Many Iraqi Soldiers Wounded by Own Guns By ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press Writer
Mon Apr 3, 1:38 PM ET
BIDIMNAH, Iraq - The two bloodied, wincing Iraqi soldiers — bandages wrapped around their legs — hobbled onto the waiting ambulance, wounded during a house-to-house search near this farming town.
The culprit was a common one: not insurgents, but gunfire from fellow soldiers. U.S. trainers who mentor Iraqi troops say a lack of gun safety, or what they call "muzzle discipline," has led to many injuries and deaths across the country.And while the Americans say it is slowly getting better, it remains a major problem for a U.S. military trying to train more than 200,000 Iraqis to defeat the insurgency.
"When we first got here, it was a little scary," said Army Capt. Steven Fischer, a trainer from Washington, Pa. "We have to correct it. It's something that's got to be better."
In the Bidimnah case in late January, insurgents first fired on Iraqi and U.S. troops patrolling the rural area about 50 miles west of Baghdad. That prompted more than a minute of wild, continuous gunfire from the Iraqi troops. The two Iraqi soldiers were wounded while the militants escaped unharmed.
Other examples are rife and often startling:
• In December in the town of Adhaim north of Baghdad, an Iraqi soldier stepped out of a vehicle with his safety lever turned off and accidentally shot himself point-blank in the chest. Minutes later, as a U.S. helicopter carried the dying man away, an Associated Press reporter saw a frustrated American soldier storm up and lecture another Iraqi soldier, who also did not have his safety on.
• During a large-scale operation last summer in Baghdad, an antsy Iraqi soldier took aim at what he thought was an insurgent, prompting several other Iraqi soldiers to drill hundreds of rounds into an empty home. No one was injured.
Iraq had a million-man army under Saddam Hussein, but soldiers who served in the old army said they were given only a few bullets a year — apparently a way to prevent coups. That practice left Iraqi troops untrained in the most basic of soldiering skills.
Iraq now has tens of thousands of rookie soldiers who only recently learned how to use a weapon. And misfires have led to dozens of military deaths.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, distributed a letter in October saying more than 75 coalition troops had been killed by misfires. He did not specify if the victims were Iraqis, Americans or others, and he also did not say who the shooters were.
"The failure to properly clear weapons and maintain muzzle awareness led to these unnecessary losses," Casey wrote in the letter, which was posted at bases across Iraq and viewed by an AP reporter.
Warning signs also are posted at U.S. bases across Iraq, such as one at Camp Ar Ramadi that instructs U.S. soldiers to be alert to the threat.
"Recently there have been several negligent discharges that have resulted in non-battle injuries to our personnel," read the sign. "Hold our partnered Iraqi forces to these same standards," it warns, after listing safety rules.
The problem is hardly unique to Iraq: armies across Africa and the Third World are notorious for their lack of safety procedures. But the problem is particularly acute in Iraq, where thousands with automatic weapons are on alert for insurgents.
Roadside bomb blasts that target Iraqi patrols are often followed by aimless gunfire from the Iraqis, usually useless since most attackers hide before they detonate bombs. And Iraqi soldiers sometimes clear traffic from roads by firing into the air.
In comparison, U.S. soldiers pride themselves on gun discipline, stressing the preservation of ammunition until a target is identified. U.S. misfires can lead to demotions or serious reprimands.
U.S. trainers say Iraqi safety procedures have improved, but only after constant reminders.
"They've gotten better. It's gotten so they know they need PID (positive identification) to shoot," said Army Sgt. Joseph Neary of Altoona, Pa.
Trainers drill Iraqi soldiers to keep their weapons on safe and pointed downward. "We've pounded it into their heads," Neary said.
But many American trainers have stories to tell.
"It's kind of scary to see a PKC gunner doing a 360 (degree-turn) in a turret and painting his name in the air," Neary said.
Cultural issues also exacerbate the problem. Many Iraqi soldiers swagger with their guns and neglect to use safety levers as a sign of manliness. In western Iraq, Col. Daniel Newell, who heads a team of Marine trainers there, estimates his Iraqi trainees suffer about one accidental shooting a week, but stresses they have improved.
