Herding Marines

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Apparently the Taliban rank-and-file can’t shoot straight, because they rely on spray and pray automatic fire — almost literally, Inshallah — but they are crafty, Marine Captain Grace explains:

We operated the entire deployment, on every patrol, in the horns of a dilemma. Insurgent forces would engage our forces from a distance with machine-gun fire and sporadic small arms and carefully watch our immediate actions. From day one, at the sound of the sonic pop of the round, Marines are taught to seek immediate cover and identify the source/location of the fire. Cover is almost always available in Afghanistan in the form or dirt berms, dry/filled canals and buildings. Marines tend to gravitate toward the aforementioned terrain features.

So what the insurgents would do was booby-trap those areas with I.E.D.s. Whether they were pressure plates or pressure release, they were primed to detonate as Marines dove for cover. Back to the horns of a dilemma. Do I jump for the nearest cover? Run to the nearest building? Jump in the nearest canal? Do I take my chances and stand where I am and drop in place? Not necessarily the things you need to be contemplating as rounds are impacting all around you.

A commenter named Jeff adds some history — and a wee bit of game theory:

During WW-2 our airborne troops on patrol would never go for cover or stay in place but would quickly rush any attacking force counting on fear and the resulting poor marksmanship of their adversaries; not being elite troops in most cases, to gain the advantage and quickly force them to retreat or face annihilation. Of course in most cases the paratroopers were not facing prepared ambushes, but even facing dug in troops immediate almost reflexive frontal and flanking assaults proved to be very effective because it would mentally unhinge the adversary.

No doubt our commanders should mix up their responses to Taliban attacks. If they encounter Taliban on our terms our troops should be more aggressive using rapid assaults to close and overwhelm the enemy and then destroy their retreat with accurate fire. If we encounter the Taliban on their terms we should vary our response from digging in ( a system can be set up where some soldiers dig while others shot suppressing fire, and digging just enough so they feel less exposed), or getting prone, to retreating and regrouping rather than taking cover in places the Taliban can predict and mine.

I suppose it complicates things that our modern Marines have better long-range weapons than the Taliban, but our WWII airborne troops likely would have had worse long-range weapons than the Germans. But sometimes even a bayonet charge works, with enough élan.

Leave a Reply