I have been meaning to write for a few days and thank you for posting Fernando’s observations from Argentina. I view the slow slide into economic collapse as the greatest threat and the one I am currently preparing for.
What prompts me to write now is the post (12 Nov ’05) about experience in Iraq. Having recently returned from Iraq I thought I would add some of my observations that run a bit different.
The AR pattern weapons definitely require greater maintenance but preventive maintenance will prevent problems. Five minutes a day is all it takes. The greatest handicap is the lack of penetration with the 5.56mm, for home owners it is a plus for soldiers a definite disadvantage.
M249 [SAW] is overly complex and some of the problems relate to all the add on crap like short barrels and collapsible stocks. Some soldiers try to use it as a 19 pound SMG and that is not the right application.
Our M9s [U.S. Military issue version of the Beretta M92 9mm handgun] were not functioning well and I think it relates to bad magazines. We had few in my unit and I never did any shooting with them so I have little to add.
M240 [MMG], M2 [HMG], and M14 [MBR] all are above reproach, they all work exactly as soldiers should expect, this nation owes a great thanks to John Browning and Mr. Garand, they have kept the lowly grunt a step ahead of the rest for some time now.
I have no direct experience with the M24 [U.S. Army issue sniper rifle] or M40 [U.S.M.C. issue sniper rifle] but I have always had good service out of the Remington 700. As a side note some of Carlos Hathcock’s contemporaries exceeded his number of kills, I believe two other marines had more confirmed kills and the title (in Vietnam) would go to the Army, Adelbert Waldron had 109 confirmed kills.
The MK-19 [crew-served automatic 40 mm grenade launcher] is a great weapon for the open battlefield but it has some definite limitations in the city, arming range can place friendly forces in danger and the potential for collateral damage restricts it use some.
Our new body armor is the real savior in this conflict, that and our advances in medical science. The IBA [Interceptor Body Armor] saved my hide in an unlikely way but that is another story for another day. The base armor is about six pounds (dependant on size) ant the plates are another six pounds each–one front and one back.
Thermal [sights], night vision [“Starlight” scopes] and FLIR [aircraft cameras] allow us a tremendous advantage over the enemy. Even though they have heard about our night vision gear they seem to not understand or believe it I guess. We saw the enemy move around in the dark obviously believing that if they couldn’t see us we couldn’t see them. A side benefit is that it’s monochromatic, grainy image creates a bit of psychological distance between us and the enemy. It is easier for a soldier to shoot at that green, slightly fuzzy figure. It is easier to convince yourself that what you are punching a hole in is not a real person, that it is some complex video game.
Many of the RPG rounds fired at us failed to detonate, maybe over 20% in some months. Fine system and I wish we would adopt something similar but it seems to suffer from poor quality control in it’s ammunition. Thankfully the Arabs have never developed a tradition of marksmanship. If they had the shooting skills of the Chechens we would have had some serious problems over there. So far I have not seen much that impresses me when it comes to their fighting prowess.
The indirect fire threat is, I believe, a bit overstated. We were subject to indirect fire attacks daily, sometimes several times a day. I never saw any evidence of the enemy adjusting fire and in fact I think they usually stopped dropping rounds down the tube before the first round hit. They have reason to be afraid or our counter battery radar. Rarely were friendly forces allowed to return fire (with artillery) but we always had our aviation up waiting for something like that to run down (the AC-130 is a wonder to behold), same with patrols running around. After I took a look at the data I stopped worrying about rounds landing on the FOB. Our base was several kilometers in each direction and they only seemed able to land them inside the perimeter about 60% of the time. If the first wasn’t a threat to you the next three wouldn’t cause any problems either (unless the baseplate shifted as rounds were fired). After while I stopped reacting to IDF that was not danger close with the first impact. This did cause me some trouble, some folks up the chain did not appreciate my lack of action when rounds came in.
IEDs were the big threat but thankfully they are still in the early stages of learning how to use the stuff. Not to say they aren’t having considerable success, they are, but they don’t (yet) have the sophistication that many around the world have shown. Several times they tried without success to build fuel flame expedients (FFEs) or shaped charges or explosive formed projectiles (EFPs). Once or twice they did it right but more often than not they failed. After a few failed attempts they would stop trying and go back to the basic blast type devices. Since they have a large quantity of prepared explosive devices (mines, arty rounds, gravity bombs, rocket and missile warheads) and bulk explosives they have little incentive to learn how to build better devices. With hard targets they just build them bigger. Initiating the charge is often done by cell phone and I suspect this makes it hard for the enemy to time things right, many times IEDs would detonate too soon or too late to do much damage.
