The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Dirty Little Secrets
Rules to Live By in Iraq
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by James Dunnigan
December 20, 2004
The marines have long maintained that “every marine is a rifleman.” This
means that everyone, no matter what their regular job, keeps their infantry
skills up to date. Now the army is adopting the same attitude because of the way
operations played out in Iraq. That is, anyone traveling outside a base has to
be combat ready. And those in bases have to be prepared for combat emergencies.
As a result, there are a lot of things everyone in Iraq (and to a lesser extent
in Afghanistan), have to get down cold if they want to get out in one
· Emergency Action Drills. These are the things you do when there
is an emergency. You must practice them with the people in your unit, to make
sure everyone understands and does it the same way. When someone new comes into
your unit, you have to go through all the drills for them. The drills are
varied, ranging from what to do during various situations while on the road, to
where the bomb shelters (or trenches) are in your camp. For combat units, these
drills are no great shock, as most combat operations are a succession of drills
(which are practiced regularly). But for non-combat support troops, these drills
are a new experience, and more practice is always useful. Drills save lives.
· Practice changing tires, and doing it quickly. This does two things.
First, you learn how long it takes, even when you are in a hurry. This can be a
useful bit of information if you are under fire while changing the flat. Second,
practicing it forces you to make sure the spare tire is in good shape, and can
quickly be reached (along with any tools needed.)
· Mister Grenade can be your friend, even on the crowded streets of
Baghdad. If your vehicle has a glove compartment, re-label it as the “grenade
compartment.” Carry one smoke, one fragmentation and one tear gas grenade. If
you’re stuck in traffic and the situation outside it starting to look dicey,
then drop a smoke grenade out the window and try to get moving. You MUST be
moving if you drop the tear gas grenade, because you cannot drive through the
tears. Most other drivers will give you a wide berth when they see the smoke or
tear gas grenade go off. For those who keep coming, with evil intent, the
fragmentation grenade may come in handy (it is good for getting at bad people
hiding behind something.) Remember, when using grenades, do not touch the pin
until the grenade is outside the window. Accidents happen, and having a smoke
grenade go off in your vehicle will ruin your day, at the very least.
· Carefully plan each trip on the roads, especially in areas where the
bad guys are particularly active. Remember, the most frequent targets are large
convoys of big trucks. So stay off the MSR (Main Supply Route) used by those
guys. Give everyone in your convoy a strip map of the coming trip, and make sure
the “assistant driver” (the one who takes over if the primary driver is hit)
studies the plan as well. Select a route that you feel is least likely to be
watched, and attacked by gunmen.
· Especially when outside your base, always have your weapon (usually an
assault rifle or pistol, or both) with you at all times. Carry as much ammo as
you can. In an emergency it will not be enough, but the more the better (14 or
more magazines is not unreasonable). Only the stuff you have on you counts, as
you may have to get out of your vehicle in a real emergency. Look around, the
troops in Iraq have discovered many clever ways to carry all these
· Always wear you Kevlar helmet, and your armored vest when outside the
compound. When in the compound, always know where your vest and helmet (and
weapon) is. Keep the weapon clean.
· Practice basic combat operations, like changing magazines (you take cover
when you do this, people who don’t, often get shot). Practice aiming and
shooting. Lots of firing ranges have been set up in Iraq, and lots of ammo has
been provided for practice.
· Practice shooting at long range (800 meters.) While it’s true that most
combat is at shorter ranges (under 100-150 meters), you will sometimes find
yourselves being shot at by people farther away. In a situation like this, a
little practice before hand will pay big dividends. Might even say your life.
Think about it.
· Make sure your first aid gear, and skills, are always up to snuff. Get
extra medical gear if you can, and learn how to use it. The Special Forces
medics always get the latest and greatest stuff, so find out what they are using
and see if you can scrounge some of it up.
· Always be ready to return fire when on the road. Nothing discourages
ambushers more, and ruins their aim, than lots of return fire. You might even
kill a few of them.
· Don’t throw candy to the kids while you are on the road. This just
encourages them to get to close, and sometimes get run over. This is bad for the
child, and for you as well. The dead kids family will come after you. Remember,
every Iraqi family is allowed, by law, to have one AK-47.
· If you are in a firefight and you wound one of the enemy, don’t let him
crawl or limp away to safety. Kill him. These guys are doing holy war and will
keep shooting even if wounded. They cannot hurt you if they are dead.
· Cars and trucks, unless armored, are not bullet proof. If you are in a
firefight, take cover behind concrete or steel. Fighting from behind an
unarmored vehicle means you will eventually get shot when you don’t expect to.
Indeed, when ambushed and in an unarmored vehicle that cannot move, the best
thing to do is get away from that vehicle as soon as possible.
lot more to learn. The above items are but a sample of what you have to know to
survive in Iraq.