Friday, January 9, 2009

American Infantry needs to change

As a military buff I have greatly benefitted from the study of the Rhodesian bush war. Rather than get into the politics of it, which are horrendous and a black mark on Jimmy Carter and his ineptitude, the tactics and proficiency of the Rhodesian soldier is what we need in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not since the days of ww 2 have we really operated on a conventional model of warefare. Desert Storm might be the exception but very few regimes are willing to have their army slaughtered. So we come to guerilla warefare. Fighting teenagers with an AK moving like jackrabbits and seemingly overcoming and harassing full scale high tech warriors.

The Rhodesian Light infantry, Selous Scouts in particular and the RAR were seriously outnumbered. They relied not on body armour or million dollar gadgets but bush craft and mobility. Their fire force operations were fast , agile, and deadly. Armed with grenades a FN FAL or sometimes AK's they hunted down the terrorists by movement and cunning. Out fighting the guerilla by better guerilla warefare.

The Selous Scouts, the craftiest of all, even went so far as to operate as psuedo terrorists. Using the language weapons , etc of their enemy. They accounted for the highest proportion of kills by their hunting down and stalking of the enemy.

Today, the US is encumbered by 60-80 pounds of gear, more possibly if you run a SAW and operate in 12 man teams. Grouped together making open security patrols , shaking hands, they become sitting ducks. Their basically trying to fight and hunt on foot carrying another person around on their body. They are unable to fire and manuever against an enemy who fires, breaks and moves. They cant hunt.

We have tried to solve this by producing more armor for our troops. No Marine leaves the wire without helmet, flak jacket, front/back SAPI (Small Arms Protective Inserts) plates, side SAPI's, gloves and eye protection. All of this on top of the infantry man's already enormous load. The Personal Protective Gear (PPE) Marines wear, alone weighs about 40 pounds. His armaments and accessories add more weight to his load.
The average Marine Rifleman carries an M16, 180 rounds, 2 hand grenades, Night Vision Goggles (NVG's), PEQ2, ACOG, bayonet, and enough water to last the patrol, typically 1-1.5 gallons for a four hour patrol. The average Fire Team Leader carries all of this plus a M203 grenade launcher and 6-9 40mm grenades. A typical SAW gunner carries the M249 SAW, 400 rounds, a spare barrel (which he will never change), a Kabar knife, his NVG's, one set for his weapon & one set for his Kevlar, and water. A squad Radio Operator carries a rifleman's load plus a radio, sometimes two radios, and spare batteries. The Marine with an AT-4 or LAAW rocket carries the same as a rifleman plus his rocket. And distributed throughout the squad are pyrotechnics for signaling and Escalation of Force procedures. The average Marine's combat load is well over 60 pounds. An average squad radio operator's load is over 70 pounds. And the average SAW gunner carries over 80 pounds in gear. "

One of the principles in patrols is dont bunch up and cover as much ground as possible. How can you do that on a 4 hour patrol and hope to engage the hunt when your main issue is staying ready to move and drag around this stuff ?

The Rhodesians for years adapted to the elements by wearing lighter shoes, t=shirts and even shorts till the final year of the war. Just as flushing a section of brush when a group of hunters want to score a deer, they move at a skirmish line and push the target into the stop group. Its hard to run down a terr when you are loaded down. Hence, straight up fire fights are rare and we are being beaten by IED's.

What is the answer ?