10 Nov 2005

REPORT FROM A MARINE IN IRAQ

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Posted on FREE REPUBLIC by Infantry Marine, who asks that it be passed along:

Hello to all my fellow gunners, military buffs, veterans and interested guys. A couple of weekends ago I got to spend time with my son Jordan, who was on his first leave since returning from Iraq. He is well (a little thin), and already bored. He will be returning to Iraq for a second tour in early ’06 and has already re-enlisted early for 4 more years. He loves the Marine Corps and is actually looking forward to returning to Iraq.

Jordan spent 7 months at “Camp Blue Diamond” in Ramadi. Aka: Fort Apache. He saw and did a lot and the following is what he told me about weapons, equipment, tactics and other miscellaneous info which may be of interest to you. Nothing is by any means classified. No politics here, just a Marine with a bird’s eye view’s opinions:

1) The M-16 rifle : Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Jordan says you feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M-4 carbine version is more popular because it’s lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. They like the ability to mount the various optical gunsights and weapons lights on the Picatinny rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinderblock structure common over there and even torso hits cant be reliably counted on to put the enemy down. Fun fact: Random autopsies on dead insurgents shows a high level of opiate use.

2) The M243 (sic: should be 249, possible error caused by OCR? -JDZ) SAW (squad assault weapon): .223 cal. Drum fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of shit. Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly. (that’s fun in the middle of a firefight).

3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm: Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

4) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect.

5) The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 NATO (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!!). Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts ’em down. Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there.

6) The M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. “Ma deuce” is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper, puts them in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.

7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol round out there.

Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on one. With few exceptions, can reliably be expected to put ’em down with a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old government model .45’s are being re-issued en masse.

8) The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.

9) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Frequently used to take out vehicle suicide bombers (we actually stop a lot of them) & barricaded enemy. Definitely here to stay.

10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300 win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700’s. Great performance. Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it that a marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos Hathcock’s record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.

11) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approx. 6 lbs. and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as shit to wear, almost unbearable in the summer heat (which averages over 120 degrees). Also, the enemy now goes for head shots whenever possible. All the BS about the “old” body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IED’s was a non-starter. The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn’t make any difference at all in most cases.

12) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. We’ve all seen the videos.

13) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal lights are Surefire’s, and the troops love ’em. Invaluable for night urban operations. Jordan carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved it. I cant help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and ordnance are 50 or more years old!!! With all our technology, it’s the WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants!!! The infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given or shown.

Bad guy weapons:

1) Mostly AK47’s . The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in the desert than the M16 and the .308 Russian round kills reliably. PKM belt fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the enemy mostly shoots like shit. Undisciplined “spray and pray” type fire. However, they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially sniper rifles. (Iran, again) Fun fact: Captured enemy have apparently marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their lack of toughness. Let’s just say they know better now.

2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys. Simple, reliable & as common as dogshit. The enemy responded to our up-armored Humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank range. Still killing a lot of our guys.

3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found in Jordan’s area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take 2 or 3 155mm artillery shells and wire them together. Most were detonated by cell phone, and the explosions are enormous. You’re not safe in any vehicle, even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated “shape charges” (Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the ready made IED’s are supplied by Iran, who is also providing terrorists (Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics. That’s why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment methods are ingenious, the latest being shape charges in Styrofoam containers spray painted to look like the cinderblocks that litter all Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.

4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The Soviet era 122mm rockets (with an 18km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of Jordan’s NCO’s lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage “inside the wire”. Jordan’s base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and cause fatigue (It did). More of a psychological weapon than anything else. The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and then haul ass in a matter of seconds.

5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and “Google earth” for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.

Who are the bad guys?:

Most of the carnage is caused by the Zarqawi Al Qaeda group. They operate mostly in Anbar province (Fallujah and Ramadi). These are mostly “foreigners”, non-Iraqi Sunni Arab Jihadists from all over the Muslim world (and Europe). Most enter Iraq through Syria (with, of course, the knowledge and complicity of the Syrian govt.) , and then travel down the “rat line” which is the trail of towns along the Euphrates River that we’ve been hitting hard for the last few months. Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in “sacrifice squads”. Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian), are supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. (they have been fighting the Russians for years). In the Baghdad area and south, most of the insurgents are Iranian inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shi’a have been very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local govts, the police forces and the Army. The have had a massive spy and agitator network there since the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80’s. Most of the Saddam loyalists were killed, captured or gave up long ago.

Bad Guy Tactics:

When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their asses kicked every time. Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing AKs and RPGs directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time. ( see the M2 and M240 above). Jordan’s base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that’s the end of that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeo’s (Allah’s Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to a science. The fast movers, mostly Marine F-18’s, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly, artillery is hardly used at all. The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why we’re seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber s***.

The new strategy is simple: attrition.

The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and (especially) Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi govt. Kidnapping of family members (especially children) is common to influence people they are trying to influence but cant reach, such as local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.). The first thing our guys are told is “don’t get captured”. They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet. Zarqawi openly offers bounties for anyone who brings him a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don’t give a shit about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to Zarqawi. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option.

