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Preparing for Iraq


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Preparing for Iraq

by CWO3 Jeffrey L. Eby

A closer look at training all Marines should receive before deploying to Iraq.

As Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) continues with forces rotating every 6 to 12 months, there are certain skill areas that all Marines would benefit from knowing, regardless of military occupational specialty (MOS) or the job to be performed once in country. Whether an aircraft mechanic or supply clerk, the duties and responsibilities performed by an infantryman on a dismounted patrol transcend throughout most actions when not on a forward operating base.

As OIF continues, Marines continue to rotate into and out of Iraq with some common skill weaknesses. Those weaknesses can be resolved with a focused training effort on a few key skill sets, most of which I'll list below.

All of those coming into the theater should learn dismounted patrolling, regardless of MOS. Dismounted patrolling skills bring great confidence, organize the thought process, and guide Marines toward readiness to engage the enemy through their focus on â Å“actions on enemy contactâ ? in the coordinating instructions portion of the patrol order. The actions of a mounted patrol or convoy are the same as the actions of a dismounted patrol, yet the mounted actions happen at a much higher speed. The ability to navigate by orienteering is another byproduct of patrolling. The coordination steps of patrolling ensure complete understanding by all involved in actions on contact and actions at the objective area, whether setting local security around a forward operating base; conducting vehicle checkpoints, mounted patrols, or convoys; or actually conducting a dismounted patrol.

Satellite Patrolling
These patrols should be able to conduct and understand the concept of satellite patrols. Satelliting is a term brought by the British soldiers and Marines to depict the action of surrounding or hovering near a base unit.

Satellite patrolling is similar to the action of normal patrol flankers. Satellites or flankers move away from the base unit to inspect likely ambush points or dead space areas to prevent attacks from occurring. The increased separation time of the satellite patrol from the base unit is what makes it different than flankers who traditionally attempt to maintain constant visual contact with the patrol leader, whereas the satellite patrol intentionally separates itself visually and physically from the base unit of the patrol for limited periods of time. Timelines need to be established to identify when a unit can satellite away from its base unit. I recommend starting with squad satellites away from platoon base units. A squad should be able to satellite for 5 minutes of lost visibility with the understanding that they could defend themselves for up to 15 minutes while the remainder of the platoon reacted to support any contact made. A fire team could satellite away from a squad base unit for no more than 1 minute with the understanding they would have to sustain their own fight for up to 5 minutes before being reinforced by the rest of the squad/platoon.

A common misconception of a mounted patrol or convoy is that the dismounts support the mounted weapons or vehicles. That is incorrect. Once the dismount occurs, the mounted weapon is the supporting unit and no different than a very large wheeled tripod for a machinegun. This applies whether the vehicle dismounted is a light armored vehicle (LAV), an assault amphibious vehicle, a 7-ton truck with a ring-mounted machinegun, or a HMMWV with a gun platform. Fires support maneuver at all times. There are occasions when scouts dismount from LAVs to provide local security, but this does not happen during an engagement; therefore, there are neither fires nor maneuver when scouts dismount from their LAVs.

All machineguns should have a depth of shooters ready to man them in order to sustain 24/7 operations. It is irrational to expect one assigned gunner to maintain the same weapon continuously. This will require a primary gunner to zero the weapon and follow-on shooters to establish offset aim points to assist in first burst accuracy. The days when one three-man gun team can be assigned a crew-served weapon and be expected to man it 24 hours a day are obsolete, as the machinegun is placed onto a vehicle to support convoy or mounted patrol operations and the gunner is rotated out every 2 to 4 hours. One machinegun may well have six to eight different gunners throughout the course of one day.

Common Terminology
The following terms are not simply buzzwords but key elements to controlling the dismounted force, and the definition and use of the terms must be understood by all Marines.

The first term is that of the base unit. The base unit is under the direct control of the senior leader (company, platoon, or squad leader). It sets the pace and direction allowing the satellite patrol elements something to slip away from and slip back to. The base unit follows the route identified to higher headquarters for tracking purposes and informs higher headquarters of any deviations from this route. The satellite patrols move to and from this base unit.

