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Thursday, November 25, 2004

Army troops in Fallujah 
Fallujah was primarily a light infantry show, which is what the Marine Corps does best, as they have excellent, tough, and physically fit infantry with excellent marksmanship skills. As I gather, every couple of marine battalions was supported by a mechanized battalion from the Army, which is a good idea. The commander on the ground has the flexibility and agility of light infantry to maneuver over walls and through windows and up alleys...but when the infantry runs into something too hot to handle, or when the enemy decides to make a stand, they can call on the firepower of the mechanized infantry, the 25mm chain guns of the Bradleys or the Strykers, each company of which is likely supported by a platoon or so of M1A2 Abrams tanks...their 120mm main gun HEAT rounds can pretty much blow out a room or two full of muj at a shot, and settle an argument real quick. Then the light infantry can still mop up, search the houses, and deal with the prisoners under a shield of fire superiority from the mechies.

Properly done, it's a well-choreographed ballet of brutality.

This nice piece from Time magazine travels with some dismounts apparently from one of the Army mechanized company teams, and captures the intensity of the house-to-house fight.
Bellavia, a wiry 29-year-old who resembles Sean Penn, is pacing the street, preparing to go back in. Bellavia’s bluster on the battlefield contrasts with his refinement off it. During lulls in the fighting, he could discuss the Renaissance and East European politics. “Get on me now,” he says, ordering his squad to close in. There is little movement. He asks who has more ammunition. Two soldiers stand up and join him in the street. “Here we go, Charlie’s Angels,” Bellavia says. “You don’t move from my goddam wing. You stay on my right shoulder. You stay on my left shoulder. Hooah?” The men nod. “I wanna go in there and go after ’em.”

Reaching the barred window near the front door, Bellavia tells two soldiers to perch by the house corner and watch for insurgents trying to leap out the side window. He looks at Staff Sergeant Scott Lawson and says, “You’re f______ coming. Give suppressive fire at 45 degrees.” Bellavia and Lawson step nervously into the house. From the living room, Bellavia rounds the corner into the hallway. The insurgents are still alive. Their AK-47s fire. Bellavia fires back, killing them both. “Two f_____s down,” he says.

Lawson stays downstairs while Bellavia scours the first floor for more insurgents. A string of rapid-fire single shots ring out. Then silence. Then a low, pained moaning. The two soldiers waiting in the courtyard call out to Bellavia, “Hey, Sergeant Bell,” but get no response. “Sergeant Bell is not answering,” a message is shouted back to the platoon members across the street. “We need more guys.” The platoon’s other staff sergeant, Colin Fitts, 26, steps up. “Let’s go,” he says.

Fitts takes a small team over the road. “Terminators coming in,” he bellows as he goes inside, using the unit’s name in a code to warn that friendly forces are entering. Inside they find Bellavia alive and on on the hunt. Upstairs he scans the bedrooms. An insurgent jumps out of the cupboard. Bellavia falls down and fires, spraying the man with bullets. At some point another insurgent drops out of the ceiling. Yet another runs to a window and makes for the garden. Bellavia hits him in the legs and lower back as he flees. When it’s over, four insurgents are dead; another has escaped badly wounded. To Bellavia, Fitts says, “That’s a good job, dude. You’re a better man than me.” Bellavia shakes his head. “No, no, no,” he mutters.


A couple of things strike me as particularly interesting:

1.) The insurgent use of road barriers to channel Americans into kill zones prepped with IEDs. I hadn't seen that before, but it's something you get to do if you have the run of a city for months.

2.) The use of combat engineer assets (MCLICs?) to clear IEDs 90m at a time down city streets

3.) The use of chem lights to mark channels for the tanks (strikes me as a very amphibious idea, but it's also right out of the manual for conducting breaches). They were very likely infrared chemlights, which would be clearly visible to tankers using their thermal imaging devices, but invisible to insurgents without NVGs.

Of course, eventually, you run out of IR's, and then you use what you got.

4.) The insurgent was wearing Iraqi National Guard uniforms. Which has a lot of interesting ramifications under the law of war. Insurgents wearing ING uniforms would not receive the protections afforded to prisoners of war, and could be shot as spies.

5.) The decision of the insurgents to seek contact near EENT and BMNT, with just enough light to operate by, in order to negate the thermal advantage to some extent. The old stand-to procedures, in which every soldier is awake, packed up, and scanning his sector, ready to fight, still make sense after centuries of warfare.

6.) The use of a combination of mortar fire and tank fire to engage insurgents spotted beyond small arms range. The mortar fire fixes him in place, while he is forced to seek cover...the tank rounds kill him where he is. It does my heart good to read.

7.) I particularly like this part:

Late that night, while waiting for the Marines to match the pace of 2-2’s advance


BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

I do take exception to the reporter's statement that "the victory over the insurgency isn't neccessarily any closer."

You don't kill more than a thousand screaming muj and not get closer to victory. Really, the reporter misses the point, entirely:

Every day we get closer to an election in Iraq, every day another police trainee gets trained, every day another Iraqi National Guard unit confronts the enemy and doesn't flinch, we get closer to victory over the insurgency.

And there's nothing Zarqawi can do about it.

He's doomed.

Iraq is bigger than a counterinsurgency war. A few thousand radicals cannot overcome the impulses of a nation.

Splash, out

Jason


Comments:
This must be more of that "incoherent bitching" that Pandagon accused you of a few months ago.

By which of course I mean.. thank you for the insight into the tactics being used in Iraq.. :)

=darwin
 
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