Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Mech Infantry in Iraq

The Strategy Page has published parts of two emails from 3rd ID soldiers who held highway intersections on the day the US began it's "Thunder Run" into downtown Baghdad. It conveys something of the tradecraft of a mech infantry soldier: the receipt of a mission under a tarp in a gutted building; the scrounging for units; the bravery of both friend and enemy. Here's an excerpt:

"I can't tell the story of this fight in an email. It will take me at least an Infantry Magazine article, maybe a series of articles. The enemy at CURLEY turned out to be fanatical Syrian Jihadists, determined to die. They attacked incessantly for 12-14 hours, firing small arms and RPGs from buildings, trenches, bunkers, and rubble along side the cloverleaf intersection. They "charged" the US positions (the only word that fits), in taxis, cars, trucks with heavy machine guns mounted, and even in motorcycles with recoilless rifles tied to the side cars (not a war story, I saw one of them that the battalion captured). They drove cars loaded with explosives at high speed towards the US positions, hoping to take American with them in death when they exploded. The mortar platoon occupied the southern part of the objective with two tubes aimed north and two aimed south. They fired simultaneous indirect fire missions south and north, while the gunners on the .50 caliber machine guns fired direct fire to defend their positions. The mortar men continued to fire missions even while under ground assault and indirect fire. They fired over 20 direct lay missions against buildings housing enemy forces and against "Technical Vehicles" firing against the position. They supported the forces on the two other objectives with nine DANGER CLOSE missions, especially after the supporting FA unit fired a mission that struck US positions and wounded two soldiers. The Bn FSO was so angry at the FA that he ceased calling them and used the mortars exclusively for over 12 hours."

The way heroes can be rewarded with imminent death is exemplified by the story of a US mortar platoon leader, who, looking for a better spot for his tubes, is caught in the open by two Iraqi T-72 tanks who pin him down with coax in a ditch. The two Iraqi tanks are momentarily distracted by the platoon sergeant, who drives a HMMWV into their field of vision to divert their aim. The Iraqi tanks destroy an NBC vehicle, then a Bradley driving unsuspecting past the intersection, when an M1A1 Abrams tank shows up ...

Read the whole thing.