December 02, 2003

OIF Lessons Learned

Seeing as how, by the end of next year, well over half the Total Force is going to have combat patches, I thought I would share this recent Lessons Learned document I received. It's ESPECIALLY important to you Combat Service Support types getting ready to go over or back over. Feel free to snag this and share it around with your friends, leaders, and subordinates. I have edited out names, emails, and phone numbers for privacy and security reasons. There is enough information still in there that if you need to, you can puzzle out where to go and ask the right questions after proving your bona fides.

The more ya'll read and heed, the better off everyone will be. Go ahead, be a pain in the ass and annoy the Major with what you know. It'll be good for him. I know, I were one once. Both a Major and a pain-in-the-a**.

Bottom line you CS and CSS grunts - you better pay attention to the Soldiering part of your job. You are in more danger as REMFs in this environment than the killers are. Think about that - right now, in Iraq, the REMFs, for the most part, aren't REMFs. Some of the HQ types still qualify, but really guys, you are all grunts in this war. So read and heed, and take care out there, okay? Follow most of the TTP and training recommendations in here and you won't need to be a hero. We don't need heroes. Your families need YOU, not a shiny bit of metal draped on a casket.

Here are some excerpts, and some commentary to whet your appetite.

This is the purpose statement:

4. Purpose: To collect U.S. Army lessons learned from Iraq and obtain tactics, techniques, and procedures for organizing and protecting convoys, detecting and neutralizing IEDs, organizing and defending Forward Operating Bases (FOB)/Forward Arming & Refueling Points (FARP), and defending against mortar, rocket, and suicide bombers (human and VBIED). A by-product of the visit was an opportunity to observe an Army unit (1st BCT, 1st Cavalry Div) training to deploy to Iraq. Training observed; foot patrols in simulated urban terrain, convoys, cordon and search operations, a Special Ops Task Force raid on a suspected WMD site and a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) rescue of a compromised Special Ops Task Force, crowd control, political rally security, and election registration oversight and security.

I'm taking the rest into the extended post.

For those of you who aren't in the military, you may well be surprised to find out just how sophisticated we have gotten in our training - and how complex a job it is.

8. Executive Summary: Chief Warrant Officer X, 11th Cavalry Regiment Military Intel Counter Intelligence Chief, recently returned from a three week trip to Iraq with a Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) fact finding team. He visited every Army Area of Operations (AO), except for the 82nd Airborne AO in western Iraq. However, he did collect intelligence, lessons learned and tactics, techniques, and procedures from the 82nd Airborne AO. The NTC has built nine simulated Iraqi villages in the local training areas. Although these villages are crude and hastily built, they have accomplished the mission of replicating urban terrain found in Iraq. Plans are underway to improve the “look and feel” of these villages. Additionally, the simulated villages are geographically separated to force units to conduct convoy operations between the villages. Convoys moving between villages or between FOBs are often attacked along their routes by small arms, RPGs, and IEDs. Additionally, separation of the cities provides Battalion, Regiment, and Brigade Commanders with a wide range of complex C2 problems associated with coordinating and planning intel, C2, CAS, CASEVAC, and logistic operations amongst several geographically dispersed sites. The NTC is also building several mountain cave complexes to replicate caves found in Afghanistan. The objective is to train both air and ground forces in locating and attacking cave complexes in mountainous terrain. I believe these two NTC training venues provide training opportunities not currently available anywhere else in CONUS. Access to these NTC training venues may be requested through the Marine Corps and Army chain of command. Below is a brief recap of what was learned during the trip:

I'm especially proud of this little bit because I'm a former NTC O/C and in my later life, both uniformed and now as a 'guy-in-a-tie' I've helped to design, implement, build and support the simulation/stimulation architecture that underlies all this. The key point to note though - is we are learning, adapting, and spreading the word.

There is a downside. Some of the stuff we're learning, we really should have already known... as any of you Vietnam, Korea, or even WWII vets will recognize this stuff:

• All convoys, regardless of size, need to be equipped with crew served weapons. It is also important to equip convoys with M-203 grenade launchers to give the convoy a rudimentary indirect fire capability (many small arms and RPG attack originate from irrigation ditches or from behind courtyard walls where direct fire weapons are less effective than indirect fire weapons in killing the enemy in defilade. Crew served weapons should be placed at the head and rear of convoys. Ring mounts should be used for firing stability (the requirement for crew served weapons and ring mounts will be problematic for MACCS and CSS units not equipped with crew served weapons and ring mounts). If ring mounts are not available or cannot be obtained then improvised ring mounts or pedestal mounts should be fabricated and installed. In larger convoys, crew served weapons should be placed at an interval of every 5-9 vehicles. If crew served weapons and ring mounts are not available “gun trucks” should be constructed. These gun trucks should contain a crew served weapon, a grenadier equipped with a M-203 grenade launcher and individual riflemen authorized to use 3 round burst and supplied with plenty of magazines and ammo. M-998 High Back HMMWVs and 5/7 Ton trucks make good “gun trucks.” These vehicles should be hardened with steal plating and sandbags to protect the gunners from small arms and RPG fire. Canvas should be removed or secured so as not to obstruct observation or interfere with the firing of weapons.

I could go on - but you're either hooked now, or you're not.

If you are, the whole document is here.

Download it, print it, email it, SHARE IT!

For those of us who've been there - I'd love to hear your comments. "There" is anyplace anytime the bullets flew. Not just OIF and OEF!

John | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (4) | Observations on things Military | Observations on things Military
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Comments on OIF Lessons Learned
Brian briefed on December 2, 2003 06:57 PM

John, as a non-military puke can you explain something for me from the document? When it says "individual riflemen authorized to use 3 round burst", what does that mean? You have to be authorized to fire bursts? Can you explain the reasoning for that?

