These are some excerpts of an email that was written and fowarded through the internet in the Spring of 2004.
Yesterday a friend of mine who runs a small security company here in Iraq emailed me. He is standing up a protection detail and wanted my opinion on tactics and equipment running the roads of Iraq; Tactics, SOP's, hard car or soft? I have been giving it some thought and here is where I am at.
I am willing to speculate I’m as well traveled in Iraq as anyone I’ve met. I’ve been just about everywhere between Kuwait and Iran, all points in between. And I’ve traveled every way possible.
I’ve gone in military convoy up armored hummers at 40MPH. I’ve run the Fallujah Baghdad gauntlet in a 15 truck convoy, thin skinned white F350's. I’ve rolled all over in blacked out Pajeros in local dress. Diplomatic convoys with armored suburbans and helo cover.
I’ve done the whole hide the guns and smile a lot all the way to showing just about everyone the front sight post.
I’ve done 140KMH up MSR Tampa and weaved through Sadr city at a near standstill.
I, like nearly everyone have made mistakes and been lucky to be here writing this.
I think the most important and neglected aspect of survival in theatre is training. Every freaking day your crew should practice "actions on" - At least do it on a dry erase board. Actions upon anything and everything. What usually happens is we start going through the "what ifs" and all the sudden every guy in the crew has a different idea of what should happen. After all we come from many different backgrounds. After about 30 minutes of that we all end up scratching our head debating which idea is best and say "let’s get chow". Decide on some fundamental concepts. And stick to them, but of course always remembering that the plan is just something to deviate from anyway. As long as we all know the end goal and work towards it. i.e. If the vehicle is stalled in the ambush, driver flicks it in neutral so the rear car can ram us out and we prepare to un-ass the vehicle on the opposite side of the contact.
So rehearse and practice - Which is easy to say because I am the first to admit that a knock on my hooch at 7AM with "hey man lets rehearse this" makes me grumble.
I’m sure we can all agree that debating your actions on is best done at the hootch rather than on the side of a road in Tikrit while your car is being remodeled by a PKM.
PMS your vehicles all the time. Being broke down in Iraq is like a scene on a bad movie. Been there done that. Check tires, oil, fluid, etc... And don’t overdrive your car. My friend VC managed to put a Pajero upside down and backwards on Tampa once because we pushed the cars past their controllability.
Every IC you meet will tell you he is a great driver. Just because you drive fast and haven’t hit anything yet doesn’t mean you’re a good tactical driver. Go to BSR or some other school. And if you haven’t let the guy who has drive. Conduct driver training. Get the best guy to teach everyone else. OJT.
Practice changing tires. There are a couple guys reading this email right now who know exactly what I am talking about. Realizing you’ve packed 300 pounds of gear on top the spare while on the side of a road in Ramadi is a self loathing I’d like not replicate. Make sure you have a tow strap in EVERY vehicle. Loop it through the rear bumper so it’s already attached. that way you swing in front of the busted car and they hook up. Gone in 60 seconds or vice versa... Get a good jack, it's worth the money. Make sure everyone knows where all the tow, change, repair gear is in every vehicle.
In the glove box keep your stay behinds. A frag, Smoke, CN. The rule is. NEVER f*** WITH THE PIN UNLESS YOU HAVE THE GRENADE OUTSIDE THE WINDOW! Hit a bump and it drops on the roadside. Minimal drama. Inside the car? Party foul. Use CN and Smoke. If you're caught in traffic and you have a bad feeling about a car behind you, toss the smoke. Most motorists will stop or at least give you a lot of space. It works and it’s harmless. Can (EDIT: CN) use more sparingly and never while in tight traffic. Watching that cloud blow towards your car faster than you can drive is not fun. The CN is rough stuff and I only would use it on those rare situations where it just has to be done. And the frag? Well we all know when those need to be used.
Put a rubber band on your sling so it doesn’t get caught on stuff while getting out of the car.
Always do a proper route plan. Common sense here. And another note, we are always trying to be sneakier and cleverer than everyone else. Avoiding MSR's and roads frequented by convoys you know the deal. Well before taking a road you see on a map that isn’t used by the Army. Go see the G2, ask them why. It may be for good reason.
Think about fuel consumption. Plan your stops for fuel and food. Always carry a gas can, just in case.
Always have spare batteries for the GPS, Always have a map and compass just like when we were E1's. Do a map study; make sure everyone in the crew knows the route plan.
Carry as big a gun as you can. Keep it clean. Keep it hot.
