Ground Combat in Iraq: Lessons Learned
Editor’s Note: This is an “all hands” message sent by a senior V Corps NCO to U.S. Army units preparing for deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom, summarizing the key “lessons learned” from the first two weeks of ground combat.
Morale is high; soldiers have gotten their battle focus straight. Soldiers did not expect the well-trained paramilitary troops they have been facing. Weapons systems are performing well, especially the 25-mm. DU and 7.62. Gas plugs on the 7.62-mm. MG have been the biggest maintenance issue. Units have now taken the spare barrel gas plug; put it in a 7.62 ammo can with enough JP-8 to cover the plug. This self cleans the gas plug as the mission continues. The gunner can now change gas plugs in a manner of seconds and then drops the dirty one in the JP-8. This has worked very well for the units. Everyone I talked to said to bring extra gas plugs! There have been a few ammunition problems, mainly wrong ammunition being delivered to units. The CAV OH-58D's were delivered L model Hellfire's that are not compatible with the OH-58Ds. Division was able to cross-level ammunition within the division but it still took time.
Additionally, Division was short on its initial draw of UBL. Unit has had several combat losses. Enemy has developed the TTP of putting an AA Gun in the back of a pickup and shooting into the rear of a tank (engine compartment) The CAV lost one tank initially to this tactic and then a second after the tank went into a ditch. Note: This happened during a sand/dust storm that reduced visibility to less the 5 meters at times.
On the good news front, the tank that got hit second also took RPG rounds and a mortar round to the blowout panels. Good news because the ammunition cooked off with the driver trapped in the engine compartment and the blast doors worked as advertised. Driver was later extricated with no injuries.
21 of 27 tanks are using fleet zero for SABOT and 17 of 27 for HEAT. Deviations for discrete zero have been in the .01 to .02 range (mainly up and left).
The MCD for the Bradley has not been effective at all. Mainly due to the fact that it requires the gunner to track the incoming missile taking him away from the battle. It also makes the TOW launcher inop while tracking. They are not using it, period.
Call for Fire has become the norm. A reactive FSO has motivated all troops to utilize his systems and Call for Fire is now a norm and soldiers/leader's are getting really good at it. FSO's take note!
Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance ... unit has had very minor maintenance issues mainly due to good maintenance. Focus changed across the board from “It's on order ... to let’s get it down.” They wish they had not settled for the “It's on order” before they deployed across the [line of departure]. Civilian graphite is the key (Cooper or Liquid Wrench) ... according to several PSG’s. Weapons gum up bad with CLP. 15W/40 is the current lubricant of use. Fort Knox ... get this going now.
Boresight daily .... units have been boresighting normally in the morning and doing an MRS update at night. Some units actually do two a day but norm has been one.
Clean brass out of catchers and turret rings at every opportunity. Several Brad[le Fighting Vehicle] turrets jammed during engagements due to brass. PAQ4's and PVS-7B's are not help. Would rather have one PAS-13 per vehicle. Much better view than PAQ4 or PVS7B's. Unit had to cross-level M4’s within the troop due to the close-in combat they have seen. They have taken to using captured AK-47's as crew protection weapons on tanks and Bradleys. Guys were literally shooting enemy with 9-mm. from turrets in the dust storm.
Bradleys need a bustle rack or storage box. With the amount of ammunition units are carrying they don't have enough room on their tracks. Some units have designed and locally purchased storage boxes. Recommended units take specs to the BATMOBILE Machine shop and have them built if able to.
COMMO for dismount[ed infantrymen] is a problem. Units do not have a means for dismounts to communicate without taking a radio from the brad and carrying a manpack. This is a slow, time-consuming process that should not have to occur. A field phone, SABER Radio or squad radios would be a great asset.
Learn to wear heavy flak jackets in the turret.
Chin defilade is now the norm.
JRTC Tactics most resembles the battlefield that we are currently facing. Dual radios in tracks are needed.
On the enemy:
Smart, flexible, utilizing all means at their disposal. They have moved ammo in civilian trucks, held weapons to their own people’s heads, and pretended to be doctors with asthmatic children. Pretend to surrender then open fire. Units recommend that you err on the side of precaution. Put all civilians down before they get close to you. SEARCH EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING. Divorce the personnel from their vehicle be prepared for a car bomb.
Please pass this on to all tank/Bradley companies and anyone else who you think could benefit from these lessons learned. These fine troopers have been down the road and want follow on forces to be prepared. Not once was I asked when they would be going home. They had just come out of seven days of continuous combat ops, gotten a good night's sleep, pulled some maintenance and are rearing to get on with the job. I did not observe any loss of focus or shirking by the troops. As one 1SG put it, “Even the meatball's seem to get their act together when the bullets fly!”
Thank you. This is the kind of detail I wished for when watching the coverage.