Thankfully the only group in country who can fight are the Kurds and they are on our side. The Iraqi National Guard and the Iraqi Police are getting better but the turnover is high, many leave after one or two paydays and their leadership is sometimes lacking. Progress is being made but it is slow going.
I left Iraq in March so some of my experiences may be a bit dated, but that was what I saw. – Jake
And here is another, from a gent that is currently in Iraq:
I received the same e-mail from my old TmSgt and sent him back a few of my own observations from over here. To clarify I’ve been here as a private contractor for the last two years and used quite a few of the weapons in question. Mainly because I’ve worked mainly in Army controlled areas I wasn’t too sure how far off I was though in regards to Marine Corps armament.
I also though that the items about the SAW (M249) sounded recycled. Having carried one in the early 1990s while in the military I had come to realize their reworked improvements. I had sent him pictures from a year ago with me working in a sandstorm with one.
I don’t think I know of anyone using a pistol at all let alone commonly though I’m sure that it has happened in some instances, and the biggest problem with them is the weak magazine springs. Magazines for 92Fs built during the last 10 years for the military suffered from the lack of quality competition during the Clinton gun ban period. Even a partially loaded magazine would fail to feed after just a few days left in that state.
The 1911 is more of a status symbol over here. Not issued but captured and definitely not worn by a common soldier unless he wants to face UCMJ action. It seems that some SOF and higher up officer types do sport them though. Finding ammunition for them is hard enough that practicing to any real worth is next to impossible.
Most troops doing active patrolling and not staying inside the wire all the time have M4s. Active use of the M16 is more from the early stages of the invasion. This however is more of an Army observation of mine and caused me to hesitate when applying it to the Marine Corps. Despite this the M4s and M16s performed equally well (it has the same action anyway) and the only clear advantage of the M4 was its size.
The 5.56 round in the hands of the insurgents is more of a bugaboo to me than 7.62×39. With various ammo we consistently penetrate steel plating that stops the 7.62 cold. While the 7.62×54 penetrates as well as .308 both require specialized platforms that typical insurgents don’t carry. If I had to be shot I would prefer it to come from an AK. [JWR adds: I’ve heard first hand that there were opiates and other drugs found when the Iraqi insurgents were cleaned out of Fallujah.]
As far as reported opiate use, its hard to imagine people that refuse nicotine, coffee, shaving, and who fast for a month every year, indulging in narcotics. Insurgents are of a more zealous bent than even your standard Iraqi. This blurb sounded almost recycled from Vietnam.
M14s can be found in M21 configuration with designated marksmen or snipers but I have seen no bulk re-issue, even with SOF.
The M240 is mounted over here but mainly because there aren’t a lot of foot patrols. In light infantry units it replaced the M60 several years ago, but again I wasn’t sure about the Marine Corps.
Baghdad insurgents are mostly Sunni, Shia leaders like Al Sadr and Al Sistani have put a tight rein on their respective militias, the Mahdi army and the Badr brigade. According to locals that I talked to, many insurgents lived in Fallujah (Sunni territory) and traveled to Baghdad’s Sunni areas to stage attacks on both Shia and Coalition forces. With the realization that they could actually come to power, the Shias are hoarding their forces for our eventual withdrawal and not getting them chewed up by the Coalition as they did in April of ’04. Still, fighting between Shias and Sunnis, while under-reported is fierce. An example, for a while Sunnis had been targeting Shia mullahs, then fourteen Sunni mullahs were kidnapped and found dead. Their discovery was reported in the news but what wasn’t added was that they had been killed via a power drill to the head. Shortly after this the Sunni leadership called for a general agreement not to target religious leadership. This was relayed to me by an Iraqi gentleman who I was working with in the Karada district of Baghdad this summer.
Checking the page I see that you’ve already made some corrections, think I’ll throw my two cents in anyway.
Take care and be safe. – Chuck.