CARRY LOTS OF AMMO. On April 4th I went through 14 mags and NEVER would have thought that a possibility before then. Carry more ammo, stage spare mags EVERYWHERE. Like the freakin Easter bunny.
I will never go without wearing a helmet again. If there is a Kevlar helmet, it’s going on my head. A dude standing right next to all of us on the roof was dropped from a headshot. Spend the money get a good MICH or the like. The more comfortable and low profile the more likely it is you'll wear it. WEAR A HELMET. Watching Alcon get blasted in the noggin was a SOP changing experience for ALL of us here.
Wear your armor. Period.
If you sleep in a trailer or hootch, know where the nearest bunker is. Trying to find it at 4 AM while scared shitless isn’t the answer. And yes everyone runs for the bunker. The Delta dude who is always giving the evil eye will probably be the first one there followed immediately after by a SEAL in flip-flops. 120MM mortars make us all very humble.
Shoot a lot. Keep training. If you’re company get more ammo. MAKE THEM. Dry fire. Practice mag changes. Focus on cheek weld and front site. The basics win every time.
The three guys shot on the roof here were all either changing mags while standing or weren’t moving to different firing positions frequently - all were regular military and not contractors. They were doing standard Army range shit. And got dropped for it...
You remember when Sam Elliot said "If I need one there will be plenty laying around" in the film WE WERE SOLDIERS ONCE, in regards to the rifles? He was right. If you’ve seen those pictures of us on the net Chip was on a SAW and I had a M203. There were weapons strewn about the roof by wounded and those who elected to not play on the two way range. No shit. By the end of week two here we all had our choice in weapons. No shit. We fired RPK, AK47, PKM, MK19, M249, M203, M4, Druganov, and M60 at bad guys between the eight of us... That was unreal...
This brings me onto this - Train on all weapons. If you don’t have access at least read the FM or TM on them. You never know when you’re out of 5.56 and someone will hand you a PKM. Get familiar with them.
Practice shooting out to 800M. I know, nearly every fight is within 150 but we were trying to bang a mortar crew that was pounding us at 800M's. And it happened more than once.
In terms of shooting. Practice as you did on active duty. Always scrounge ammo.
I will ALWAYS take a hardcar over a soft. Its just common sense at this point. If I have a soft car I will sandbag the floors and jam steel and spare plates everywhere I can. Bolt on armor is shit, but better than nothing. Remove the LEXAN windows from the guntrucks. Just like in the old days nothing breaks contact quite like returning accurate, violent fire.
The rear vehicle is always most likely to be hit. Put your best shooters in there, biggest guns.
THE GOLDEN CONNEX BOX... It ain't coming dude. If I had a nickel for every time I have been told "Oh yeah man, we ordered ten of those and they should be here in three days" Or my favorite "don’t worry, it will meet you incountry". If you don’t have good guns, ammo, armor, or comms. Just say no like Nancy Reagan used to say. Some companies are total pieces of shit and will leave you in Iraq with a busted ass stolen AK and two mags. Some will do you better than a tier one unit. Personally, I just want the above mentioned items and the rest to go to my bank account. If I want a three hundred dollar backpack Ill buy it.
Bottom line. Remember what gear is critical. Demand it be the best and take proper care of it.
Medical equipment. It’s expensive. It has saved lives. The company I currently work for spent a gajillion dollars outfitting each crew with great mad gear. I'm sure the bill was hard to swallow. I shit you not; it saved three peoples lives, all had life threatening injuries. The med kits and our 18D's saved them. The Army had a few bandages and an IV. That was it. You know who you are, thank you for spending the money...
Do remedial med training. Can’t say anymore on that issue. Do it.
Wherever you go carry lots of booze. It’s the most valuable item you can have. If I wrote a list of things I have managed to swindle with a bottle of Jack placed in an E8's hands you would crap you’re pants.
Don’t get drunk and stupid. Be drunk or stupid but never both at once.
Never let the client convince you "it’s safe, I do this all the time". If it’s stupid it’s stupid.
On the same note. Remember if we hamper our client’s ability to do their job too much. Our company can get shitcanned. It’s a fine line. Yeah you’re client thinks its cute to drive to some hadji's house at midnite for tea, sometimes you just have to do it.
Learn to deal with all the clients. Some truly think that all Iraqis are great people and that the US Army is the enemy. Some will encourage you to shoot bicyclists who hog the road. I’ve seen both sides. Keep their agenda and ego's in mind. Don’t make your own life miserable.
