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Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)


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the most our pl was ever able to dismount with for any tic, was 17 pers, including pl and pl wo, crew served weapons in a fast moving tic dont work, did not work

m203's were invaluable, as were c-9's, mass use of grenades was adopted as our room clearing technique

things moved to fast for firebases and crewed weapons
bds -- did you guys get Concussion (i.e. Offensive Blast) Grenades?  They tend to work better than frag for Afghan housing/compounds - and still kill dead.

  *Dont confuse DD's with Conc Grenades...

We never got any concussion grenades, just lots of the new C13 version of the M67 frag.
like jay said, c-13, only one dud out of roughly 100 thrown by our pl in contact, depending on the size of the room, and furnishings, they just messed up/irritated timmy a bit, so we rarely threw just one, and quite often we would get a lav3 up to push the wall in so we didnt have to go in the door, didnt happen everytime, but a fair bit 'lav mouseholing' was done especially between major compounds

keep in mind this is what my platoon did, every pl did something a bit different, and had varied results, all of which worked in its own way

the days of full sections in the fight is over, vehicles need crews, leave plans, and of course the wounded add up,

we fought with 4 man stacks per section for most of our tics ( yes its troops in contact, the yanks think 'firefight is SOoo 1990's ) and it worked out ok

tic's in these environments are all about flanking the other guy, and timmy loves to flank, he is aggresive and fast and will search out your flank unless you do it to him first,

the average tic had a few guys holding good ground, while everyone else went hard to the flanks to get around timmy, and if the lav's were up close (and they usually were ) we would suppress timmy until the lav saw our splash ( m203 was crucial here ) and then would pour on the 25 till the enemy would squirt (run) or die in place, generally 50-50 of each, comms were almost all hand signals or yelling, the pl would be on the radio calling in cas or arty, thankfully my pl was great at this and it was big help, the pl in the modern fight does very little directing, basically keeps an overall picture of what his sections are doing/going and coordinates with higher, at the section level my only concerns were not to overextend or get cutoff, and that usually isnt a problem because most of the time you set the pace and pick your ground slowly

winning the firefight- needs big rethinking--there were fights were it would literally take an hour to win the firefight, then something would or wouldnt happen and timmy was back in high gear and the firefight would need re-winning again, its all relevant to any situation, you dont move or make anyone move unless you are absolutely pasting timmy, or atleast ideally anyway, sometimes it cant be helped and thats how it goes

the tic is over when timmy is all dead or run away, or when you have to back out so the big stuff can be dropped on him, then you go back in to make sure he's all dead or run away

almost forgot, the lav3 needs a tank-type phone, we used spare headsets sometimes strapped out the back hatch, but we used the lav so much like a tank in that terrain that a phone would be nice
shoulda mentioned earlier, THE MEDIC, remember the old days when platoon medics basically stuck with your pl for a chunk of time? so you could get to know them, trust them train them etc

we were very lucky to keep the same medic for 7 months, and even luckier he was a fantastic medic, and fought as hard as any of us, he isnt 'like' one of us he is one of us, and was crucial several times

i know the military is short staffed, but having the same medics over long periods of time to develop a working relationship is pretty key,

and overall our medical training with quicklot, tourniquets and israeli bandages was great, it saved lives
let me just say first- our training was good enough- our gear was good enough- our tactics were good enough- as issued/taught---------BUT------(disclaimer before the rant)

easily the 25mm got the most kills, the typical gunner in our pl had over 20, some close to 40-confirmed kills, great optics coupled with a great weapon made it ideal in that fighting environment
-single shot versus 3 rd bursts - length of tic's demanded that 25mm gunners be careful with the ammo usage, of course tempo of the fight dictated, and 10-12 rd bursts were used for suppresion more then once

-cas in the form of helo's was outstanding- saved us in sangin-
-fast air.................not a fan-not accurate and generally didnt create alot of damage.....in the right spots
-arty- loved it, timely, accurate and pretty effective- air burst over a compound is a beatiful thing- had several missions that were.....nice and close, and they needed to be

at my level (im an mcpl, led my guys on the ground ) the things i'd change are:

