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Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Army adjusts its doctrine 
Soldiers' perspective describes how they're training units on IED warfare at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

These are the lessons we are trying to teach the Army. Even for those units who have already been to Iraq, when they return it will be to a different Iraq. The enemy is constantly shifting their tactics as we defeat them. We can be just as flexible (Semper Gumby) as they can. We are not a canned military. Our soldiers are trained to EXPECT change and will adapt as necessary. I can almost guarantee you that a blue Ford extended cab will never get into their convoy again. But that’s okay, we have other trucks!!


I went through an NTC rotation in 1999. Everybody says it's miserable, but once we got out of the contonement area and into the "Box" as the maneuver area is called, I had a terrific time!

Doctrine, obviously, has changed radically since that time. The OPFOR we were training against used a combination of Iraqi and North Korean tactical doctrine, both themselves derivatives of Warsaw Pact thinking.

We directed our efforts towards identifying and defeating things like the CRP and the AGMB (Combat Recon Patrol and Advanced Guard Main Body.) There was not a dismount or "civilian vehicle" to be had on the battlefield. There was some play with "Civilians on the battlefield," but it was only in the contonement area and extremely half-hearted. There was no prisoner of war handling to speak of. There was no light infantry on the battlefield. It was all pure mech. And there was zero urban environment play.

It was a classic case of training for the last war, although it certainly had some relevency to the fight against the Iraqi Army in the spring of 2003.

The light infantry guys would go to JRTC at Fort Polk Louisiana, and get some MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training there, though, so it wasn't like the Army was totally ignoring the concept. The Army was also already developing some more advanced MOUT simulators and training areas, though I never got to play in one. Well, except for Ramadi and its environs.

Actually, there was some chatter among the officer corps and senior NCOs in my circles about significantly expanding the amount of MOUT training well before the war, which I supported wholeheartedly.

Why?

Three reasons:

1.) After the Kuwait war, I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to duke it out with the U.S. on the desert floor. It would be suicide. And a dream come true for U.S. military planners.

2.) The Intifada had already displayed its tactical hand. Lots of booby traps. Lure Israelis into wired houses, and then blow up the whole house. Use ambulances to smuggle arms. Maximize the use of land mine warfare. Negate superior Israeli firepower by getting hypermodern and hiding behind stone-throwing children. Put the Israelis on the horns of a dilemma: Do they choose to lose on the battlefield? Or lose in the world news media? The Israelis can only win one fight. Not both. Either way, the Intifada gains traction. I regarded this type of hypermodernism as the war of the future for the United States. We got a sneak preview in Mogadishu, ourselves. The British got a sneak preview in Belfast. We would be facing the same kinds of tactics and practices, except Al Qaeda and the Ba'athists are far nastier and scuzzier than the Provos ever were. And that's saying a lot.

3.) The most likely training area was a lot closer, so I wouldn't have to spend half of the available drill time driving back and forth from a training area 8 hours away.

I thought it was interesting that this blogger writes "you never let a car mix in with your convoy."

The fact is, I did, back in 2003. It was pretty common. Mostly because I had these piece of shit trucks from the National Guard that wouldn't do more than 45 mph flat out on a desert highway. So we let cars pass us from behind. And if one looked suspicious, we could stop him, as I did on a couple of occasions. We did catch a few bad guys through such tactics. We know because of the weapons and mortar shells we found in their cars, although I didn't find any personally.

In those days, though, the suicide car bomber was a fairly unusual tactic, and I wasn't worried about cars passing my convoy from the rear. Why? Well, of course he could set off a bomb. But he doesn't have to be passing you from the rear in order to do it. It's simple enough to simply park an explosive-packed car by the side of the road and set it off remotely. Why commit suicide when the same result can easily be had without killing your own operative?

And if you were hell-bent on being a martyr, the best and most decisive way to do that would be to smash into the convoy head-on from the opposite direction. Which was really my biggest worry. And every time I passed a fuel truck coming the other direction, I cringed.

What made it worse was Iraqi fuel trucks have a habit of driving the WRONG DIRECTION down highways, in the shoulder/emergency lane, when they're near fuel stops. THAT was nerve-wracking!

And no, I wouldn't let a fuel truck pass me from behind, ever. But the little sedans I was fine with. Hell, I'd go crazy too, being stuck behind a 45mph convoy on a 30 mile desert straightaway.

Now, in today's environment, with a lot more suicidal jihadists running around and the suicide car bomb a far more prevalent tactic, I would not take the same risks. Even towards the end of my tour I was less willing to accept that risk, and a lot of other convoy commanders wouldn't either by that point. We didn't allow it at all on the road march out of Iraq in February of 2004.

As the soldiers' perspective blogger says, the insurgency changes it adjusts. If I went back to Iraq tomorrow I'd have to go up a very steep learning curve to learn the insurgency all over again. It's a living, breathing organism. It's not the same one I fought and dodged at all. And we change to adapt.

Splash, out

Jason

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