3 years, 2 months ago
This will be a little different than some articles, a throwback to my military blogging, and very frank. It will likely offend some people, and since it comes straight from a former enlisted Marine, there is slight language warning.
I should say up front that I like for the comments to be free flowing where readers can disagree with my views (respectfully, of course). But in this instance I would offer up the following guidelines. First, stick to the point of the article. The article isn’t about the justification or lack thereof for OEF, OIF, or any other campaign or operation. The article isn’t about politics. Second, there will be no disparaging comments about Navy SEALs, the U.S. Marine Corps, or my son Daniel (whose assessment this is). I will spam all such comments. Finally, if you make comments about the “military-industrial complex,” I will laugh at you as I spam your comment.
This article is about tactics, plain and simple. Nothing more, nothing less. It will be frank, open, and honest. Nothing herein is construed to malign the bravery and exploits of anyone in any operation, anywhere, at any time. It comes from a former enlisted Marine, so take it for what it’s worth – a former enlisted Marine’s view of Operation Red Wings. With that said, I’ll now offer up my son Daniel’s comments regarding the movie Lone Survivor, knowing the story beforehand, but commenting to me after having seen the movie.
“This operation should never have come off the way it did. The Marines don’t take chances. I saw a room full of Navy SEALs sitting on their assess back at the FOB doing nothing but monitoring comms. If you set four SEALs down by helicopter, you could have set an entire platoon down. There was no reason to limit the recon team to four.”
“I was on a recon mission in Fallujah, and we had an entire platoon. We were monitoring a mosque for anti-American messaging, and we were beside a building (abandoned school) that AQ was using to execute leaders of Fallujah. We were watching the mosque and someone came over comms and said, “Um guys, there are dudes with masks on that just got out of cars with some other dude who had a hood on.” We started watching them, and sure enough, they were AQ getting reading to execute another elder. We laid waste to them because we had a platoon, not a four man fire team. Even when doing recon, we have enough men. We escorted snipers to their two- or three-day post, and then escorted them back. We didn’t want our Scout Snipers getting killed on the way to or from their post.”
“Alternatively, since you knew comms was going to be bad on the other side of that mountain, you could have set down another team of four SEALs on top of the mountain or near it, who could have then relayed comms to the FOB from the recon team. We did stuff like that all the time. There was no excuse to have sent a team of four. And there was no excuse to have poor comms when you knew you were going to have poor comms.”
“Another example showing that they didn’t think ahead and plan for the worst is …” (and at that point I interjected, “Why wasn’t anyone carrying …”) a SAW (Daniel said)? ‘Yes’, I responded. “The fact that they had suppressed, scoped weapons shows that they were not prepared to lay down suppressive fire. They hadn’t planned for the worst. Marines plan for the worst.”
“Furthermore, they were laying around when the goat herders stumbled up. If it had been my fire team, I would have said “never stop moving, but if you do, then we’re going to dig in and act like we’re going to defend this terrain to the death.” We would have dug in in such a manner that we had interlocking fields of fire, all built around a SAW where we could have done fire and maneuver.”
“Next, about that conversation they had concerning the goat herders. I would have ended it in a hurry. I would have popped both goat herders and then popped all of the goats. They could charge me later, but in the mean time the operation was compromised and it was time to leave.” (Editorial note: Comments at this article dream up scenarios where they could have taken the “prisoners” with them and avoided all of the problems. It’s all a day dream. Attempting to take the goat herders to the top of the mountain would have slowed them and left them in the same situation, as well as told the goat herders that they were unwilling to shoot them, at which point the goat herders would have done the same thing, run down the mountain and tell the Taliban commanders).
He said that they badly underestimated the capabilities of the Afghan fighters. Those folks were born there, and their lungs are acclimated to the thin air. Given the weight of the kit they were hauling, it was foolish to think that they could have beaten indigenous men up to the top of the mountain when those men were wearing thin man-dresses and carrying nothing but an AK-47 and a couple of magazines.
I asked Daniel what the worst case was if an entire platoon of SEALs would have deployed instead of the four man recon team and the Taliban commander wasn’t in the village, and he said “So what? Take some MREs with you, go into the village, drink chai with the elders, win a little hearts and minds, and get some intel. Do counterinsurgency, something the SEALs think they’re too good to do.”
As for the loss of the QRF, Daniel was just livid. The notion that the QRF lost its CAS to other missions or emergent problems is simply ridiculous. Losing the Apache helicopters meant exactly one thing. They lost the QRF. Period. If they weren’t dedicated resources, then they never really had a QRF to begin with. And there was no reason that the C-130s shouldn’t have been refueled and circling above-head the entire time. They dropped the four man team out there without the right support, without the right weapons (no area suppression weapon), without good comms, and finally, without applying classical infantry tactics.
“I’ve seen it before. The CO didn’t want to hear about problems because they’re all playing the ‘my dick is bigger than your dick’ game. They sent a SEAL team to do what they should have sent classical infantry to do. They should have sent in a Marine Corps infantry platoon, or if you want to go all spec ops, send in Marine Force Recon.
“Or if you don’t want it to be a Marine Corps operation, send in the Rangers. I understand that SEALs are pretty bad ass. If you have complex HALO jumps and frogman operations, or hostage rescue, they are the guys to call. But they don’t do classic infantry fire and maneuver, and that’s what was needed that day. The Rangers are pretty bad ass too. Send them in. They know how to do fire and maneuver, set up interlocking fields of fire, develop enfilade fire, and so on.”
“I patrolled with SEALs once in Fallujah when they were looking for a HVT. They have this attitude that ‘We’re SEALs. We don’t need anyone or anything else.’ But that day they did. They needed infantry, and command should have sent in enough men to prepare for the worst. They took chances, and good men died as a result.”