Team rush is conducted when two adjacent teams and a machinegun platform are providing cover or fire. It is a way to close large distances rapidly but is normally only conducted when the opponent is seen but not firing. Once the enemy engages, teams should not rush as a unit but default to either buddy pairs or buddy rushes. The first action is to attempt buddy pairs, moving in pairs alternating bounds with opposing pairs of Marines under the suppressive fires of at least two other teams and a machinegun platform. If the enemy is still exposing himself to fire, then the order is commanded to buddy rush instead of buddy pair. Buddy rush means that pairs will alternate bounds within the pair to a point to establish dominance and allow the other buddy pair to incrementally bound forward or adjacent to the first pair. It's important to realize that it's the actions of the enemy that dictate which technique to use.

The issue at hand is to increase the number of Marines suppressing until the enemy does not expose himself to fire. By increasing the number of Marines firing, and decreasing the number of Marines moving, you develop your own security enabling the assault force to close on the opponent. The understanding and correct employment of these techniques will offer far superior protection than a helmet and a small arms protective inserts (SAPI)-filled interceptor vest will ever provide. The ever-decreasing size of the moving force increases the support to maneuver ratio. One team moving supported by two teams and an machinegun is a 3:1 suppressing to moving ratio. During a buddy pair movement, only one pair of Marines in the entire squad is moving at one time. The ratio is now seven people suppressing for every one person moving, or 7:1. If the enemy still continues to fire, buddy rush is ordered, meaning that the two full fire teams, three of the men in the moving team, and the machinegun are suppressing, while only one man within the moving team is moving at a time. The ratio is now 13:1 of suppressing to moving, providing the best dilemma to the enemy.

The coordinating instructions piece of an order is critical throughout all actions, whether a security and stability operations or combat situation, as it identifies the critical control measures or techniques to be used. Marines have to know actions at security halts, actions at release points, continuing actions at limits of advance, actions at danger areas, actions at rally points, actions at linkup points, etc. Treat a flat tire on the highway during a convoy or mounted patrol as a long halt. Move off the road and establish 360-degree security, patrol dead space areas, and establish a guardian angel. (Guardian angel is a 1st Marine Division term meaning a protector of the overall force from within. It is not the perimeter hard line security or the external security patrol but a final level of overwatch that protects the entire force).

Statements like, â Å“1st Team, prepare to rush,â ? followed by the command to rush are for amateurs and should be eliminated entirely. Movement of the force is based upon implicit communications. Implicit communications is the result of cohesion and situational awareness. While in a buddy rush, when the moving Marine stops forward movement, acquires a target, and starts firing, he has communicated to his opposing buddy that it's the buddy's turn to move. No words are necessary. The action of the moving Marine is the implicit communications that issues the command necessary to take the next step in the process.

The old fire command of ADDRAC (alert, direction, description, range, assignment, and control) is too deliberate for most offensive actions. Simple task and purpose statements have to be used and understood by all in the place of formal fire commands. Task and purpose statements would sound like, â Å“Grenadier will fire on the right side of the building in order to allow the M249 to establish a firing position on the alley to the right.â ? The traditional ADDRAC is too limited in information, although it can still be used in most defensive positions. ADDRACs don't provide commander's intent, allowing judgment to be exercised. They are specific and restrictive, ignoring the opposing will of the enemy.

For all of these actions to work properly, fire team leaders have to lead from the front . . . literally. They are the very front guys in all actions so that their actions can provide implicit communications. In wedges, they put their grenadiers to their right and their automatic rifles (ARs) to their left (as an example). The rifleman can follow in the rear directly behind the team leader or he can echelon to the left of the AR and be the buddy pair with the AR while the grenadier is the buddy pair with the team leader. This setup allows the team leader to have his two key firing platforms on adjacent sides of him to issue task and purpose quicker and easier. The team behaves like a flight of four aircraft during movement and at halts. When the team leader changes pace or direction, the remainder of the team maintains their place in the formation, pivoting to get back into their appropriate positions.

