Logistics: November 14, 2003


There are daily news reports of American soldiers getting shot at in Iraq. Most of these are troops in trucks moving supplies. There is a 350 kilometer long MSR (Main Supply Route) going from Kuwait to Baghdad, plus hundreds of kilometers of branch supply routes going off to various U.S. bases. About 300 convoys a day roll up the highway from Kuwait. Hundreds of smaller convoys move troops and equipment around. About twenty convoys a day are attacked. The weapons used are AK-47s, RPG rockets and remotely controlled bombs on the side of the roads. On dirt roads, anti-vehicle mines will be used as well. Some two or three troops are killed or wounded each day. Most of the attacks fail. This is largely because the attackers are hired by Baath Party leaders with more cash than courage (to do it themselves.) Bonuses are paid when the attackers actually wound or kill someone. But the hired Iraqis are content to fire on a convoy and get away alive to collect they pay (from a few hundred to a thousand dollars or more). Some are paid to set up road side bombs. The troops running these convoys have had to get additional training to deal with these combat operations they never thought they would be involved in. The transportation, logistics and maintenance troops had to get religious about cleaning their weapons and taking turns standing up in the truck with a machine-gun (on a mount), looking for potential attackers. Some of the troops are clamoring for rifle range built so they can get some training using a machine-gun from a moving truck (it does take some practice get good at this.) The attackers are taking heavier casualties than the American troops, which is not much consolation to the stressed out GI truck drivers and machine-gunners. American troops have also been changing their tactics, moving convoys at high speed (80-100 kilometers an hour) up the middle of roads and having combat troops or helicopters in the area to chase after attackers. The relatively low incidence of attacks actually makes it worse, because it is harder to stay on alert all the time when you might go weeks without getting shot at. More of the supplies are being moved by civilian truckers, who get attacked rarely. But purely military equipment is moved by soldiers, to make sure nothing is stolen. Moreover, if there were no military convoys, the attackers would turn their attacks on civilian truckers. 


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