1- overall section deployment in fibua, the lav3 needs to be utilized like a tank in lieu of tanks, the section needs rethinking in organization- 4 man fireteams-we dismounted with 2 x m203's-1xc-9 and a rifleman who acted as a grenadier (6-8 nades) with m72's
-the new  battlefield is not conducive with a single pair of men covering one another taking bounds-timmy needs to be hit with a monstrous volume of fire just to win the fight let alone take bounds- 4 man assault teams did the trick
-clear with fire-then some more fire- and after coffee clear it again-THEN go in the room, timmy is tough and resilient ( and high on opium ) and takes a beating to kill, no use tossing a nade then running in hoping to get to your corner- nades are cheap- we aint
-its a section commanders fight-let him fight it ( our p-l did)

2-the tac vest-for the love of god the tac vest.....seriously
-i got in a bit of poo early in the tour for saying something about our tac vest only holding 4 mags etc etc
well it only holds 4 mags! and that is NOT enough to fight with, some tic's i only fired 5 mags in 5 hours, in others i fired 10 mags in 5  minutes-i needed to get them quickly- thats why my pl all wore our own various rigs
*it cannot effectively hold enough ammo for a rifleman or a c-9 gunner OR an m-203 gunner( my c-9 gunners both used the old style webbing to hold 4 boxes)
*it doesnt hold enough water if you do somehow cram it full of gear that you need
***there are modular versions out there or quasi modular/fixed rigs that work much better for a great price- or adapt the brit idea of allowing an option between several approved rigs and adapting to the individual soldier-ive used the hockey player analogy before, no 2 guys dress exactly alike but they are all in the same uniform-it has to work for the individual, his life depends on it

3-boots/socks- we think the same genius's that made the wet weather boot/tragedy made the new desert boot, hence why most of us bought SWATS, they were lighter and my 2 pair lasted the whole tour, one of my guys wore only the issue things, they all fell apart, inside and out
-as well, to those that think the issue hockey puck boot is wonderful, try on a pair of swats or strykers, join us in the new century of footwear that works and doesnt cripple you
*socks, 'smart socks and 'ingenius socks worked really well, they do the '2 in 1' thing....with one sock, neat huh?

i have more, but you asked for 3- which i kinda expanded on anyway cuz i rant about kit

hopefully jay, and some of the other guys chime in as well, everyone has their own perspective and the more input the better-

4- we humped alot of mountains- we all used either MEC style climbing bags ( 60-70L) or BlackHawk bags or CamelBak bags, which are about 50L of storage and is all you need for a few days out- when wearing armor the normal ruck/64 pattern just doesnt get comfortable- the issue day bag has that slippery material on the straps that moves it with every step, uggh

-you only need to hump water, spare ammo, power bars and whatever extra kit you are assigned-generally para flares/trip and the other usual stuff-water of course being key- on average for a 2 day hump we would take 8-9L each with a hydration day before hand if available- that is all the weight a human can carry and not be digging into his water too much-if someone tells you your going out for X number of days with no resupply, sort them out- either you get resupplied or you plan for short humps- it hit 65 degrees more then a few times

more to follow
boondocksaint said:
hopefully jay, and some of the other guys chime in as well, everyone has their own perspective and the more input the better-

4- we humped alot of mountains- we all used either MEC style climbing bags ( 60-70L) or BlackHawk bags or CamelBak bags, which are about 50L of storage and is all you need for a few days out- when wearing armor the normal ruck/64 pattern just doesnt get comfortable- the issue day bag has that slippery material on the straps that moves it with every step, uggh

I second the uselessness of the issued day bag for patrolling over there.  On top of sliding straps I found it just didn't fit well over the flak vest and body armour.  Not to mention that the bag itself is overly heavy compared to similar bags because of all the extra padding sewn into the back.  Unlike BDS, I didn't mind my 64 pattern over the body armour, but I prefered my Blackhawk bag, besides the bigger the bag you have the more temtation you'll have to fill it with stuff that you don't need rather than the essentials.