Safety problems are also rampant among thousands of armed Iraqi civilians who increasingly carry personal weapons as civil strife has spread. Iraqi laws allow civilians one AK-47 rifle and a full magazine per household.
In January, Sheik Fewaz al-Jerba, a member of the Iraqi parliament, was shot in the leg — by his own bodyguard.
And in December, after a soccer match between Iraq and Syria, bursts of celebratory gunfire briefly put U.S. troops on alert — and demonstrated that the tradition, common across the Mideast, is still part of Iraqi life.
The same thing occurred after Iraqi troops successfully completed a mission in the Syrian border city of Husaybah in February.
After he realized the gunfire wasn't hostile, one Marine could only mutter: "I'll strangle them if they do that again."
Stupid, just stupid. It is amazing how that type of stuff can be true. The mental failure that it takes for those in that society to not see a problem is increddible, of course their society as a whole does not work so why should I be surprised that they can't handel a gun. Great post by the way.
Do you think they only have 1 mag per household?
If they're only allowed one full mag per household, I bet they have lots of people loading their mags to 28 or 29.
I seen an Army General Driver AD a 9MM, not once but twice. He got the crap kicked out him.
That really sucks.
Maybe from your perspective.
I prefer the Fallujah rules.
No weapons allowed in the city, at all. Period.
It made things easier for us.
Find a weapon, you've found an insurgent.
This is a non-story.
The Iraqi Army, the insurgents, and all the arabs have shitty muzzle discipline, marksmanship, etc..
Nothing that will be solved overnight, if ever.
From an advisor's perspective, YOU have to be aware of THEIR muzzles.
Not just an Iraqi problem....
While I was at Ft Eustis, some genius in TRADOC decided that all AIT soldiers should carry rifles (M16A1s - apparently DRMO isn't getting rid of them real fast) - regardless of MOS - throughout AIT...
Said rifles were to be loaded with 1 blank round, specifically to see if the soldier in question would ND...
In a company of 300, we had at least 30 NDs within 2 weeks... Generally it was of the 'Kill the Red Barrel' variety, but a few folks just popped 'em off mishandling their weapons...
Now, the cadre fuckups WRT weapons were wuit bad as well, in a less safety-hazard kind of way- they had a tendancy to screw the paperwork up every Wednsday & keep the whole company outside in formation while they executed the 'Lost Weapon' drill - only to find out that the weapon wasn't lost, they had just FUBARed the paperwork...
P.S. I have little problem with the Iraqis having rifles...
Most of them aren't insurgents, and have weapons for defense (remember - wild west over there, the police & army are still being 're-assembled'), but more importantly most of our casualties are not from AK fire, but from IEDs and RPGs....
An AK or a pistol, fine... Anything heavier should be off limits (your personal need for a PKM, RPG, DShK or SVD vis-a-vis personal security does NOT outweigh the political/military objectives of securing Iraq)...
IOW the status quo wrt weapons is OK...
I admire what you do and thank you for your service...but that's chilling.
Don't take that wrong, friend.
The Djiboutians were just as bad.
With rifles, pistols and "mines"
Must be something about 3rd world nations and guns....
It IS a war over there, you know?
You find a weapon in Fallujah, you've found an "insurgent".
If they're NOT an insurgent, you might "offer" to let them go.
Now you have an informant.
Uh...yeah. I think I heard something about it.
We get 'em all the time here.
Some are PERFECT soft tissue wounds in foot or leg. Sometimes I think that someone dosen't want to go on patrol but still wants his paycheck!
AD/ND's are a huge problem over there!
While I was training Iraqi police in the Glock 19 pistol I would have at least one or two PER day! Never had anyone hit , but lots of close calls.
Very quickly had my wife ship my soft body armor over to me to wear on the range while doing pistol training.
In 15 years of training American Police Officers I have never really felt the need to wear my body armor on the range and have never had a ND inpact close to my body.