Prone position is not the preferred position when assaulting or observing sectors in a security posture. The helmet meets resistance with the interceptor vest preventing the head from comfortably raising to meet the sights. An uncomfortable Marine will focus inward on his own discomfort more often than focusing outward on his sector of fire. A properly fitting helmet also hits the carrying handle before stock weld is achieved, disrupting the sight picture. The prone position will make the Marine feel isolated on the battlefield as his field of view is diminished. His observation of enemy activity will continually decrease as his position lowers. Squatting and kneeling positions should be the preferred positions unless under immediate fire. While assaulting, the selection of the appropriate size of the moving force, the use of microterrain, and accurate suppressive fires provide the protection to the force, not the firing positions. Marines will maintain a higher tempo if they are not going prone, and they'll reduce the length of each move if they do not go prone. Those who go prone get exhausted too quickly and tend to attempt longer moves in an effort to reduce the amount of stops they must make. M249 shooters must learn to fire from squatting positions with both elbows stabilized on the knees if they are a part of the assaulting force in the fire team.

Keep in mind that if the enemy is still firing while Marines are assaulting, then they have insufficient ratios of suppression to moving forces, or they have inaccurate fires on the enemy position. The movement of the force should be stopped until the conditions are set to allow movement in all but extremely near ambushes. The rule of thumb to decide between a near or far ambush is not the handgrenade throwing distance depicted in the manuals, but the availability of terrain to take cover. If there is any cover at all, then treat the ambush as a far ambush and take cover. A Marine's completely exposed body against the very small visible target of the opponent will not be a good situation to be in. My definition of a far ambush is anything beyond three large steps or some completely open terrain, such as pavement.

Immediate action procedures to contact are one of the most misunderstood actions on the battlefield. We think that deliberate assault element assignments will work during chance contact. We preassign assault, support, and security elements and set ourselves up for failure when it's the assault element caught in the kill zone of the chance contact or ambush. Instead, terms of least engaged and most engaged are used. The only thing immediate upon chance contact is that the most engaged element automatically becomes the support element during this fight, deploying all weapons against the threat in an effort to develop fire superiority (accurately). Once the weapons are deployed, the most engaged element sends the contact report. It has to be clear and simple: â Å“Contact right, 100 meters, vehicle twoâ ? (or 2d team, or whatever your title is) and a statement of what you know, or just shut up. The radio is a key tool to call the audible that will ensure success. Long-winded statements and use of the communications school methods will cause deaths. Once contact is made with the higher element, eliminate the identification of unit statements and anything unnecessary in subsequent statements. Quick, precise statements and elimination of clutter will allow orders to be issued in a timely manner. Immediate action is over at this point. No automatic assaults should be conducted.

Once the contact report is in, the leader assesses the situation and starts developing courses of action. He decides if the enemy is inferior or superior. If the enemy is still firing, he puts more weapons into the suppression role. The element on the fringes of the contact is, by default, the security element and must be trained to focus outward immediately to verify that the known contact is not a diversion to distract from the real attack. The least engaged element can automatically assess routes toward the enemy in envelopment and routes to establish a support by fire that would allow the most engaged unit an opportunity to disengage. The least engaged element is still awaiting course of action selection and orders from the leader though. If the leader decides that the enemy is inferior, he can use the most engaged as the fixing force and issue orders for the least engaged to conduct an envelopment to destroy the attacking force. If the leader assesses the enemy as superior, he must develop a process to fix and bypass or fix and disengage. He orders the least engaged unit to establish a support by fire position, reinforcing the most engaged by whatever other element available to establish fire superiority. Once the least engaged is set up and providing accurate fires, he orders the disengagement or bypass of the most engaged unit. The leader may have to reset multiple support by fire positions until completely disengaged or the enemy is bypassed. All the while, specific orders must be given for someone to provide security in directions other than the primary engagement.

IED Threat
OIF has seen the implementation of thousands of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by our opponents. Marines need to be instructed on using target indicators like shine, outline, and contrast with the environment in order to better locate and identify the IED threat. The use of magnified optics to conduct area studies for likely IEDs will enhance security and speed up the location and identification process. This technique eliminates the need to close on the IED while evaluating size and whether or not daisy chains (other explosives tied in with detonating cord) exist. It allows scanning for the triggerman as well. Use of binoculars and advanced combat optical gunsights are great tools also.

Going deep is another tool that can be used to counter ambushs or IED threats. Going deep is an offshoot term from close quarters battle training. In this case it means you're going to establish flankers out to the first visibility line with the hope of cutting off the triggerman's escape route, while simultaneously establishing a flanking position in relation to any potential ambush positions overwatching the IED sight. This fits into the previous discussion on immediate and subsequent actions. The unit that goes deep does so after deliberate assessment and selection of a course of action.

