--Fallujah this week.
That Fallujah, the city a senior Iraqi Commander
declared definitively free of ISIS in June 2016,
the week after ISIS killed dozens execution-style in
that once-darling city of the United States,
now abject sump
I fear I'll do some damage
One fine day
But I would not be convicted
By a jury of my peers
--Still Crazy After All These Years,
The earth is not earth but a stone,
Not the mother that held men as they fell
. . .
To live in war, to live at war,
To chop the sullen psaltery
--The Man with the Blue Guitar,
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'
Percy Bysshe Shelley
The History Channel ran a documentary of the action on Veterans Day 2016. Of course, it was hailed as a great act of valor. And the men, as always, were valorous.
From History.com, "(t)he Marines fought their fears to stay calm and fought on--making 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon one of the most decorated platoons for heroism in a single action in the War on Terror."
But the mission was a flub-up, the type of mistake executed far too many times in the 15 years of the current Wars on Terror. A military does not thrive on failures, yet we do not learn from our mistakes. So we make documentaries and sit transfixed before the simulated firepower, unaware of the depth of failure which we behold.
Ranger's Infantry mind railed against almost every aspect of the action presented.
The 7 April ambush did not have to happen, but it did, and it is not an isolated event. Several errors ensured the wounds and loss of Marine lives that day. We will look at a few:
The mission was to send a convoy of 3 to 5 up-armored Humvees down a road, doing something. The Platoon leader was a Captain (common in recon units to add some experience to the mix); the NCO's were heavily-weighted with combat experience.
The lead vehicle commander suspected an ambush, feeling he was in a potential kill zone. Hunches in combat should be dealt with as judiciously as those in civilian life, for mistakes can last a lifetime. Alas, the ambush hunch manifested.
According to the lead vehicle commander, their standard operating procedure was to stop in the kill zone and assault the hostile element, which of course, has them in a well-executed beaten zone. It is never good to start a fight from the one-down position ... not a winning proposal, even for representatives of a Superpower.
- Why did they not stop when their gut told them to?
- Why did they have only direct-fire machine guns mounted and not 40 mm guns to put out suppressive fires? (It is not as through these are not in the TO&E.)
- Why did they not put out flanks security in the suspected ambush site?
- Why did they not have artillery concentrations planned at danger areas, especially when moving in hostile territory on habitually-used roads? That is why we have organic unit -level mortars.
- Why were there no gunships flying convoy cover?
- And the OBVIOUS question: why not break OUT of the Kill zone, seal the near and far approaches and roll the ambush from the flanks or shoulders?
You do not stop in a beaten zone ... do NOT! (Unless you want to be on the take-out menu.)
The April 7th ambush did not have to happen. Moreover, sadly, it was not a unique event.
Setting a pattern is the kiss of death. The hostile forces knew the route of march, number of troops and assigned weapons before the Recon Marines had their chow call that morning.
Operation security (OPSEC) is vital, even in elite units. When a leader suspects anything is not right, he must take a proper unit protective posture -- even if this contradicts time schedules of the movement.
Time schedules are not worth the loss of life and limb of unit members.
[7 April Ambush, pt. II, next.]