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October 23, 2004


This is kewl on several levels. It's a joint and combined op (Joint means multi-service, Combined means multinational). Brit Infantry, US Air Force Spectres. (We spell Spectre the way the Brits like, too).

THEY called it “Spectre baiting”. Sergeant Craig Brodie, 33, sensed his men’s nervousness in the grim little joke as their Warrior armoured vehicle crawled down a darkened street in the southern Iraqi city of Amara. They were keyed up for action and concentrating for all they were worth.

Lurking in the shadows ahead was a group of rebel gunmen from the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi’ite cleric. Brodie’s job was to lure them into the open so an AC-130 Spectre gunship overhead could destroy them with its cannons and howitzers.

The rebels would show themselves only if they were attacking the British Warrior, so it was no surprise to Brodie that the atmosphere in the vehicle was tense.

By contrast, the American voice in his earphones could not have been cooler. “Steel rain on call,” drawled the controller of the US special forces gunship circling in the starry night sky and waiting for the moment to strike.

There was a pause as the Warrior edged forward. Then the controller, codenamed Basher 75, came back on the radio. Six to eight armed men had been spotted with the Spectre’s night vision equipment. They were preparing to ambush.

What's the other kewl thing about it? Given how the Brits used Commonwealth Troops in the Boer War and WWI - now they are getting the kinds of jobs that used to be reserved for Aussies and Canadians. Ya think I'm making this up? Go do a little reading and see how the Aussies and Kiwis strove to keep their troops under national commanders - even through the fighting in the Western Desert during WWII. They were living the lessons of the previous two wars - when Brits get casualty-shy, they had a tendency to send in the Colonials. This time they're 'going in.'

Colonel Matt Maer, of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR), had given special written authorisation for the Spectre to open fire even if his own troops were within the potential blast area. This was to be the first such “danger close” engagement signed off by a British commander since the Korean war.

Things are different now - but this does have a nice little whiff of metaphorical grapeshot to find Brits in this position.

It also speaks volumes to their trust in us - trust we'll have to work to maintain!

Read the whole story here. It's worth it. Hat tip to JMH for sending it along.