Infantry Belongs on Foot, Sir!

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

In the summer of 2005, fourteen Marines were tragically lost near Haditha while being transported in an Amphibious Assault Vehicle.  Soon after this event I had the opportunity to discuss it with a seasoned Marine Staff Sergeant, and I complained vigorously about the idea of running an Amphibious Assault Vehicle down a desert road in Iraq.  It lacked the armor for its mission, it wasn’t designed to do what was being demanded of it, and it is particularly susceptible to ordnance from the side (here is a picture of what this vehicle looked like after the IED attack).  The seasoned Sergeant waited patiently until I was finished and said, “Infantry belongs on foot, sir!”

The Strategy Page has an analysis of infantry, IEDs and travel on foot.

June 21, 2007:  Roadside bombs in Iraq now cause over 70 percent of the U.S. casualties. Moreover, most of the bomb casualties  now are combat troops, not the guys and gals who run the supply convoys up from Kuwait, and to dozens of bases in Iraq. Those routes are close watched and well patrolled. The danger comes when combat troops move into a n new area and have to patrol a lot of roads that are not closely watched for people setting up bombs. Not only are there more bombs to be encountered in these areas, but the troops naturally spend more time looking for them as they drive around on patrol. They should be looking for the bad guys and suspicious activity, but self-defense must come first.

To lower the bomb threat, many infantry commanders are resorting to an ancient practice; walking. This eliminates nearly all contact with roadside bombs. Troops can’t always accomplish their missions on foot, but many jobs can be done that way. If a raid is on a location a kilometer or so from the base, walking is no problem. Many such raids are usually carried out early in the morning, in order to take the suspects by surprise. Going in by foot in these situations is not a problem.

Another major activity, patrolling, is usually done in the vicinity of the base. You can see a lot more on foot, and have more opportunities to get information from the locals (who are increasingly willing to give it.) Even with all the heat, the troops appreciate the opportunity to amble about. Normally, the only work done on foot is frantic scrambling in combat, after dismounting from an armored vehicle. But whether the troops like to hike cross country or not, they all quickly come to appreciate the decline in roadside bomb casualties, or the anxiety that one may be just down the road.

This is the reason that Marines train to “hump” twenty miles at a time with full gear.  In an area the size of Fallujah, there isn’t any reason that foot transport cannot carry them from one side of the city to the other (and even South into the Euphrates River valley area).  Of course, heavy battlefield weight becomes a significant concern, an issue we have discussed in Body Armor Wars: The Way Forward, and Body Armor Goes Political.  Battlefield weight must be reduced, an important aim of next generation technology for the warrior.

**** UPDATE ****

A few hours after I published this article, the L.A. Times published an extensive article on EFPs, walking and infantry.

U.S. troops working the streets of the capital fear one Iraqi weapon more than others — a copper-plated explosive that can penetrate armor and has proved devastating to Humvees and even capable of severely damaging tanks.

The power of what the military calls an EFP — for explosively formed penetrator, or projectile — to spray molten metal balls that punch through the armor on vehicles has some American troops rethinking their tactics. They are asking whether the U.S. should give up its reliance on making constant improvements to vehicle defenses.

Instead, these troops think, it is time to leave the armor behind — and get out and walk.

“In our area, the biggest threat for us is EFPs. When you are in the vehicles, you are a big target,” said Army Staff Sgt. Cavin Moskwa, 33, of Hawaii, who patrols Baghdad’s Zafraniya neighborhood with the Bravo Battery of the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment. “But when you are dismounted … you are a lot safer.”

In the last three days, 15 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, nine of them in two powerful roadside bomb blasts. The military does not publicly identify the kind of weapon used in improvised explosive attacks, but the deadly nature of the blasts Wednesday and Thursday suggested that EFPs may have been used.

Read the entire article by the L.A. Times.




You are currently reading "Infantry Belongs on Foot, Sir!", entry #526 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Marine Corps,Military Equipment and was published June 22nd, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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