Life in a combat zone is boring about 90% of the time and soldiers become
complacent. It’s during periods
of complacency that units get hit. The
biggest fight you’ll have is the fight against complacency which can be
countered with After Action Reviews (AAR) to the lowest levels--AAR keeps
everyone “in the game”.
The enemy looks for undisciplined units and avoids those with teeth.
Guerilla warfare seeks out soft targets, hitting units that appear to be
the least prepared, least disciplined and most vulnerable.
Outward appearance is the most visible indicator of a lack of discipline
and invites trouble. Troops out of
combat uniform, disheveled vehicles and equipment, poorly maintained weapons,
unshaven faces etc. are targets of choice.
Guerillas see these groups as unable to respond effectively since the
level of discipline is low. Conversely, they tend to avoid units whose personnel are alert and observant, that
clearly have their weapons in order: MGs on vehicles always clean, manned and
armed and ready for use. Stay sharp.
Look ready. Be ready.
Always keep a tourniquet with you.
Something as simple as a long bandana and a stick works and it saves
lives until the wounded can be properly evacuated.
Panty hose works.
Iraqi sand is fine dust and clogs up air filters quickly.
By covering air filter elements with panty hose material, you screen out
a lot of that dust and it can easily be removed and shaken clean.
Critical creature comforts.
Eye drops, lip balm, Vaseline, sunscreen, hand lotion, body powder,
sunglasses and bandanas are all very important and can keep you from being
miserable. You can’t/shouldn’t
count on being able to shower regularly. Body
powder where skin touches skin can prevent chaffing and irritation.
Use it liberally. Apply
Vaseline to the inside of your nostrils to prevent capillaries from drying out
in the low humidity and bleeding.
Cold weather gear is required.
The desert gets cold at night.
Hot weather gear is required.
Stay in the shade as much as possible and always DRINK a lot of water
even when you don’t feel thirsty. Never
get dehydrated. The low humidity
and 130 degree temps can play tricks on you.
Your weapons are life savers.
Clean, lube and perform function checks every day…without fail!
The Iraqi dust plays havoc with moving parts.
Make sure you clean weapons daily and apply a light coat of dry lubricant
(MILILTEC-1 is exceptionally good and available through supply channels. NSN:
then perform a functions check after you return and before going out again.
Keep your ammo clean too. Dirty ammo can result in jams. Establish and record the zero settings of your weapons!
Trust only those you know well.
This is not a conventional war. There
are no front lines and you don’t know who is packing explosives—man, woman
or even child—as we’ve seen far too often.
10. Avoid Repetition. In this war you’re
always observed. Don’t become repetitive in actions, times, routes, tactics,
techniques and procedures. A counter-insurgency force that is unpredictable is
Know the Rules of Engagement.
Make sure you REALLY know and share a common understanding with your
chain of command about the ROE. This
can get confusing in a war with no front lines and put regular soldiers in bad
spots if they hesitate to shoot or shoot too quickly.
Ask a lot of “what if” questions of your leaders if you’re
Learn from those ahead of you.
Lessons learned from those that have been there are invaluable.
Pick their brain for tricks, techniques and methods they learned the hard
way. This will prevent you from
re-learning those lessons the hard way. However,
be careful and also think for yourself about each one. Does it really apply now? Times and conditions change.
SOPs save lives.
Know the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)…especially quick reaction
drills. When you’re taking fire
is not the time to decide what each man should do.
Many individual/unit actions should be pre-determined and second nature.
Such things as where equipment, weapons and ammo is stored, who mans the
automatic weapons, what are the driver’s actions under certain circumstances,
what are the squad’s actions in the event of an IED (Improvised Explosive
Device) incident. How will you give
covering fire to the squad and move under fire? All such things can be pre-established as an SOP and should
be practiced routinely.
Know the terrain.
Become familiar with your area of operations.
Detailed map recons, driving the area, knowing multiple routes in and
out, good covered and concealed positions for both you and the enemy—all are
essential elements of information. Know
Know your fellow soldier.
Learn who you can count on and who you can’t. A word to the wise...
Don’t be afraid to be afraid. War is like being in a pen with a big bull. Most
times he won’t pay any attention to you but when he does, you’re in trouble.
Don’t ever let your guard down. The
first time you get shot at the only thing you’ll remember is some basic
soldiering skills you were taught – you’ll not get smarter because they’re
shooting at you. First
you’ll be scared – just realize it – next you’ll get your fear under
control – and finally you’ll get an adrenaline rush – each stage of this
is equally important to know that you’re going through it – and that you
control it – instead of it controlling you.
The last stage may be the most dangerous stage because that’s when you
feel you can do it all yourself—you can’t.
Always fight as a team and always keep your flak jacket zipped up.
Trust your instinct – your
intuition. If something
seems wrong and the hair is standing up on your neck get ready, something is
going to happen – it may not but don’t walk away from your intuition –
18. Don’t assume you can’t take charge if necessary.
Be sure you know the plan, how to operate the radios and be able to call
19. Make sure you know the plan for Medevac.
The unit should have a plan for dealing with casualties while under fire.
Make sure you know how to request medical evacuation (Medevac). Remember, designated
people (medics and combat life savers) should take care of
casualties not the closest rifleman. In a firefight suppressing, closing with
and killing the enemy is the mission. Units
have been paralyzed by tending to wounded that resulted in more wounded.
Stay focused on the mission and have folks designated to take care of the
wounded. One last word—risk men’s lives to recover wounded but never to
recover dead, if in doubt recover.
20. Keep your GPS and current maps handy.
The desert is pretty much a featureless place and the urban areas can get
confusing. There are no real
terrain features like you’re familiar with in the states and this has been the
cause of people getting lost and in trouble.
Keep that map current and GPS handy.
Ensure the GPS has fresh batteries, is calibrated and in good shape then
rely on them—it’s your way home.
21. Ensure you have fresh batteries on hand.
The middle of a patrol is not the time to find out your batteries are
22. Carry extra water and oil. You don’t want to be out
on patrol when your vehicle overheats or runs low on oil with none on hand—and
you certainly don’t want to ask Iraqis for anything.
23. Keep tow chain and tire changing equipment on your vehicle.
You and your buddies will need it if you get stuck.
If you have a winch, make sure it works well, keep it lubed and that you
have the right clevises.
24. Make an operational checklist and use it.
You can’t remember everything. Create
a pre-ops and post-ops check list and use it to ensure you have everything and
did everything prior to going out and took care of everything after coming back.
25. Keep your dog tags, medic alert, and blood type info on you…just
26. Keep Pepto Bismol tablets and aspirin handy.
You may need this…especially if you get
hold of some bad water or food.
Just a few thoughts from an old
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