Within the first 2 weeks of Glock training I had 3 ND rounds hit the ground within 2 feet or less of my feet. Over a 3 month period I oversaw the training and issued out over 3500 Glock pistols and witnessed at least 50 AD/ND's
Had my own PSD ND into my vehicle twice , Had at least one ND by the guard force of our compound per week , sometimes many more.
Everyone walks around with their finger on the trigger and no reguards to their muzzle. They for the most part carry "chamber empty" so they think its ok.
We trained them for "live chamber" carry , but their Officers would not allow the men to carry on the job this way.
If you even bring up the topic of their pistol to them at any time , on the range or off, expect any/all of them within earshot to draw their pistol out and start showing it to you , the whole time holding it with finger on trigger and muzzle everywhere. I quickly learned to have my interperter say to "not touch your pistol" BEFORE I started talking about using / shooting / etc their handgun in their duties.
The issuing of pistols to the lower rank Policemen is a new thing to them , in the past ONLY Officers had pistols as a badge of rank , now the all have them and are very proud and want to show them off.
Its a very dangerous place over there , not just from the bad guys
Here's a detailed list of the cause of death for the Coalition Troops in Iraq. Approx 22% of deaths have been non-hostile. Non-hostile - weapon discharge accounts for 48 deaths (1.9% of all deaths) & Non-hostile - weapon discharge (accid.) 21 (0.8% of all deaths).
Cause Of Death Stats In Iraq--CLICK "CAUSE OF DEATH DETAILS" DROP-DOWN BOX ON THIS WEBPAGE
Cause of Death Detail [Total] [Percentage]
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack 782 30.7%
Hostile - hostile fire 368 14.4%
Non-hostile - vehicle accident 210 8.2%
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire 148 5.8%
Hostile - hostile fire - car bomb 100 3.9%
Hostile - hostile fire - mortar attack 89 3.5%
Non-hostile - helicopter crash 78 3.1%
Hostile - hostile fire - RPG attack 77 3%
Hostile - helicopter crash 61 2.4%
Hostile - hostile fire - ambush 60 2.4%
Hostile - hostile fire - suicide car bomb 49 1.9%
Non-hostile - weapon discharge 48 1.9%
Hostile - hostile fire - sniper fire 33 1.3%
Non-hostile - unspecified cause 31 1.2%
Hostile - vehicle accident 30 1.2%
Hostile - hostile fire - suicide bomber 26 1%
Hostile - helicopter crash (missile attack) 26 1%
Hostile - hostile fire - rocket attack 22 0.9%
Non-hostile - weapon discharge (accid.) 21 0.8%
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, rpg 20 0.8%
Hostile - hostile fire - grenade 19 0.7%
Non-hostile - unspecified injury 19 0.7%
Non-hostile - illness 16 0.6%
Non-hostile - ordnance accident 16 0.6%
Non-hostile - drowning 15 0.6%
Hostile - friendly fire 15 0.6%
Non-hostile - vehicle accident (drowning) 15 0.6%
Hostile - hostile fire - explosion 11 0.4%
Hostile - transport plane crash 10 0.4%
Non-hostile - illness - heart attack 10 0.4%
Hostile - hostile fire - bomb 9 0.4%
Non-hostile - electrocution 8 0.3%
Non-hostile - homicide 7 0.3%
Hostile - hostile fire - mine 7 0.3%
Non-hostile - illness - sudden collapse 5 0.2%
Non-hostile - accidental fall 4 0.2%
Non-hostile - airplane crash 4 0.2%
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, IED 4 0.2%
Non-hostile - weapon malfunction 4 0.2%
Hostile - hostile fire - suicide boat bomb 3 0.1%
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, grenades 3 0.1%
Hostile - friendly fire - jet crash 3 0.1%
Hostile - drowning 3 0.1%
Non-hostile - illness - died in sleep 3 0.1%
Non-hostile - illness - heat related 3 0.1%
Non-hostile - not reported 3 0.1%
Non-hostile - suicide 3 0.1%
Non-hostile - unspecified accident 3 0.1%
Non-hostile - natural causes 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - illness - heart attack? 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - illness - heat related? 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - illness - heatstroke 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - illness - pneumonia? 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - jet crash 2 0.1%
