Any other dads causing some assembly required?
My kid is loving the toy, so I guess it’s worth it.
Merry Christmas everyone!
In the next three posts, I’ll outline the top things that I learned during combat in 2003. I was part of 1st Marines headed north through Iraq. My unit crossed the border into Iraq the first day of the war and headed north right down the center of the country to draw all of Saddam’s troops into a fight. I was in Golf 2/23 as an infantry mortar man. I fired my rifle a lot more than we fired our mortar systems. My unit was assigned the job of taking Baghdad and nothing else mattered. We were transported in the back of open trucks that we fortified by roping sand bags to the bottom and outsides. We had no armor or artillery attached to us. We were simply a light infantry company whose specialty was urban combat. Here’s what I learned the hard way:
I never remember being out of breath
Despite running and moving a lot, I never remember being out of breath from physical exertion. During training, I remember pushing myself to the level of not being able to breath and thinking I’m going to pass out. During combat I remember running in and out of buildings and getting in and out of the truck. One time stands out more than any other. I remember running from the trucks into position, thinking we were going to be fired upon at any moment. Our Sister Company had taken fire all night and we moved at first light to reinforce them. We got out of our trucks a ways from their position. I remember my entire company moving out at a full run and couldn’t understand it, but security in numbers at that point and me and my mortars section followed at full run. We moved into position and set up in a flurry and then just sat in a courtyard filled with junk waiting to be shot at again. We sat there for over an hour and the Cobra Gun Ships were the only ones that worked. Apparently the enemy saw us coming and ran in a bunch into the open. It didn’t take the helos long to finish them.
We sat there for almost an hour and then moved again. This time only at a trot, but I was carrying close to 160 pounds of gear and weapons and responsible for our security since we were moving through Baghdad with about 20 Marines. Most of them were carrying pieces of the mortar systems and/or mortar rounds. I remember running through a Red Crescent convoy that had been destroyed. A dozen or so vehicles stopped by the side of the road, burned and destroyed and bodies lying beside the vehicles. I didn’t have time to investigate, but it looked like they had been dragged from the vehicles and executed the night before. I remember some Iraqi soldiers in civilian clothing stopping at a gate and watching us, one laughed as I pointed my rifle at him and told him to go away. The movement/run continued for blocks and stretched on for over a mile. More than one of my Marines wasn’t making it and I ended up with two ammo cans of mortar rounds, one in each hand, each contained eight rounds. Each can weighs about 28 pounds the way we had them set up. We continued to run and found friendly forces to link up with. Later I would find out the distance was well over a mile. I have no idea how long it took us but I was carrying over 200 pounds of gear when I crossed the finish line. At the end, I just remember being hungry and needing to set up the guns again. I never remember being winded or physically tired from the run. I do remember thinking I was going to get court martialed for taking food in front of my Captain, even after he had told another Marine to put it back. At the time we were out of food and had been eating one meal a day for the last week and we had just run out of water. I didn’t care what the Captain was going to do to me, my Marines were going to eat. Where I got the food from is another story, but I didn’t steal it from the locals.
Marines that had been with the unit for a while could do anything, new people couldn’t do anything.
It was weird once the war started. All the Marines that had been with the unit couldn’t seem to fail at anything they did. They moved mountains and finished impossible tasks (like the run above). But the new guys (that’s the Marines that weren’t making it) couldn’t seem to get anything done. I remember threatening one of the new guys that I would shoot him again if he fired between the Marines in our vehicle again. He had already turned around several times and put his muzzle between the heads of two Marines to fire on the enemy almost making them deaf.
Every small or big task the new guys seemed to have problems with or fail all together. The Marines that had been with the unit could accomplish anything. I found that unit cohesion was everything. One of the new guys was so afraid he couldn’t function and didn’t work with us. We also wouldn’t let him do anything on his own because of his multiple fails. The other guys could have killed Saddam by themselves if they had been given the right information and/or turned loose. I had to keep them reined in most of the time.
Number 9: Combat is Boring
Doing small unit patrols (I went on patrols as small as 5 Marines) in Tikrit and Baghdad would start out very exciting. I remember one I went on as the navigator with 5 other Marines to look for weapons caches. During the pre-dawn brief and checks, there was an excitement in the air and an optimism that we might actually find Saddam (it was 2003 and hadn’t been found yet). As we stepped off at first light and passed the last Marine check point, I was like a kid on Christmas, trying to stay quiet as I bounded down stairs to the gifts. Looking at my battle buddy, he was the same way and so were the other members of the patrol. The patrol leader was the most excited of us all.
