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Mixed but mostly good news from Iraq, for the military buffs

by Ziks511 / November 18, 2005 5:18 PM PST

I received this e-mail a couple of days ago, forwarded from a retired Marine whose son is serving currently. The comments are the dad's paraphrasing the son ? RB.

Subject: Some good news and info from Iraq
-----------------

Hello to all my fellow gunners, military buffs, veterans and interested guys. A couple of weekends ago I got to spend time with my son Glenn , who was on his first leave since returning from Iraq. He is well (a little thin), and already bored. He will be returning to Iraq for a second tour in early 06 and has already re-enlisted early for 4 more years. He loves the Marine Corps and is actually looking forward to returning to Iraq.

Glenn spent 7 months at Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi. Aka: Fort Apache. He saw and did a lot and the following is what he told me about weapons, equipment, tactics and other miscellaneous info which may be of interest to you. Nothing is by any means classified. No politics here, just a Marine with a birds eye views opinions:

1) The M-16 rifle : Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Glenn says you feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M-4 carbine version is more popular because its lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. They like the ability to mount the various optical gunsights and weapons lights on the picattiny rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinderblock structure common over there and even torso hits cant be reliably counted on to put the enemy down. Fun fact: Random autopsies on dead insurgents shows a high level of opiate use.

2) The M243 SAW (squad assault weapon): .223 cal. Drum fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of ****. Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly. (that fun in the middle of a firefight).

3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm: Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

4) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect.

5) The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 Nato (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!!). Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts em down. Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there.

6) The M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. Ma deuce is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper, puts their dicks in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.

7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol round out there. Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on one. With few exceptions, can reliably be expected to put em down with a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old government model .45s are being re-issued en masse.

Cool The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.

9) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers ( we actually stop a lot of them) and barricaded enemy. Definitely here to stay.

10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300 win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700s. Great performance. Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it that a marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos Hathcocks record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.

11) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approx. 6 lbs. and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as **** to wear, almost unbearable in the summer heat (which averages over 120 degrees). Also, the enemy now goes for head shots whenever possible. All the ******** about the old body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IEDs was a non-starter. The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn't make any difference at all in most cases.

12) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. Weve all seen the videos.

13) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal lights are Surefires, and the troops love em. Invaluable for night urban operations. Glen carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved it.

I cant help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and ordnance are 50 or more years old!!!!!!!!! With all our technology, its the WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants!!!! The infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given or shown.

Bad guy weapons:

1) Mostly AK47s . The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in the desert than the M16 and the .308 Russian round kills reliably. PKM belt fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the enemy mostly shoots like ****. Undisciplined spray and pray type fire. However, they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially sniper rifles. (Iran, again) Fun fact: Captured enemy have apparently marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their lack of toughness. Lets just say they know better now.

2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys. Simple, reliable and as common as dogshit. The enemy responded to our up-armored humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank range. Still killing a lot of our guys.

3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found in Glenn's area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take 2 or 3 155mm artillery shells and wire them together. Most were detonated by cell phone, and the explosions are enormous. You're not safe in any vehicle, even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated shape charges (Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the ready made IEDs are supplied by Iran, who is also providing terrorists (Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics. Thats why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment methods are ingenious, the latest being shape charges in Styrofoam containers spray painted to look like the cinderblocks that litter all Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.

4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The soviet era 122mm rockets (with an 18km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of Glenn's NCOs lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage inside the wire. Glenn's base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and cause fatigue (It did). More of a psychological weapon than anything else. The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and then haul *** in a matter of seconds.

5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and Google earth for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.

Who are the bad guys?:

Most of the carnage is caused by the Zarqawi Al Qaeda group. They operate mostly in Anbar province (Fallujah and Ramadi). These are mostly foreigners, non-Iraqi Sunni Arab Jihadists from all over the Muslim world (and Europe). Most enter Iraq through Syria (with, of course, the knowledge and complicity of the Syrian govt.) , and then travel down the at line which is the trail of towns along the Euphrates River that weve been hitting hard for the last few months. Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in sacrifice squads. Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian), are supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. (they have been fighting the Russians for years). In the Baghdad area and south, most of the insurgents are Iranian inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shiia have been very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local govt., the police forces and the Army. The have had a massive spy and agitator network there since the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80s. Most of the Saddam loyalists were killed, captured or gave up long ago.

Bad Guy Tactics:

When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their asses kicked every time. Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing Aks and RPGs directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time. ( see the M2 and M240 above). Glenn's base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and thats the end of that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeos (Allahs Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to a science. The fast movers, mostly Marine F-18s, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly, artillery is hardly used at all. Fun fact: The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why were seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber ****. The new strategy is simple: attrition.

The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and (especially) Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi govt. Kidnapping of family members (especially children) is common to influence people they are trying to influence but cant reach, such as local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.).

The first thing our guys are told is don't get captured. They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet. Zarqawi openly offers bounties for anyone who brings him a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don't give a **** about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to Zarqawi. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option.

The Iraqi military are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren't worth ****. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawis use of suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious tactical mistake. Many Iraqis were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Iraqis are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians. The Kurds are solidly pro-American and fearless fighters.

According to Glenn, morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see **** like "Are we losing in Iraq" on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just can't stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally (with, of course, permanent US bases there). Ends.


Best overview I've seen, and should be published in the NYT and all other real news outlets as well as TV Media. Why did Bush bother with that press conference circus when he could have found material like this and got it into the news?