The snipers over there also had the new rucksac over there and a few them felt they had the same problems as the day pack, but in a 85L size. Imagine know stuffing that full of useless crap.
I sent this to Quag a while back, and it's part of some AAR's im putting together, none of it is OPSEC, I've left my guys names out, not that they'd care, but you cant be too carefull

*sangin is a large town- several thousand ppl living there, the bulk of which vacated prior to the fight

-got orders to go into sangin and perform a BDA on a building that had been JDAM'd earlier that day
-unable to bring LAV's all the way in, dismounted apprx 17 pers from the PL to go in on foot, LAV's to provide overwatch where they could, also had Helo gunships in the air
1- on point- C-8 with M203-11 mags-12 M203 rds-2 grenades
2-C-9 next 4 drums and 2 grenades
3-C-8/M203 with 10 mags, 4 grenades-12 M203 rds
4-C7A2 with 10 mags 8 grenades and an M72

-vehicles parked on a road in town, we moved out, about 200m into the move we had to cross a wide ditch with a 4 ft wall on the far side, had crossed with myself, 1 and 2 when i looked to my left and saw 8 taliban moving towards our vehicles, saw each other at the same time- yelled a warning to our PL so they could get out of the killzone

-the warning I should add was my startled 'HEY YOU' which I yelled in suprise at the dude with the RPG- he was as shocked as I was....not much of an immediate reaction uggh

-started firing at the same time they did- we had no cover so we just dropped and lit into them, they did the same to us- dumped 3 mags in the first 20 seconds and 3 m203 also, C-9 was already putting on his 2nd drum and M203#2 was givener

-if you've seen the video, look at about the 16 second point and you'll see my fourth guy jump the wall to join us in the killzone and add his fire
- tried to break contact to the right and commenced firing and moving that way when we were again hit, 2 more taliban on our right flank hit us from 150m ( the Eotech here was golden, it let me fire and move while maintaining a nice sight picture )
-no choice except to rush the original ambush-told the boys to throw grenades- fire the m72 then rush them ( in the video you here one of the other guys in the pl ask 'wtf was that? camera guy replies rpg, it was our m-72 streaking into timmie)

-so we did, by now the remainder of our PL had moved back up to higher ground and was adding their fire- the C-6 in the video up high was keeping the 2 guys on our flank pinned while we moved up into the enemy-also 2 of our guys were in the middle high ground moving forward on our left separated by the wall/ditch

-was clearing the ditch while moving up and got the drop on a taliban hiding in the ditch with an ak-47 trying to get a shot at our 2 guys in the middle ground and the camera dude

-disposed of him ( 8 rds) then kept moving, we cleared all of them out
-started to consolidate ( slap a fresh mag on) and get a feel for what was going on- taking fire from all sides except up on top where our PL had lost contact with us at this point-

-we were cut off and needed to get out quick- the LAV's started to rock out and were pounding enemy everywhere, they were also under heavy assault- the Helo's were launching Hellfires 100m away from us at enemy trying to close the circle on us

-finally fought clear and broke contact back to the PL ( the sunset scene with us moving and shooting) and mounted up and got da fook outta dodge

-no casualties for us, several vehicles hit by small arms and rpg splatter- as were C-9 and I, the initial rpg went off in between us
-me and my dudes got 8-the LAV's got a further 17 and odds and sodds in the PL got about 6-9 more
-Helo's got a bunch and told us there were about 50-75 more taliban coming at us-hence the 'relocation'

-high fives and hugs, later that night we were in a FOB (under attack) and talking about the TIC, everyone thought we'd been wiped out in the first  volley, scott the camera guy said he was sure that the next time he popped the camera over the wall he'd see us dead, #4 said when he heard the rpg go off on the other side of the wall he thought we were dead also

-so i asked him why he jumped the wall if he thought we were dead,
-his stone cold reply was that he wasnt going to stay on the safe side of the wall knowing his best friends had died a few feet away so he figured he'd come join us
-didnt know what to say to that ( you can see it in his face at about the 16 second point)

anyhoodle thats what sangin was like-the video is about 2.5 min long- the real life version is about 65 min
I've almost got an AAR for a TIC in Garmser finished, but forgot to add the 'lessons learned' part of the sangin fight