Hostile - jet crash 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - building fire 2 0.1%
Hostile - hostile fire - mine (anti-tank) 2 0.1%
Non-hostile 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - accident 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - accident (?) 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - weapon discharge (suicide) 2 0.1%
Non-hostile - vehicle accident 1 0%
Hostile - hostile fire - truck bomb 1 0%
Hostile - hostile fire - RPG attack (?) 1 0%
Hostile - hostile fire - RPG attack 1 0%
Hostile - hostile fire - car bomb?/RP grenade? 1 0%
Hostile - fall from helicopter 1 0%
Hostile - friendly fire - cluster bomblet 1 0%
Hostile - unspecified injury 1 0%
Non-hostile - fall from helicopter 1 0%
Non-hostile - fire 1 0%
Non-hostile - illness - acute leukemia 1 0%
Non-hostile - illness - acute pancreatitis 1 0%
Non-hostile - illness - brain aneurysm 1 0%
Non-hostile - illness - breathing difficulties 1 0%
Non-hostile - lost at sea 1 0%
Non-hostile - maintenance accident 1 0%
Non-hostile - illness - seizure 1 0%
Non-hostile - illness - heart failure 1 0%
Non-hostile - ordnance accident? 1 0%
Non-hostile - possible suicide 1 0%
Some of the US Army advisors in Fallujah actually allowed their Iraqi troops to carry RPGs.
Of course they didn't go out on patrol with them everyday, like their Marine couterparts.
ND with a rifle is bad enough.
But a grenade or RPG?
Being in the Army, I regard this as a failure to meet the standard.
It should be done as you did it, from everything I have read of yours.
Great read, thanks for the post.
I was in a building at FOB St. Mere that got hit by a 40mm MK-19 HEDP round. A convoy was coming in and one of their gunners was at the gate clearing his weapon when he negliently fired the MK-19. The building I was in was over 900 yards from the gate, it was a (un)lucky hit. No one was hurt but that mother was loud!
I saw a soldier fire a round into the roof of a building I was in with his M16, he just got done cleaning it.
A soldier in my company put a round from his 9mm through the platoon sgt's bunk, into a backpack on the floor and through the chewing tobacco and porno mags the platoon sgt had in there.
One of our LTs put a round from his M16 through the roof of a Humvee, and then later that day ND'd three rounds from the MK-19 (into an empty field, thank god)
An 82nd Airborne soldier accidentally fired a burst from a SAW into the chest of a soldier behind him, luckily the IBA plate stopped all the rounds.
I can personally vouch for many more NDs, from my National Guard unit, from active army (82nd Airborne), from Marines, and from Iraqis.
My favorite one was a convoy we were doing, we were convoying with some 82nd Airborne vehicles down to Kuwait. We had just left a base when my team leader noticed a trail of liquid on the road, and we could smell diesel fuel. Couldn't figure out what it was until one of the 82nd Humvees came to a stop in front of us. They had 5 or 6 soldiers riding in the back of their open Humvee. When we were leaving the base, we stopped so everyone could lock and load their weapons. One of the 82nd soldiers fired a round into the floor of the Humvee, and somehow no one noticed! He didn't notice anything wrong so he didn't tell anyone, and his buddies in the bed of the truck with him decided not to say anything either. What they didn't realize was that he had put the round through the gas tank, and that was the trail of liquid we noticed. We had to tow them back to the base we had just left.
There's a happy medium.
I wouldn't go on EVERY patrol, but at least once or twice a day.
Some Marine Advisors' Team Leaders would insist that there be an advisor on EVERY patrol.
This would just wear out the advisors.
My comments about the Army advisors were specific to THAT team. Not theater wide.
Every team does it differently, based on the team and the unit it advises.
One thing is consistant, though:
Lot's of NDs.
Here is my safety! Dirka-Dirka!
DC should try this
Jeebis.. Not like the safety on an AK leaves much to the imagination.
ETA- except ergonomics.