Rob

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Excellent read, Rob. And...
by Jack Ammann / November 18, 2005 6:17 PM PST

...I agree, we oughtta put about a half million more troops over there...like armored combat divisions...and shut down those borders and "kick ***" and take names and put an end to this crap in 6 months.

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(NT) (NT) What have you done with Rob?
by EdH / November 18, 2005 8:16 PM PST
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To reiterate: we went into Iraq for the wrong reasons IMO
by Ziks511 / November 20, 2005 8:07 AM PST

but now we're there we're obligated to win and disperse the "insurgents" (terminally insofar as is possible) otherwise they will constitute a destabilizing group in the already difficult 3 way stretch that is Iraqi politics. There has to be a settlement sufficiently acceptable to the Kurds, the Sunni and the Shia that a US pull out will not signal all out civil war. I don't see this as anything resembling the Viet Nam war with two superpowers backing an extraordinarily well led and unbelievably motivated North Viet Nam. There are fractures in the Muslim world, and the Wahabi/Al Qaeda/terrorist crowd, though numerous are not endless; there a limited number of suicide bombers in any population.

As Mac has pointed out, this is a widely circulated e-mail. The copy I received had about 30 names on the header.

Rob

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I truly appreciate
by TONI H / November 18, 2005 8:36 PM PST

a wonderfully written and shared informational fact report about how things are really going over there from the viewpoint of somebody who has lived it first hand. Good and bad, it was actually a bit of fresh air to see that most of it was good news.

It is really sad to know that our own media has no interest in printing and sharing this type of information with the people publicly. This type of thing could make a world of difference in the attitudes right now and make so many proud again.

Have you considered sharing it via email with some of the top media stations? I think our military especially deserve the kudos for a change.

TONI

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i agree toni but our media wont do it
by Mark5019 / November 18, 2005 10:57 PM PST
In reply to: I truly appreciate

wouldnt sell you know if it looks good its not news:(

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An e-mail ''best seller''........
by Mac McMullen / November 19, 2005 12:05 AM PST

As all who have been around awhile know, I have probably been one of the strongest critics of the ''side'' of the news the media presents.

I have received this same execellent ''debriefing'' report from several sources via e-mail during the past couple of weeks.

I am in personal contact with several active duty, and recently discharged, military personnel who have served at least one full tour in Iraq and/or Afghan, and read as much factual stuff as I can about conditions and experiences in those areas.

This ''debriefing'' report, IMO, certainly follows what I care to believe to be fact. It does, however, come across as a well researched and well presented ''blog'' to me. I doubt a father visiting a son would pick up this much detail, unless he himself was exceptionally well informed, and conducted a detailed interrogation and took notes. I also doubt a young service member would have become that factually knowledgeable about so many areas of interest in just a few months.

I thought about sharing it, but backed-off feeling the ''nay sayers'' among us would have a field day. So, THANKS for making the information available to others.

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Excellent read
by grimgraphix / November 20, 2005 3:12 PM PST

The prose sounds like a friend of mine who is a major in the reserves medical corpse (former Special Forces) whom I've known for 30 years. Good guy. About 5 years older than me.
Anyway the language sounds like a guy covering stuff he knows and gets the details right (all though I'm certainly no expert). NIce read. My ego raised up a bit after reading the comments though. I suggested we needed more troops there (all my talk about the Powell Doctrine) and I was somewhat derided for saying it. Is it OK for me to state it here then... We need to send more troops !

grim

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I agree we should send more troops
by TONI H / November 20, 2005 8:36 PM PST
In reply to: Excellent read

We have thousands sitting in Germany, helping their economy, that could be used.....but it WOULD be nice if Germany, France, and Russia ALSO sent in troops since they owe the people of Iraq so heavily. Instead, they only wanted to ride the gravy train of reconstruction money AFTER they already screwed them out of the Food For Oil/Oil For Food program money and 'get rid of the sanctions' bribes.

If those three countries alone sent in troops, this war in Iraq could be over a lot sooner and WOULD have been.........

TONI

TONI

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things on (or a little over) the horizon
by Dragon / November 21, 2005 4:01 AM PST
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Working with a material 10 times lighter than steel -- but 250 times stronger -- would be a dream come true for any engineer. If this material also had amazing properties that made it highly conductive of heat and electricity, it would start to sound like something out of a science fiction novel. Yet one Florida State University research group, the Florida Advanced Center for Composite Technologies (FAC2T), is working to develop real-world applications for just such a material.

While that particular stuff would be too hot, similar types of technology may be over the horizon.

In a significant breakthrough, researchers at Northwestern University's Center for Quantum Devices have demonstrated a specialized diode laser that holds promise as a weapon of defense in both civilian and military applications. Once optimized, the tiny laser could quickly detect explosives and CWAs early and warn against possible threats.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. ? Research in monkeys suggests that a new drug can temporarily improve performance and reverse the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain, which would be a breakthrough in helping shift workers, health professionals, military personnel and others who must function at top performance in spite of sleep deficits.

An unusual device that uses trained wasps, rather than trained dogs, to detect specific chemical odors could one day be used to find hidden explosives, plant diseases, illegal drugs, cancer and even buried bodies, according to a joint study by researchers at the University of Georgia and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The sensor is cheaper to use than trained dogs and more sensitive than some sophisticated chemical detection methods, including electronic noses, the researchers say.
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