1- grenades, use lots of grenades,  between the 4 of us we had 1 grenade left at the end of the fight
2- we generally carried 10 mags- rule of thumb for my guys was 6 mags to pick a fight, and 4 to get you out, meaning that was a transitional point for us if we had no immediate resup, at the end of that fight we had 2 ish mags each and last drum on C-9
3- M-72's arm effectively at 25m, which is the range that fight started at, then it got close- the M-72 is the 'Canadian RPG', timmie hates them, it penetrated a wall that was about a foot thick and had a great cone' effect on the far side
4-all of the drills worked-practice whatever drills your using alot, gunfighter program is awesome
5- ambush drill can/should be on call, once suppresion is achieved- no use rushing until then
6- soft soil is good- the RPG round went in deep before going off
7- yelling 'hey you' should not be used to initiate contact....
boondocksaint said:
7- yelling 'hey you' should not be used to initiate contact....
If you are able to post an AAR after yelling "Hey You", it can't be all that bad (eg: it worked)  ;)

Nice points given there, especially the 6 to get into a fight/4 to get out rule of thumb.  Also glad to hear the M72 works well (validates what I used to do on course as part of "winning the firefight": "Charlie team, M72!".  One DS told me that since it was an anti tank weapon, it wouldn't do jack against troops, but I digress, as that was just a course and not the real deal..)

Bravo Zulu! :salute:
Garmser; large town, completely empty of locals due to the Taliban taking over the District center. The fighting in and around this town was about 3-4 days, off and on and the TIC in this part is around noon on day 3.

Again, none of this is OPSEC, but I'll leave out the names

My section had the OP on a road on one end of town, watching the footbridge across the canal ( 15-20m across, fast flowing and deep ).
My P-l with elements of 1 and 3 section and pl HQ with a section of ANA and 2 US ETT were escorting 19 over the footbridge to get a look at the area on the far side of the canal.
Immediatly upon crossing the footbridge-contact.

A rough layout of the ground: on the far side of the canal is a road slightly higher than the canal bank, and on the far side of the road is a wall anywhere from 3-6 ft high and running the entire length of road ( like everywhere ) the contact had come from across the field that this wall forms a box around, roughly 75-100m away ( every field is boxed by a wall )

Grabbed my 3 dudes and ran up to the footbridge, while our Lav started its move into a good overwatch position ( the Lav's couldnt cross the canal ) crossed the bridge with my guys and saw that 1 section was pushing hard left to take a compound key to guarding our flank, the P-L was on the radio calling in arty and had secured the immediate wall with 3 sect/hq/ANA so I pushed to the right side.

Volume of enemy fire at this point was pretty high, lots of PKM and RPG coming in, so we started to pick apart their bunkers with M-203 and C-9 as best we could. Noticed a shift in fire on our right side, timmie had started to flank us using a 'T' junction about 125m up the road, he had a short move, all of it covered by his wall on the long end of the 'T'.

Timmie then started to paste us pretty good down the road with PKM and RPG fire. With my 3 guys plus 2 others we started pushing up the road to the junction, now taking fire from the original bunkers on right angle to us, as well as the crew at the 'T' junction.

My Lav had already started supporting 1 section, so I had no immediate help for a few minutes. We were making slow progress, 3 guys up front firing and moving at the same time, running dry then being replaced by the 3 guys right behind them. Sort of an Aussie peel back in reverse. We'd closed to within about 50m of the TB and had them fairly suppressed, when 1 sections Lav arrived ( had to drive from the other side of town) he was about 75m away on an angle to us, and was of course on the other side of the canal. He promptly let timmie know he'd arrived.

Now at this point I fully expected timmie to squirt, the Lav didnt know exactly where he was, but was hitting all around the TB, he did not squirt. Now more TB from about 300m away start firing more RPG/RPK at the Lav, and the RPG are on timed fuze, they quickly bracket the Lav and the commander is forced to get low quite often. Further slowing us down, he now has those enemy to deal with, and the TB we'd already been up close with launch another RPG just missing his Lav.