We went down the street and up into the near by neighborhoods. We found a stronghold neighborhood that was surrounded by 10-foot walls, crushed glass, and steel gates. We decided it would be too much noise to get in and with only 6 of us, we weren’t prepared for a big fight, so we decided to let the gates stand. We could see the power lines and communication lines running into the compound. We cut 3-foot sections out of the wires and took the sections with us so they couldn’t just splice the wires back together. After about an hour we were all bored and looking for something to do. The patrol ended after about 4 hours. By the time we got back, I was so bored I wanted a nap. Nothing else happened and we talked to all of one local the entire time we were out. We didn’t say more than 10 words to each other the entire time. Four hours of complete boredom with nothing to show for it. Most patrols and days were just like that. It felt like the movie Ground Hog Day, but I couldn’t change the outcome. It was always the same.
Last week I went to a late movie with a couple of friends. I don’t mind the late show and it’s the only way we can get together because everyone is always busy. We saw the new GI Joe and it was just fun to watch. Coming out, the place was a ghost town. Everything was off except half the lights and I didn’t see any employees, only a couple of other people leaving. Walking out to our cars, there was a group of people standing next to their cars that were parked right next to ours. I couldn’t figure out why they were there or what they were doing, so it put me on alert. I pulled my flashlight out of my pocket and had it in my hand. The parking lot is dark and almost deserted. I think there were about 10 cars scattered around the parking lot.
Nothing bad happened, except for my piss poor planning. Instead of voicing my concerns or thoughts to my friends, I made a sarcastic comment that it was just like the gym. The only two people here and they are right next to us. I was carrying my Glock and a back up. I was glad I put the Glock on at that moment because I was almost lazy and left it at home. As we continued to walk, I moved to the right side of our group of three to better see what was going on and be in a better position if things went south.
I was still trying to figure out what was going on when my friends turned around to shake hands and say good night. I let them take my attention and I shouldn’t have. Now I felt committed to our vehicles because that’s where my friends were going and I wasn’t going to leave them.
We continued on and I was able to get to my vehicle and take a covered position until my friends where able to enter their car and leave. I already had my car running and just jumped in and left.
This turned out really nice. When nothing happens, anything you do works, but would it have worked if things had gone bad? I had cover from my vehicle, but I wasn’t in a place to dominate the fight if one started. I didn’t have a very good view of what was going on if my friends needed help and the people that may have been the threat had their vehicles as cover. I could easily have been pinned down and had to drive away or wait. Not a good place to be in.
When we first came out of the theater, I should have been talking to my friends when I saw the group of people standing near our car. Neither of them is big on self defense but they could have easily seen something I didn’t. Maybe these guys were all there working on a broken car and I just didn’t see the jumper cables. Once we got closer and I couldn’t figure out what was going on, a smart remark is not the way to go. Again, communication is key. If I was with others that are big into self defense, knowing that I mentioned a group is a way to know that I’m watching them. It would have been enough with pros, but these are good guys that I hang out with and aren’t as keyed in as some of us. So my communication just sucked.
After the communication, I should have gotten a count. I just saw a group and then fell back on the military training. It looked like a squad-sized element (or 13 guys). The group was all guys and there were between 6 to 8, I guess. I should have gotten a count. It may or may not help if something really bad happens, but could be good info to have and is easily obtained. If I had taken the second to count, it would have been easy to get.
My last major mistake was feeling committed to the vehicles. I’ve made this mistake in my life in the past and it hasn’t cost me yet (thankfully). But sooner or later it could get me into trouble. Just because I’m headed that direction does not make me committed, it just makes me going that direction. They say no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and it shouldn’t. Your plan to survive should always be fluid along with the direction you are going. Just because we were almost there didn’t make our vehicles the safest place to be. It could have been safer to go past our vehicles and keep going, take a left and go across a row to another row of vehicles, or to turn around and go back to the theater. My mistake was just closing those other options in my mind.
Three things I learned from my non-event; keep your options open, communicate clearly with those around you at their level, and get as much info about the situation as you can going in.
Saturday is Intro to Defensive Pistol. This is a 4-hour course, only $75, is designed for someone that has just started to learn or has never fired a handgun before. We will start with safety, function, and use. Then quickly move onto shooting at different distances. We shoot all steel targets and work in a small class to keep everything fun and safe. The entire point of this class is to learn safety and have fun. By the time someone leaves this class they will easily be able to pass the Texas CHL qualification course and go to the range on their own to practice. Everyone that has taken this course has had a blast! If you know someone that hasn’t shot a handgun before or has done it hardly at all, this is the course for them. They will have a great time and be ready to go to the range with you the next time you go out! Sign up Here.
On Sunday is Beyond Concealed Carry. We will be shooting all day for only $150! This course is designed as an intermediate level course. Even if you haven’t had a formal course before you will enjoy this course. If you have already had a course you will love this extra training. We will have a blast shooting on the move and shooting at steel targets. Most classes are stationary and don’t allow multiple fast shots. We will show you how to make hits faster then ever before and then show you how to shoot while you are moving and make hits. Then you get to practice shooting while moving a lot. This class will either be the class that teaches you how to fight or a great brush up on your skills. Most students learn to fight and have a blast pushing their pistol skills further then they thought possible. Sign up Here!
If you would like to take both we’ll give you a price break of down to only $199! Sign Up Here!