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Mission 28 - Tactical
Ramadi Convoy Exercise

Both the Army and Marines have Combat Service and Support Groups or CSSGs. There are 10 of these guys for every soldier in field. So when you think about how our troops operate, how they engage in battles with seemingly endless resources, in essence, they are. Our troops aren't worried about bullets or food because the Service and Support moves so efficiently to deliver plenty of both to the troops. We simply don't run out. The CSSG are the muscle and the power of our ground combat. It doesn't matter how advanced your technology is or how powerful your men are. If you don't sustain people in the field, you can't do anything.

Convoys are a great prize for the enemy. They can get soldiers, which is good, but more importantly they can get all your stuff. If your troops don't get delivery of the things they need, they won't be able to hold out for long. So convoys are sometimes the target of opportunity, but more often there's a larger win in disabling one.

The troops in a supply line work with limited combat training or support. They have only so many hours in a training day, and the majority of their background is going to be in the protocol of handling whatever the transport is: food, gasoline, weaponry. And they' ll train in navigation. The whole Jessica Lynch thing? Bad navigation. And it can happen to any convoy unit.

Iraq, like America, has a highway system of direct links. Without making specific comparisons that might aid an enemy, let's just say there are a lot of interstates in the US that are used to get from point A to point B because there aren't a lot of other options. So the insurgents can pretty much guess which way our supply units are going to travel and they prey on that.

Traveling in a convoy, you want a lead security element and a flanking security element. There will be HMMWVs up ahead to watch out for potential ambushes and such which is information they'll radio back. But it probably won't be the lead that takes the hit. The enemy will probably wait for a middle vehicle where the high value target most likely is. However, if you're in a tunnel or on a bridge, they'll go for the lead because the first disabled vehicle will block the rest from advancing.

If the enemy can manage to stop the whole convoy, it's a lot easier to get to the high value target. If you're in the wide open like in the desert, it might be very easy to form a new convoy and just speed through. Hopefully you have adequate combat power to get to your people and get out of dodge. It's trickier if you're on a bridge.

Ahead of time, you have to coordinate what the protocol is if the lead vehicle is hit. The decision might be that you all turn around simultaneously and backtrack. It could be that you all slam it in reverse. Backtracking takes technical proficiency. It takes extreme coordination to extricate from a kill zone. Whatever the call is, you need a standard operating procedure that changes constantly because the enemy can adapt. So the evacuation plan is randomly shuffled so the insurgents can't capitalize on the regularity of your response. Our troops cannot be predictable, even against a primitive enemy.

Iraq's a place where war has been going on forever. And when you've had decades of embattlement, there's a lot of weaponry lying around. These guys can make a bomb out of anything. In Vietnam, the Vietcong were making IEDs too. They'd take the primers out of rounds and put them into a 155 shell casings to build what was called "boot-buster" rounds. The IED would point upward and when you stepped on it, boom. It's what the enemy resorts to when he can't challenge us face-to-face, but he knows the terrain.

For the enemy, it's much more effective to destroy equipment, wound troops, and disrupt the supply run than it is to just kill a few guys. IEDs maim a lot of people and leave a lot of witnesses who go on to tell the story. The insurgents hope for morale negativity. IEDs are a force multiplier. They take the fight out of 50 men by killing just one. They let you know no one is exempt. And the insurgents just love that. Remember, these people have been ruled by a government based on intimidation and fear and violence, shows of brut force and strength. So the IED is the perfect outgrowth of their philosophy.

From an interview with US Army Staff Sergeant Dan Snyder


Ramadi Convoy Exercise

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