As we find thousands of cache sights we realize that we often prevent useful information from being identified as we â Å“dirty upâ ? the sight with our own activity. Marines should treat cache sights like crime scenes in order to preserve any clues that a trained investigator might pick up. Little things like not damaging signs in the area of the cache sight have to be explained to all those coming into the country. Tire tracks of the enemy may be critical to later identification. The type of wire used may lead to where the material was sold. Cameras are critical to getting the information out fast, as well as available laptops and local area network connections to share information rapidly. Engineer mine detectors, metal detectors, and other types of tools are critical to rapidly exploiting a location, but the Marines must be knowledgeable on the use of the equipment prior to arrival.

Know the Language?
1st Marine Division made a concerted effort to teach Marines a deeper level of language capability prior to coming over on OIF II. I recommend against following that same approach, however. More time on weapons employment, developing depth on machineguns, cache sight exploitation, and techniques of observation with optics would have been a better tradeoff than the 30 days of language training. A 20-word vocabulary is sufficient for most Marines and can be conducted in-house instead of disrupting the training cycle prior to deployment. Thirty days simply won't provide the linguist you are looking for, and the time can be better used elsewhere.

Knowing how to ask a question does no good if we don't have the proficiency to understand the response given. Therefore, focus on a 20-word vocabulary of directive commands, such as open, close, you may depart, we must search you, don't be frightened, hello, goodbye, and stop. Don't ask questions unless you are prepared for an outburst response.

Finally, focus on name annunciation skills. Some human intelligence sources attempt to provide us information, yet we don't have the ability to understand what they are trying to tell us.

This is an equal opportunity war for all Marine forces. Don't expect to have the junior Marines do all of the fighting, as there is neither a pattern to the time and place of contact nor a pattern to who gets injured or killed. All Marines must be ready to perform combat tasks at all times and never get complacent or take for granted any level of security. Focusing on infantry patrolling skills will assist in organizing your thoughts in all other actions and provide the protection during contact far beyond 10-inch SAPIs.

>CWO3 Eby is the Gunner, 7th Marines.

Well I hope someone on this side of the border is listen and taking notes.

Great post!  I'll make sure that a copy comes with me to my new job.  Is there a source document for it?

Excellent points on soldier skills and how they must not be exclusive to the combat arms folks.

I found the language training bit very interesting.  We tend to load more and more into pre-deployment training without taking anything out.  I'd be interested to interview returning troops and ask: "Given the exact same amount of training time before deploying, what would you have added and what would you delete?"  Compression sacks may work for sleeping bags but not for training time!  It is still a "five pound bag" no matter how many pounds we try to stuff in!

Back to language, in Kabul I picked up a couple of local words and phrases but relied 100% on interpreters to have conversations.  I used Hello, Sorry, Thankyou etc along with a couple of commands.  I got these not from our classes but from the interpreters.  I found that just having a simple greeting in the local language was a good way to get going with a conversation that would then go through the interpreter.

The "who is supporting who paragraph" (dismounts and vehicles) left me somewhat confused.  I think that I know what he is trying to say but I wondering why the particular emphasis?  An aside for Matt, what was your drill with the scouts in the LAVs if you were under contact?

I may be out to lunch, but "satellite patrolling" looks a little bit like what we did overseas, although somewhat more formalized.  The principle seems the same.  Perhaps a good subject for a multi-national conference! 

The task and purpose part is very much in line with what I was being taught down south a few years ago.  Give a task and purpose at all levels and you give the guidance for people to use their intiative.



You're right about the confusion about the LAV comment.  I was scratching my head on that one too.

As far as our SOP goes, when ambushed and the vehicle was in motion, we'll return fire with the main gun/coax and the pintle, and the 2 scouts that are popped up in back troop hatches will also return fire.  The vehicles will clear through the ambush zone and at a safe location will halt.  The scouts dismount and provide local security, a damage/casualty assessment is conducted, contact report/sitrep sent in and a plan formulated as to what to do next.

