10 years, 5 months ago
Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” III.26: “He who understands how to use both large and small forces will be victorious.” Tu Yu comments, “There are circumstances in war when many cannot attack few, and others when the weak can master the strong.”
Courtesy of New York Times: Sgt. Jesse E. Leach of the Marines assisted Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo, who was shot by a sniper in the town of Karma. He survived.
The insurgents in Iraq for some time had relied on stand-off weapons to do their warfare (i.e., IEDs). With the influx of the more well-trained al-Qaeda fighters across the Syrian and Jordanian borders, these tactics have given way to guerrilla tactics. Every stand-up battle in which the insurgents engage the U.S. troops involves a loss for the insurgents, sometimes significant. It has taken time for the evolution to occur, but the change to asymmetric warfare seems to be about complete.
On June 21, 2006, Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Whyte died from sniper fire in the streets of Ramadi. On September 26, 2006, Marine PFC Christopher T. Riviere died in the Anbar Province from sniper fire while wearing full body armor. On October 8, 2006, Marine Captain Robert Secher died from sniper fire. On October 22, 2006, Specialists Nathaniel Aguirre and Matthew Creed, US Army, died from sniper fire while on foot patrol in Baghdad (see also a North County Times article on Creed). There is no shortage of personal stories on fatalities from sniper fire, but stepping back from the personal to the statistical, there is no question that sniper attacks have increased in both frequency and lethality.
Sniper attacks on U.S. troops have risen dramatically as more Americans have been pulled into the capital to patrol on foot and in lightly armored vehicles amid raging religious violence. Sniper attacks, generally defined as one or two well-aimed shots from a distance, have totaled 36 so far this month in Baghdad, according to U.S. military statistics.
That’s up from 23 such attacks in September and 11 in January.
The figures were confirmed by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. “The total numbers are elevated, and the effectiveness has been greater,” he said.
At least eight of the 36 sniper attacks in Baghdad in October have been fatal, according to accounts by hometown newspapers reporting on the deaths of individual soldiers and Marines. Snipers have also killed four U.S. servicemembers in Anbar province this month.
The picture above visually conveys the story of the sniper attack that wounded Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo.
The bullet passed through Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo as his Marine patrol moved down a muddy urban lane. It was a single shot. The lance corporal fell against a wall, tried to stand and fell again.
His squad leader, Sgt. Jesse E. Leach, faced where the shot had come from, raised his rifle and grenade launcher and quickly stepped between the sniper and the bloodied marine. He walked backward, scanning, ready to fire.
Shielding the marine with his own thick body, he grabbed the corporal by a strap and dragged him across a muddy road to a line of tall reeds, where they were concealed. He put down his weapon, shouted orders and cut open the lance corporal’s uniform, exposing a bubbling wound.
Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo, shot through the right arm and torso, was saved. But the patrol was temporarily stuck. The marines were engaged in the task of calling for a casualty evacuation while staring down their barrels at dozens of windows that faced them, as if waiting for a ghost’s next move.
This sequence on Tuesday here in Anbar Province captured in a matter of seconds an expanding threat in the war in Iraq. In recent months, military officers and enlisted marines say, the insurgents have been using snipers more frequently and with greater effect, disrupting the military’s operations and fueling a climate of frustration and quiet rage.
The New York Times article goes on to say that “across Iraq, the threat has become serious enough that in late October the military held an internal conference about it, sharing the experiences of combat troops and discussing tactics to counter it. There has been no ready fix. The battalion commander of Sergeant Leach’s unit — the Second Battalion, Eighth Marines — recalled eight sniper hits on his marines in three months and said there had been other possible incidents as well. Two of the battalion’s five fatalities have come from snipers, he said, and one marine is in a coma. Another marine gravely wounded by a sniper has suffered a stroke.”
I have covered the weaknesses in the Interceptor body armor system with its gaps in protection along the lateral torso. The insurgent snipers have become quite sophisticated in their tactics. They have become disciplined shots, as this chilling quote by elements of the Second Battalion, Eighth Marines indicates: “Most of the time, the marines said, the snipers aim for their heads, necks and armpits, displaying knowledge of gaps in their protective gear.