Aimpoints are great. The EOTEC is Ok. TA31 ACOG is the best by far. The AIMPOINT battery lasts six months. The EOTEC is a little too bright for my taste. Remember that the dot is like 3MOA in size so they aren’t any good past 300 or 400. The Acog is the heat.
Buy short M4's. They will save you’re ass. I carry a 18" upper on me with glass so when we reach our destination I flick it on the lower receiver and I now have a decent long gun. It’s like having two guns to choose from.
If you’re doing Green Zone PSD a mag or two may do you but if you’re in the party zone? TWELVE.
Speaking of which, weapon, twelve mags, pistol, three mags, MEDKIT, GPS, mpa and compass, radio, spare battery, 500US dollars, MRE , water bottle, NVG, armor. It’s a lot. It’s hot but f*** it, if its too heavy get membership at the gym. This job isn’t for everybody.
In your vehicle. Put a US flag on the visor so nobody can see it until you approach a checkpoint, then flip it down. On the passenger side do the same with a VS17 panel. G.I. Joe will shoot your ass just as soon as a Hadji will.
Carry MRE's and water in your car.
NEVER throw food or candy to kids. there are many reasons why. But at the least it encourages kids to jump in front of cars, smashing a kid would ruin your trip here.
If you find yourself trusting the locals its time to take a vacation.
Walk the fine line. Don’t be too conservative and don’t get blown up.
Listen to your intuition. It has saved a guy who is on this mailing list and not listening to it killed a friend a month ago.
Once you make contact ... Finish it. If you shot a guy and he is limping to cover he can still get there and return fire. Just finish everything you start.
A car door is not cover. In fact a car is not cover. Cement is.
While doing the workup for my last deployment we did live fire IADS and movement from vehicles. It was the best training I have done and the most useful. On that note we did many SIMUNITION runs with vehicle ambush scenarios. We found that without a doubt the single most important factor in surviving is getting out and away from the car. Getting behind it as though it was a concrete barrier and playing HEAT will get you killed.
Don’t work for a company that doesn’t vet its IC's. Check their creds, call the references, and put them through a ten day selection course. Just because a guy was a SEAL in Vietnam doesn’t mean he maintained his skills. On that note the best shooter in my training class was Vietnam SEAL. Some of the best guys were 22year old Rangers and the worst 38 year old SEALs. My point it’s the individual that counts.
But we don’t have time or money to bring a regular Army kid up to speed. You have to have the fundamental skill sets. We can’t introduce you to live fire Australian peels. We should just review and coordinate verbal commands and simple shit.
Just because somebody is a good dude isn’t good enough. If he can’t shoot, think, and move - leave him home. Big boy rules.
If a guy doesn’t work out in your crew but has talent and skill send him elsewhere, don’t shitcan him. Personalities clash. Especially when you’re living together 24/7 for six months. Eating every meal together all that. If I hear the same stupid story from a guy forty times? That’s cool. It’s the
41st that’s gonna be drama. You guys know what I’m talking about.
Throwing a flashbang into the team leaders hootch at 3AM while drunk is not a good practical joke.
Remember how much money you’re making. Nobody wants to clean the shitter on a Wednesday morning but keep in mind you're the highest paid janitor in the world that day.
Keep a sense of humor. Keep funny people around, they make shitty situations tolerable and are like Prozac when you need it.
Have thick skin. Your friends will ask for naked pictures of your wife on deployment and yes they may take them to the bathroom with them. Take criticism. If you suck at something ask for training.
Always remember that you were once a young dumbass E1. You made 450 dollars a month and weren’t allowed to fart without a permission chit ran up and down the chain of command. Keep this in mind when you’re bitching because you’re only making17,000 dollars a month when guys at the other company are getting 17,500. And when the bosses back in the states email you to have a clean shave? Do it. you never know when you’re going to be on some stupid newspaper.
The soldiers around us are deployed for a year sometimes more. They make a fraction of the pay. And are ordered to do stupid, dangerous shit everyday. Keep that in mind when you are upset that instead of 60 days you’re extended to 68.
And keep that in mind when dealing with soldiers. Treat them well, nobody else does.
Yes, we all work for ourselves at the end of the day. At the same end, never f*** over your company or teammates who have to stay behind and clean up your mess. Business OPSEC is one thing but always share your info on intel and tactics. We are all Americans and most of us will work together one time or another. Some of the "business secret" stuff is corny. If you hit an IED on ASR Jackson yesterday, email your colleagues to stay away.
That’s it off the top of my head.