When at a halt and the scouts were dismounted, if we came under fire, the direction from which the fire was being received was determined, the scouts would orient themselves to cover that sector and get themselves into covered positions (not meaning remounting into the vehicle) and we'd return fire.  A contact report would be sent to higher.  The next steps would really depend on the situation, with common sense would be the determining factor.  If you didn't have enough assets in place to assault and clear the enemy position, you'd attempt to cordon the area and wait for more assets to arrive on scene, when you could consolidate your scouts into a large enough group to take on the objective, or provide a secure perimeter until a rifle company/platoon or other such force would arrive to do the actual clearing.

As far as fighting the mounted battle, operations in Iraq (and Afghanistan, I assume) are very much different to the type of troop tactics that are taught and practiced in such places as NTC, the Lawfield Corridor or Centurion Field.

Most of the stuff we did was convoy escort, react to ambush/IED while providing convoy escort, traffic control points/vehicle check points (searching vehicles and pers.), setting up cordon points in urban areas when conducting raid ops. and alot of mounted and dismounted urban patrolling at the section/patrol level.

From the crewman side I'd spend less time focusing on precision long-range gunnery against moving targets, more time on co-ax and pintle shooting as well as personal weapons skills, more time on driving in traffic and tight urban confines, less time on tactical "bounding/hull-down position" troop level maneuveurs.

The source of the article is:

Seen.  I figure that we (the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps) should perhaps spend some more time firing personal weapons from the vehicle during training, even if this comes at the expense of open range "shooting up tank targets."  The 25mm is great but perhaps there are other options if you are trying to take out a guy in a market full of people you are trying to help!  Our Surv Ops in particular can be a key weapons system in the urban environment with their C8 covering the 6 o'clock.

I'm no gunnery SME, but I'd be curious about a 360 degree live fire range where we put a Coyote in the middle of a template and pop-up targets around it.  The crew would engage as they see fit (pistols to 25mm).  Templating would be a problem, as would be the placement of the SIT target controller.  Having the Coyote on the move would be the best training option but safety might just get in the way. 

Thanks for your feedback on your own "actions on" drills.


I remember hearing a story from a guy (M1A1 the guy who would be standing beside the CC) who ran out of ammo on his pintal mount gun and had an enemy about to engage him so he threw the empty ammo can at him, hit him and gave him enough time to reload and engage said enemy.
2Bravo said:
I figure that we (the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps) should perhaps spend some more time firing personal weapons from the vehicle during training, even if this comes at the expense of open range "shooting up tank targets."   The 25mm is great but perhaps there are other options if you are trying to take out a guy in a market full of people you are trying to help!   Our Surv Ops in particular can be a key weapons system in the urban environment with their C8 covering the 6 o'clock.

I'm no gunnery SME, but I'd be curious about a 360 degree live fire range where we put a Coyote in the middle of a template and pop-up targets around it.   The crew would engage as they see fit (pistols to 25mm).   Templating would be a problem, as would be the placement of the SIT target controller.   Having the Coyote on the move would be the best training option but safety might just get in the way.  

The only way I can see you putting this into practice, would be to break our Battle Runs down into 2 Phases.   Phase 1 would be the initial drive down the lane, employing Main and Coax, and also Pintle if desired.   Halt at end of run and turn around.   Phase 2 would be the drive back up the lane with the GIBS engaging tgts while on the move.

I highly doubt we will ever see a 360 Range, simply for Safety Factors and the size of Template that would be required.   Only place to find a Range that size may be the center of the Circles in Suffield.     ;D  Another factor would be the amount of time wasted changing Crews and Vehs.
George Wallace said:
I highly doubt we will ever see a 360 Range, simply for Safety Factors and the size of Template that would be required.

Of course, we could just send a Squadron into Fallujah in search of a 360 range....

I guess I'm trying to make the real 360 range not be the first one that a crew sees... ;D


The circle could be made smaller if we restricted it to COAX, ACK ACK and small arms.  The surv op shoot would work well as you suggest.  I'm trying to figure out where to put the SIT target controller and RSO.  As for time, perhaps we can find the wasted time somewhere else.


Based on the arguments on the Bayonet thread, perhaps turret crews need to carry lances as a last ditch weapon ;)  Sorry, I couldn't resist.


