14 November 2005

Letter from Marine Corps Son

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 picattiny 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 can't 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 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 their dicks 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. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers ( we actually stop a lot of them) and 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 bullshit 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 and 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 Irani an inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shiia have been very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local govt.'s, 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 Ak's and RPG's 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 mover's, 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. Fun fact: 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 shit. 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 Iraqi's are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren't worth a shit. 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 cant 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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Top Notch post. The comments about the 9MM echo what law enforcement discovered in the 90's and since moved to the .45.
Really enjoyed reading this account from the FRONT line.

15 November, 2005 19:09  
Anonymous Gunnery Sergeant USMC said...

The American media lost its impartiality a long time ago. Reporters and the media continually attempt to convince the American public that whatever they say or print is unbiased facts. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Ask them how many of them have ever served their country... how about their children? So how can they report impartially? Especially when they already know everything. They are nothing more than elitists, with a false belief that they are better than the rest of us. They must be jealous of the military. Why else would they try so hard to convince everyone that we are so bad and uneducated? We all chose to join the military. (Democracy in action) In my experience the ones who most loudly and viciously defend their positions are usually wrong or have something to hide. They continue the battle cry for "save the rain forest", "save the pocket mouse" and other such causes but also say let's leave the Iraqi people on their own so the terrorist of the world can take over and have a place to call their own. If you haven’t figured out that this is what will happen if we abandon the Iraqis then you need to get out and have a tall glass of reality. Never mind the children, both boys and girls who are in school for the first time ever, how about medical care, clean water, FREEDOM OF CHOICE? Nothing is perfect, but what is? But none of this will be reported because there is no integrity in the mainstream media. Is nobody willing to stand for what is right anymore? We in the military are. We aren’t so wrapped up in all the political BS, we know what the real issues are and are smart enough to get through all the garbage to what matters, a better life for an entire country who otherwise doesn’t have a chance. Regardless of the reason we got there in the first place we are here to stay, and as evidenced by the high re enlistment rates in most if not all the services, the military personnel will continue until we are done, even if the elitists don't agree.


All the comments made here are my own and do NOT have anything to do with anything except my personal opinion. (I'm smart enough to know how the media works)


18 November, 2005 05:16  
Blogger jenny said...

great site .

22 November, 2005 07:07  
Anonymous Ken Connor said...

This letter is a phony. It's been posted many times in different places on the net. It also has many errors.

24 November, 2005 14:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have an outstanding site, but you should pull this "letter".

As Mr Connor said, it is a known fake. Posting known fakes tarnishes your blog and draws the other information you post into question.

The letter is full of errors, assumptions, opinion, and individual conclusions from a source we know nothing about.

1) My command had no problems with the M16/M4 jamming, but we PM our gear before each mission and prior to hitting the rack during extended ops. Opiate use (& other drugs) by insurgent groups varied by location and operation. Yes, some groups in specific battles would consume "a high level" of drugs to induce a fanatic attack, but opiates is not always the drug of choice and the overall use by all insurgents is far from "a high level"

2) The M243 SAW is NOT a drum fed weapon. Anyone that knows anything knows that. (belt fed linked ammo or the standard M16 mag in emergencies)

3) The M9 is a good gun, but the non-Beretta aftermarket magazines issued to many units in Iraq were a piece of garbage that cause widespread problems. The whole 9mm vs .45 cal argument can usually be settled through shot placement. Most of the .45's I saw in Iraq were not the classic 1911, but modern Sig's, Glocks, & HK's. I personally know of no unit anywhere being issued "the old government model .45's". Some individual units may have NEW issue variants of the Colt 1911, but it is hardly en mase and none of the 1911's taken out of service and mothballed the 80's is being re-issued for OIF. The same is true for the M-14. The few that are out there can be considered new rifles.

I won't go point-by-point, but I am sure you get the picture. The INTEL and other opinions are just as bad. We gave quarter to hundreds of insurgents. You can download photo's & videos of US troops treated wounded enemy captured in battle. We know we will not be treated humanly, and personally I would rather fight to the death than be captured & tortured, but the vast majority of US forces comply with US law and Geneva Conventions when handling enemy prisoners.

Too much emphasis is thrown at Iran. Yes, Iran has been smuggling arms to support insurgents since the 1970's but there level of influence varies by location. Iraq's other neighbors all have their area of influence and historical ties with Iraq. When the UK carved up the Mideast and drew lines on a map, they ignored quite a few important parts of the equation. Proximity also has a lot to do with it. For example, the influence Mexican smugglers have in California is much more significant than what is seen in Washington, Florida, or Maine where other countries play a more significant role. I could go on-and-on to disprove the other information as well.

Basically the "letter" is full of bad information and has been proven a fake. It should be removed from you site to avoid discrediting the outstanding work you've don with this blog.

25 November, 2005 16:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gunnery sgt's comments on the iraq invasion "regardless of the reason we got there" are extremely offensive and thoughtless. as our country invades a sovereign state and under false pretense, any objectors quietly get dismissed as elitists. luckily for right winged america the mainstream media is far less progressive than the progressive voice of the nation, those of us who are horrified and stand at great odds with the giant corporate consuming imperialist machine image of america here at home and throughout the world. had bush and cheney both had to defend there own lack of service during vietnam in a public debate or forum it's doubtful they would have been re-elected in last years election that seemed to focus more or less around national security? for those of us who passionately despise violence and aggression the mainstream media with it's own ties to corporate america could never stick it to these guys(bush/cheney) or their supporters hard enough.

28 November, 2005 07:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed Your website Sir! But let's by no means rewrite history. Although Hancocks' contribution to the art of sniping is undisputed he has not the most confirmed kills. The ultimate sniper if kills are to be the measure is actually a Finn, Simo Hayha, "the white death", with 500+ confirmed russians killed during ww-2. The Finnish intelligence-officers were also stringent in reviewing alledged killings before they had them entered in the logs. Nikolaj Iljin, a russian from the same era is second with 496.

Staffsergeant N, Finnish Defence Forces.

29 November, 2005 07:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in his review of the warlock systems or the ones offered by www.compnine.com
They're supposed to stop a good handful of the ieds out there.

27 May, 2007 11:40  

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