The Iraqis are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren’t worth a s***. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawi’s use of suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious tactical mistake. Many Iraqi’s were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Iraqi’s are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians. The Kurds are solidly pro-American and fearless fighters.

According to Jordan, morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see shit like “Are we losing in Iraq” on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren’t enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just can’t stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally (with, of course, permanent US bases there).

Anyway guys, that’s it, hope you found it interesting, I sure did.

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24 Feedbacks on "REPORT FROM A MARINE IN IRAQ"

Tom T

This confirms again what I’ve known for a long time; you don’t defend yourself against hopped-up Islamofacists with a cartridge, .223 , that you wouldn’t trust to bring down a white-tail deer. The M-14 in .308!



Administrator

I agree. The .223 is really the old .222 Remington, a popular ground hog cartridge, adapted for military use. Lighter cartridge weight (so you can carry more rounds), and less recoil are attractive goals, but the WWII era of advancing tanks protected by close infantry support, resulting in short-range fire fights is not the only possible military situation. The rule of thumb you mention, that if you wouldn’t want to use the catridge on a white-tailed deer, you wouldn’t want to use it on a man, is dead right.

I consider the choice of 9mm Parabellum over the old and reliable .45 ACP even more wrong-headed. The Model 1911 remains the most popular civilian defense, and competitive shooting choice. It wasn’t broke, and they should not have tried to fix it.



thomas

Agree 100%, the .45 was adopted because of the poor penetration of the .38 revolver round against muslim rebel in the Philippines islands. The .223 is a varmit round, just not enough for the human variety.



Spade

There’s a lot of crap in that article. Example: How the hell does one use Google Earth to mark American positions? It’s not like any of those pics are new.



DEG

What you call crap may come as a result of slight confusion and/or second hand information. Google Earth gives the specific coordinates of known locations where our troops are stationed (Saddams Palaces, airports, etc). This combined with a GPS unit can walk you through a pre-planned route that limits exposure. While they are not live images, they are extremely useful in pre-planning and are actually very similar to what law enforcement uses stateside to pre-plan warrants/raids. Overall this is a very good article and indicative of how many of my friends feel that have been in Iraq. As far as the weapons, “never attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a 4” is always appropriate and a .223 is too small for anything much larger than a woodchuck.



Robert

There are a couple of exceptions to the “never attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a 4” rule, although the spirit of the rule is praiseworthy. To be rigorous about it, 5 is also a good number, as is 10 (i.e., millimeters).

Couldn’t agree more on the 5.56 vs. 7.62 controversy. Hell, I think it was a mistake to move to the 7.62 (or .308) instead of the .30-06, although standardization did make sense back in the days when we might have had to face down the Red Army, and we actually had allies on the European continent (in addition to the blessed Brits) to help.

There is, of course, another way to close the borders with Iran & Syria that makes more sense than feeding our kids into the meatgrinder. Go get them where they come from. Close the border alright, just do it from the other side and get it over with.

And do it “with prejudice”. Any culture that kills civilians with abandon, that turns children and women into bombs, should be forced into a little constructive self criticism.



Never Yet Melted » Another Letter from a Marine in Iraq

[…] Last year’s Letter from a Marine in Iraq. (Different guy.) […]



careermilitary

I absolutely loved it! I’m a retired, 18 year Army, 5 year Air Force man now working DoD as a contractor. I’ve never had the experience you have, just spent what time of my life I could supporting where ever needed. So it’s wonderful to read such things.

BTW, can’t we sell some of those reporters so they can be a part of the real world they misrepresent? ;-)

Hoahh!



billyray

good to know sitrep from those who’ve been there in the sand box. don’t forget the little 22. great weapon!. not to get on anyone , however it is the man who knows his weapon best that will fare better.



Sean Rostand

This is a remarkably clear and concise assessment of our situation over there. If your son was able to provide this to you, I’d like to think our leaders have access to the same clarity of info. Unfortunately, as an intel vet from the Mideast mess of the 80s, I can assure you they don’t. Or if they do, they’re too locked into their own agenda to care. Consider sending this report to John McCain. He might be able to bring this to the American public. You’re certainly right about one thing: if our troops have high morale and believe they’re winning in Iraq, the press is hiding that well.



Observer

This account has been repeated on numerous websites, an indication of other’s belief in it’s importance.

Wouldn’t be wonderful if other accounts couldn’t be shared?



Browning .50 cal M2 "Ma Deuce" - American Light Weapons

[…] ultimate fight stopper, puts them in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater. Never Yet Melted REPORT FROM A MARINE IN IRAQ Caliber: .50BMG (12.7x99mm) Weight: 38 kg MG, 58 kg complete with M3 tripod Length: 1650 mm […]



Brian

Hey thanks for the interesting read , and thank you for making him (your son) and him for serving our nation . I was an FDNY fireman and was at the World trade center after the attack so i really appreciate what our forces are doing . Id love to loan out some of my stuff for testing to our guys and girls over there . Safe return to all !