Jeff briefed on December 2, 2003 07:02 PM

3-round burst setting on the M16A2 replaced full automatic from the M16A1.

I got to use 3 round burst at basic training on the night defense range just for the experience of using it and never used it again.

John of Argghhh! briefed on December 2, 2003 07:05 PM

What Jeff said - fire discipline. Not only to save ammo, but to expend it usefully.

Brian briefed on December 2, 2003 07:24 PM

Ok, I understand the fire discipline issues. I was looking more to the "authorized" part.

Who would authorize it? The highest ranking officer in the convoy? Seargent? Squad leader? Whats the punishment for using a 3-round burst (assuming not authorized) in a firefight?

How is it authorized? Would it only be authorized for specific missions, etc? Or is authorization really a synonym for "trained in the use of 3-round bursts?"

Was authorization always around? Or was this implemented because too many soldiers were spraying and praying?

Love the quick response, btw! And I love the site. Your on my daily "must visit at least once" list.

-- Brian

John of Argghhh! briefed on December 2, 2003 07:30 PM

Well, let's see if I can keep this short and sweet, and spare you a history lesson of the vagaries of the Ordnance Dept and other villains.

Authorization: whoever is in charge, even if it's the senior Private alive.

Reason: ROE, Rules of Engagement. In trying to prevent indiscriminate firing with bullets going everywhere, authorization is required before you can start rocking and rolling. In pure self-defense, you probably aren't going to get called on it - but... that's the genesis of the comment. Essentially granting blanket permission to open up and develop an overwhelming fire response in the opening minutes, and not handicap ourselves.

Punishment? For failure to obey a lawful order...

Any person subject to this chapter who--
(1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;
(2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by any member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or
(3) is derelict in the performance of his duties;
shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

That about covers it, without going into excessive detail!

Sapper Mike briefed on December 2, 2003 11:47 PM

Probably the most important message that needs to be sent is for the NCOs and the Sergeants (yes, Virginia, there is a difference.) get down and mandate weapons cleaning and maintenance efforts DAILY!!! Before the soldier eats, the weapon is clean, the ammo is seated in clean, functional magazines, and the soldiers who are Automatic Riflemen are identified.

I too did the O/C thing and the civvie analyst thing. I also spent my career in the combat arms, although I was sliced to staffs for my last few years. The staff stooges hated mandated weapons cleaning (We kill by radio, boss! Promise!) But the NCOs have to kick butt. Particularly when the CSS types just think about their jobs, not tactics. I can't think of the number of times I was in a Brigade Support Area (BSA) and the weapons could have grown crops, there was so much dust and dirt on them. The Sergeants there just weren't interested in weapons, it interfered with getting vehicles back up or LOGPACS out the gate.

It all comes down to the leadership of the NCO Support Channel. The CSM, the 1SGs, the Platoon Sergants, and Squad Leaders have to be on them like stink on...MREs. While I wasn't there, that seems to be the primary lesson learned about the 507th Maint. ambush in Iraq. Non-functional weapons, soldiers unfamiliar with individual movement techniques and immediate action drills (React to Contact Drill: In my old Engineer unit, if moving through a built up area and lead vehicle is hit, either hit him in the ass and push out of the way or turn and try to assault through).

Well, enough for now. I hope you get the idea, folks.

Sapper Mike
AKA SW-09 (Really Ancient) or SW13T (Not quite so Ancient, but still damn old).

Peter briefed on December 3, 2003 12:29 PM

My service was over 35 years ago in a different war under far different conditions. I was in the Marine Corps but spent some time among Army and Air Force types, most notably when we Marines turned over the Chu Lai area to Army and Air Force control. I was one of the guys assigned to help familiarize the new guys with the AO.
The biggest problem I saw with Army and Air Force troops was that the folks in nondirect combat roles was that mostly considered their shootin' irons as encumberances. The other services could really benefit from the 'every man a rifleman' ethos of the Corps.
Until and unless that ethos is installed my suggestion is to upgun the convoys as in the excerpts I read and then to put by-God INFANTRYMEN on those guns. Not spare mechanics, radio repairers, cooks and clerks. Gather up some of those guys from the rear ranks with that sleepy look. The guys that live with those weapons, that back in my day, would wrap his rifle in his poncho during the monsoon and sleep wet.

Martin Morehouse briefed on December 6, 2003 09:56 PM

Very good points brought up. I'm glad to see the NTC updating its training to focus on current operations, not the Motorized Rifle Regiment of fifteen years ago. Rehearsals - the best kind of refresher training. We were finally learning to do this effectively when I retired two years ago. The troops do fine, the hard part is teaching the chain of command. Bunkers and barriers require far more work than people think, and not just construction, but maintenance once they are in place. Was there more to this report after the 'fluids, lubricants, and filters' paragraph?

SFC Ski briefed on December 7, 2003 01:22 PM

NCO's pay attention to the training and enforce the protection measures! We are all earning our stripes here. Build your guntrucks, or get the parts now while you can go to home depot and NAPA.

3 round burst: Increases suppressive fire effectiveness. we have to unlearn years of traiing in that we are firing from vehicles, not on the ground; using the "0-2" sight for faster acquisition on the move, rolling with weapons loaded. when we first return fire, we must return it in large amounts(ROE dependent), gain fire superiority, control the enemy, and kill them or drive them off, we will not run, this is SOP now. Let's just say, doctrine has been thrown out the window and we are writing it now. you transport folks might want to see what your Vietnam predecessors did to keep themselves alive in their war, it is being brought back to life here again.

Convoy LFX is a must, and I'd recommend hauling double the ABL for riflemen, and about 400 rounds extra for the crew-served, as well as smoke and flares. In a sustained fight between Point A and Point B, you will quickly burn through 210 rounds, what will you do after that?