Decided to make another bound to get within grenade range, using both M-203's together we nailed the ditch and foilage the TB team was hiding in then made a rush for another bit of cover. The Lav noticed where our M203's splashed and started sweeping the ditch with HEIT. I'll leave out the details but that finished that 3 man det.  We now had their flank, and it started to show in their fire. We now turned our attention on the enemy 300m away, and some still 75-100m away in their original positions. With our new vantage points on their flank we forced alot of TB to retreat or expose themselves in moving to new positions where we or the Lav took them out.

This is where the Lav starts to work, with a good crew commander using bino's and a good gunner scanning, it can pick apart defences quick, fast, and in a gd hurry. Timmie either stands and dies, or squirts and dies, occasionally he can slip away if the position is prepared well enough.

It was about this time when the first arty came in, on the original bunkers, god bless the guns. Every TIC I was in that we used the guns I was impressed by their speed and accuracy. Direct hits on several bunkers.

A runner from the P-L showed up and said we'd be pulling back across the bridge and back into town. Still taking minor to moderate fire from the further positions so we peeled back along the wall. Firing as we went, the Lav adding to the fire, and 3 Pl arrived as well to cover us across. Got to the bridge, started to cross it when my M203 gunner stopped and started cursing ' my gd fkn ambidexterous mag catch' and starts looking for his mag that's fallen off. ( Infidel knows him ;)) I mention I have several spares....could we please just get moving.

Break contact- arty mops up- fall back to the town. Get eaten by sand flees and ordered to shave.

edited to mention this took place over about 90min.

Boondock: that is awesome.  Excellent point about the "G-D Ambidextrous mag thingy". 
Thanks all, will do, again didnt post the lessons learned part. my copy paste clipboard is shyte.

1- Adhoc organization, I dont think there was a fight where we had the same organization twice, every chance contact is when you are not in a nice formation. So there wind up being folks not with their sections etc, if you wind up with floaters put them to work, worry about orbat later. During that particular fight I had 3 sections 2ic and our Lav Sgt. attached inadvertantly to my crew, everyone just does what they can where they are best suited. My Lav wound up supporting 1 sect in the early part of the fight, so I was Lav'less till 1 sect Lav came on the scene, he just slotted himself in where he was needed and carried on fighting.
2- Arty- all platoon leaders must be comfy with calling in indirect fire- it saves lives, it is a huge crippler psychologically for timmie, and quite a boost for the lads up front seeing an airburst shatter the roof off of a TB bunker. Our P-L was very good at 'interpreting' what the guns needed to know about so we could get the most out of them, god bless the guns.
3- Whatever drills are your SOP for a situation, practice them, alot, the reverse Aussie peelback was meant to be used in certain ambush situations, with only a road for manoever room it seem like a viable option, and it kept our momentum going.
4-It is a sect comd's fight, our P-L was great about letting us develop the fight for him, when he saw something to exploit THEN he moved us when/where/how he wanted- up until then we had alot of latitude to take ground and move as needed. you should never feel like you have to be told to attack something, your P-L should be there if needed to reel you back in if you are going to far. Which is the next point, that amount of latitude can be heady-and give you an 'i can do anything' feeling, dont over extend your limits. With a few fights under your belt you can sometimes get cocky, and think you can do more then you really should. In Hyderabad I was rounding a corner at the front of our stack figuring we'd cleared lots of compounds this one is no different---where there shoulda been 1 room and a hall, there were about 8 rooms and fire everywhere coming in. BACK DA FOOK UP, have a kit kat moment and evaluate things. It is a very liberating experience not having safety staff behind you monitoring every move. So you start thinking WAAAY outside the box, just keep it simple.

***these are some of the things my platoon noticed or did and not the gospel on how to fight a battle. There are many ways to fight, and what worked for us may not work for others, everyones idea's are different and that is not a bad thing at all, it's how we wound up learning and improving. Hopefully if even one idea out of this helps someone from learining it the hard way, I'll be happy.