning, I became more and more upset. I suppose the weight of this loss hit a little too close to home.

    Over the previous several weeks, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 had been supporting the expeditionary airfield at Twentynine Palms, Calif., during two Combined Arms Exercises.

    We spent a significant amount of time and effort on force protection and air base ground defense. I had numerous conversations about techniques and tactics that could be employed to combat a squad-size element trying to disrupt air operations.

    But there are questions we have been unable to answer to everyones satisfaction: How many people does it take to protect a large airfield from two motivated individuals prepared to die to complete their mission? How do you fight people who believe throwing their lives away to take one American with them is a tactical success?

    I have learned one thing: When it comes to tactics, there is no right or wrong answer. You make your choices, and the Marines in your charge live or die by those decisions.

    Leaders make decisions based on their education, training and experience. Every leader begins by learning doctrine from a book. Now, I know I am going to take flak for saying that. Throughout my career, people have told me to throw the books out the window because they dont work in the field.

    I have a slightly different attitude toward books and make certain assumptions about them. One is that field manuals are written by leaders who have gone to war in many different climates and conditions, where they made decisions that cost men their lives. In order to prevent more needless deaths, they recorded the techniques and tactics that worked into a training manual covering such things as military operations in urban terrain, attacking a fortified position and maneuver warfare.

    I dont know what it is like to make a tactical decision that costs a Marine his life, but I am sure it is difficult to get beyond. Field manuals are written to pass on to the next generation of leaders those lessons lessons learned the hard way. When you know nothing about a particular tactical problem, it is important to learn all you can, from any source. Once you have a working knowledge of the subject, it is time to begin tough, realistic training. We have done this for years.

    Take a look at the execution of the offensive combat operations in Iraq. We have practiced maneuver warfare so often that we are to the point where everyone believes it should be nearly bloodless.

    But the next chapter of warfare in Iraq has been written many times at our embassies around the world: combating terrorism. We have not mastered force protection as we have mastered maneuver warfare. Many times, this collateral duty is shoved down to the newest Marines, after a once-a-year anti-terrorism brief.

    We need to re-read the anti-terrorism manual. The people executing guerrilla operations or terrorism against us in Iraq are using military training, education and planning. You can call them guerrillas or terrorists, but you cannot assume their acts are random violence with no coordination.

    Extremists in Iraq are engaged in a military offensive operation of their own, using their strengths against our weaknesses in order to achieve a political victory, not a tactical one.

    We have given them something they have spent a lifetime pursuing: access to Americans. We moved into Iraq, set up shop and established a routine. Our forces are under constant surveillance, and our weaknesses are being exploited by small groups.

    Is it a coincidence that roadside bombs blow up our vehicles? Was it luck that two people with anti-aircraft missiles were in the right spot to hit a slow-moving helicopter?

    If I were a terrorist fighting in Iraq, I would be thinking, If I can kill one or two Americans a week over the next year, that could be enough to elect a new president, and the result of that could mean an American withdrawal from Iraq.

    As we draw nearer to the next presidential campaign, it is a tactic that might work.

  • #2
    I don't think it was luck, but more or less a matter of time, before this happened.
    I flew for 21 days in OIF in Hueys woundering more or less waiting to see some kind of serface to air missle threat.
    It happened only once to me, we where just south east of Bagdad, and there was a SAM launch, luckly for us it went vertical, we were somewhere areound 100 agl and under moving at 80-90 knots doing Fwd. Recon, mission. Or warnings detectors went off, and Our fairs where deploued, I don't know if that had anything to do with the missle going vertical and not at us.
    The real threat is not so much the SAM's, but the small arms, when every farmer and city person has an AK, it makes it real hard to tell when you are getting shot at, at least durring the day, at night it is really obvouse.
    The only time we got hit, was durring the day, over farm lands and those dam, palm trees.
    I know that is it a sadning thought that those boys were killed. But it is like anything else in war, you can read all the books you want, but things change. You have to be able to overcome the changes and make smart desisions.


    • #3
      Karl Nugent

      Thanks for posting Karl's observation. I had a post "Yanked" for saying similar things only in a more abrasive way.

      The Marines and Army in Iraq are fighting the same tactics that were used in Viet Nam. They are all Lenin, Trotsky, Marx produced and Stalin/ Pol Pot/Mao/Hussein executed.

      The Communist North Vietnamese did the same thing. Exploited our weaknesses and waited for the "Four Year Cycle" of Presidents (Johnson refused to run again), and won the war. Nixon, who had the B-lls to give the military support but was forced out of office.
      Why did so many know terrorists spend so much time in Germany?
      Maybe to study Marx, Lenin and Stalin?

      We definately won the battles but their patience and discipline won the war....

      Thanks Wally
      A hard lesson to learn and accept.

      Semper Fidelis,
      Jack Warner
      Last edited by Jack S. Warner; 11-19-2003, 19:09.