Cassidy

Thanks for the info from one grunt to the next.



tony

good to hear the truth. sure dont get it from cnn or the bbc. god bless the USMC



chung400ramair

i am an oldie from nam era. thank you for enlightment from the boot straps. i among many am proud as H_ _L of these young and brave americans. the troubles over there will never reallly end, it has not for oveer 2,000 years. more S- – T WILL happen according to the biblical projections. may you boys enjoy a retirement back in the USA soon! cause at a future point others will indeed take up the batom of FREEDOM for all wheter they can get around their prejudices of AMERICANs. we are not perfect but by god we do try to balance evil. semper fi!



lilbear68

former viet nam vet here, ive never had a doubt of our troops and what they do or how but once again i think this will be another war that the politicians wont let us win.
i just wish we were off a war footing for about 20 yrs, to take care of home work



The Old Ranger

One of the most informative articles I’ve read. Thank God for people like you and your son!



Battle Tested | Simple Survival Skills

[…] found this at NeverYetMelted.com stop by and check out all their posts they have some good stuff […]



will

It is my understanding that the adopting of the 9mm was something of a political move. Mainly because it moved to the standard nato round (9mm) which is a poor reason to do anything. The types of ammo used also have an effect. good ammo like hydrashock or talon that could make the 9mm a viable weapon (I trained with it in the army but never used it in combat) which would be effective against unarmored targets are to expensive to issue en masse. I think another reason for the adoption of a smaller round is the theory that smaller people (especially women, who make up a large percentage of support personel) have trouble with large caliber weapons. I call bulls**t on that having seen young girls able to handle a .45 no problem. So rather than switching to a weapon that uses smaller (and holds more) rounds, better training should be implemented. Also, the pistol has a major psychological impact on iraquis, I guess because Saddam used it for executions.



USMA Cadet

I’m finishing my second year as a cadet at the United States Military Academy. Although I haven’t been deployed, I have had training on all of the U.S. weapons systems mentioned in the above article with the exception of the sniper rifle’s. Several errors in the article make me question its authenticity. The Army’s designation for the SAW is M249, not M243. A brief internet search did not yield any reliable results for a light machine gun with the designation M243. As far as I know, the Marines use the same nomenclature for the SAW as the Army. Additionally, I don’t know of any body armor that weighs 6 lbs and can stop a 7.62X39 mm rifle round. At West Point I’m issued Interceptor body armor for training and it weighs about 8 lbs without ballistic plates. The plain vest is only tested to stop up to a 9mm pistol round. Only with inserted plates will Interceptor armor reliably protect against AK-47 rounds. I hope this information is helpful. I encourage anyone interested in these weapons to do additional research before deciding which systems are reliable.



JDZ

You’re obviously right about the M243. Thanks for the correction. My guess is that, back then, somebody must have OCR’d the original letter into a PC and the 9 came out as a 3.



J. Allen

The millitary must stick to hardball ammo.. The Genivea conventions outlaws the use of any hollowpoint, frangible or otherwise modified ammo.. I wish we could use some Winchester jhp’s



michael

In 2010-2011 in Sangin Valley, Helmand provience, Afghanistan we used all these weapons and some more… most of what is said in here is true… M2’s are fucking awesome but not that many over there with us, cause they were mostly mounted. And the only time i was ever mounted was for casualties and we had to do QRF. M240B are were the money is at, you can take them on foot all day for a week. and still gun fight with them everyday.. If your MG team is legit they will save your life just like they did mine.. Snipers were attached to us and were used mainly as assault snipers, I.E… walked everywhere with us and when someone way out there needed to die they reached out and touched them.. IED’s are no joke, those things changed everyones life even if you didn’t get hit by one. I’m still looking for them in the ground back in the states. I’ve been directly on top of several of them until i found them.. other then that they were everywhere.. and i mean everywhere! Enemy has a lot of weapons not listed in here.. to start, ak47 W/ 30mm grenade launcher, PKM’s, RPK’s, DShK, RPG’s, Mosin Nagant, Enfields, Draganov SVD’s, various random shotguns and handguns.. IED’s range from everything… i could sit here all day and tell you about different ones i found.. i was point man for my squad and saved lives by finding those things.. they consist of main charge, battery source, initiating system(blasting cap), and a pressure plate.. most, if not all, of the ones we had in sangin used carbon rods in the pressure plates, so we could not find them with vallons.. they were anywhere from 5-40lbs of HME(home made explosive) and either snapped your legs, took one leg off, or completely blew your lower half off depending on how big it was.. the enemy is horrible at shooting and tactics.. towards the end they got better at maneuvering on us and it caused us to just move to contact.. but they still suck at shooting.. when they shot at us we unloaded everything we had within the first five minutes to see if they really wanted to play… sometimes they would stay fight and by then fixed and rotary wing would be fucking them from the sky.. i have so much i could say, but I’m done typing now.. i probably left out a lot thats useful but this is it for now.. one saved round, MK32’s (MGL) are the shit, basically instance IDF on target.. your not requesting mortars that come 5 minutes to late or not at all.. –peace



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