The other thing I would really harp on would be sharpening vehicle checkpoint skills and vehicle search techniques.

I don't know if you have access to the US Army or Marine Corps Lessons Learned sites, but there is a pletheroa of stuff on there that's excellent in this area.
Of course, we could just send a Squadron into Fallujah in search of a 360 range....

As long as we wear green and don't look like the 'merkins no one will shoot at us......
Britney Spears said:
As long as we wear green and don't look like the 'merkins no one will shoot at us......

Seems to be working for the NGOs and Press... ::)
The concept of "least engaged/most engaged" is interesting - orders on the fly are good if you can nail it down to a well-practiced SOP.

The US Military has to get rid of the term "buddy" - it sounds so silly.
Infanteer said:
The US Military has to get rid of the term "buddy" - it sounds so silly.

Not nearly as silly as "MMEV-Multi Mission Effects Vehicle" if we're talking about silly terms.  ;D

The "most engaged/least engaged" principle is very much like the good'ol Combat Team quick attacks that we all knew and loved.  The Tank Tp in contact (most engaged) becomes the fire base and one not in contact (least engaged) is probably in a good spot for the RV for the assault force.  Very interesting to see this applied to the lowest level.  Does anyone think that our own section attacks a couple of years ago would not have allowed for such distinctions.  Sorry, bit of a tangent. >:D



Last year LCol Vida ran a really good "section" attack range, where he replaced the vehicle driver with his own (who knew the script) - the section crossed a hill and was with with ex-RPG - where the driver was hit and the LAV careened w/o power down the hill and hit a berm - the section had the fight a near 360 battle and use handpower to use the turret and of course they used pers weapons and close with and destory the EN.

The idea of doing Cbt team attack prep for missions where we have no reason to do such and attack is a waste of trg resources and time.  We have to get out of the box and start tailoring our training to the mission/threat - which really is not out of the box thinking...
I agree with you in part Kev.

I don't think that 2Bravo was referring to having an actual combat team train for react to ambush scenarios, but rather using the concept of fire and maneuver as touched upon by CWO3 Eby.

When we took over our AO on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, the insurgents had realized that when they attacked a convoy, the response was for the convoy to respond with indiscriminate machinegun fire and to clear the ambush zone.  What they weren't prepared for was when the Marines would be escorting and the convoy was ambushed, the LAV closest to the ambush would move into a position of cover and setup a base of fire.  The LAV furthest away would identify the location of the ambushers, move to flank and the scouts would dismount and close with the insurgents, the classic 'L' hammer and anvil.  The convoy would continue to clear the ambush zone.

Perhaps I wasn't clear and I'm not sure if you interpreted my post this way, but I was not advocating using combat team quick attacks to prepare for Afghanistan or Iraq (although that's exactly what I did for the year leading up to Roto 0).  Matt is correct that I was relating the concept of the article to our old combat team tactics.  I think that the author of the article is basically talking about fixing and striking but applied to the lowest tactical level.

When I was at Meaford three years ago the standard infantry section attack being taught was about as flexible as a lead pipe.  Everything was a frontal as the section was seen as always being part of Platoon in a Company.  Is this still the case?

As an aside, what were the safety arrangements for the 360 range you descibed?  Were the 25mm and coax used as well?  I assume so because you mention hand power for the turret but I am interested in details.  We're about to start TMST here and my SSM is running an ambush range.


I like the sound of that ambush drill.  A good convoy escort should have one element that stays with the convoy and another self-contained element to deal with the enemy and pick up the pieces.


2Bravo said:
When I was at Meaford three years ago the standard infantry section attack being taught was about as flexible as a lead pipe.   Everything was a frontal as the section was seen as always being part of Platoon in a Company.   Is this still the case?

Oh, we've got 14 pages of fun on that.... ;)

I am unsure of how the range was exactly run I was not part of it - only the rifle sections went thru.  IIRC they did not do full 360 fire - and the 25mm tgt where limited to a 90degree'ish scope and the rotation of the handcrack made it more effective for them to use coax and pintel.

We found out later that some of our training was a "little sketchy" in the training saftey frame...

My feeling is the biggest failing in our training was not having the non combat arms types doing any convoy ambush stuff - since they did way more runs around that us.