Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Corporal's View

Via BLACKFIVE comes "Iraq and the Marine Corps" - a Corporal's View. It's not just the normal moaning and groaning of the grunts on the ground (not to imply that moaning and groaning is unwarranted), but a well-reasoned series of observations by someone who has been there, done that, and is going back for more. I anticipated some of his points (media reports are way behind what's actually happening on the ground; the lack of power of the [mil-spec] 5.56mm) and was surprised by others (bringing back the M-79). Again though, the points are well-reasoned and based on actual experience, not second or third-hand accounts. For example, on body armor:
We have no lightweight fast infantry anymore. Here is another situation where technology has improved our casualty situation at the extreme expense of our killing ability. Thousands of troops are alive because of their flak jacket and body armor, but how many more thousands of enemy are alive because the Marine wearing 50+ lbs or armor could not chase the insurgent more than 500 yards without having a heart attack? I consider myself in pretty good shape, but having a flak jacket with ESAPI armor plates, side SAPI plates, a Kevlar, a standard magazine load, and rifle is very cumbersome. I could not conceivably chase down a determined insurgent who wanted to run away over any appreciable distance. The body armor situation I think represents a microcosm of larger trends happening in society and/about the military. Our society has placed so much emphasis on protecting the troops that our military has acceded to it. My job is to defeat the enemy, not protect myself. Although I have no way of proving it, I am willing to bet that if we had adopted a lighter weight form of body armor (even at the expense of protection), increased mobility would have offset increased casualties with the killing of more enemy. When you fail to kill the sniper because you cannot run his position down, he returns to kill more of your friends the next week. When you fail to kill the AQI cell leader because you cannot climb over a wall in your body armor, he lives to organize a SVBIED that detonates on your friends along an MSR several days later. Our sense of force protection projected from the top-down is so misguided and permeates every aspect of our training, fighting, and mission. It disgusts me. I accept that I am expendable so why can't everyone else?
And on the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police:
The Iraqi Army (IA) and Iraqi Police (IP) in Anbar are tremendously better than they were in 2006. The IP's in particular are much better in AO Raleigh. In 2006 they were infiltrated by insurgents and AQI and could not be trusted. The ones that could be trusted were afraid to leave their bases and do any policing, which to be fair essentially amounted to military style patrolling. The IP's are now out on the streets, proud and unafraid. They look more professional, have better weapons and vehicles to include flak jackets, interact with a grateful population that respects them (the old Sadaam-era civilian disdain toward police officers has evaporated), and will not back down from a fight. In the city of Fallujah, the IP's are largely running the security show and the US presence has been reduced to MITT/PTT teams and essentially one company of grunts. They more and more act and gradually look like a professional force, largely because they are becoming one. IP's maintain an overwatch position in front of the main exit of CF and guard the most important bridge in Anbar for coalition convoy traffic. These jobs could not have been provided in 2006, and I would have laughed should someone have suggested them. My 2007 deployment was in many ways emasculating because of increased ISF presence, and I could not be happier.
I encourage you to go read the whole thing. Hopefully the people on high in the USMC and elsewhere will read it as well.

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