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Newsletter 08-39
June 2008

The Fourth Nightmare

War Is Not Fair: Use All the Advantages to Kill the Enemy

Soldier's Head

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

The Young British Soldier
Rudyard Kipling

Once again, the scene selection in my nightmare’s DVD resumed play outside the house. No one in the platoon reported any activity in the house. I took stock of the situation. I was pretty sure that there were at least two bad guys in the house we had surrounded. They had blown an IED and killed one of my men. They could not escape if they were in fact still located in the surrounded house. I did not want to assault the house frontally, either by going through the open gate or jumping the wall. Either way exposed my men to the enemy’s ready-made engagement area called the courtyard.

Soldier's Feet

I thought about the enemy's options: 

Option 1. They were already gone and drinking tea, leaving behind a booby-trapped house. 

Option 2. They could surrender, since they were surrounded. 

Option 3. They could try and escape. 

Option 4. They could fight. 

Option 1 was possible and still dangerous. Option 2 was still a possibility, but maybe they thought we would shoot as soon as they came out. Option 3 was next to impossible and the least likely, since we had the place surrounded. Option 4 was possible and maybe even likely, should our enemy be looking for martyrdom. 

Blessing called with the news that the battalion quick reaction force was taking over vehicle recovery operations, and that two of our guys would escort our dead comrade back to the forward operating base. The remainder of the platoon with Blessing was moving to my location. I told him to expand our perimeter and get teams up on the roofs of two taller buildings to provide overwatch. 

I formulated a plan to deal with the different enemy options. I would give the enemy a chance to end this by using an interpreter with a bullhorn to demand their surrender. I told the interpreter to promise they would not be harmed if they gave up. 

If surrender did not work, I would use a deception plan to draw a reaction from the enemy. If the enemy reacted as hoped, then writing the paragraph in the 15-6 that justified using suppressive and destructive fire would be a sure bet. 

When all else failed, I would continue to secure the house and request the company’s robot to go through the front door and check for bad guys and booby traps. I would treat the house like an IED. I told myself not to lose Soldiers to stupidity or impatience. Personally, I hoped that the deception plan would work, so that we could exact our revenge. 

After informing everyone on the succession of plans and when the conditions were set, I handed the bullhorn to Kyle, our trustworthy interpreter. Nothing, no reaction. They were either gone or going to fight. In my mind, I was only dealing with enemy Option 1 or 4. 

I cued the deception plan. One squad moved to the near side of the wall and made a lot of noise as they set up an assault ladder. They threw a lot of smoke into the courtyard and then fired a M249 into the ground safely. Then a M240 fired a few bursts specifically aimed to impact the side of the house without killing anyone. 

Nobody went over the wall into the courtyard. 

It was too much for one of the insurgents inside. One enemy fired wildly into the smoke-filled courtyard, and another followed up by chucking a grenade from the roof into the courtyard. One of our squad designated marksmen on overwatch shot the grenade thrower when he rose up to throw a second grenade. I had my answer: the enemy had selected Option 4. 

I reported the enemy situation to the executive officer, First Lieutenant Newton, who immediately told me to continue to isolate, suppress, but not to assault. I was more than happy not to assault. Nobody was going to go into that house. 

Newton came back on the radio and asked if there were any helicopters overhead. I said no. He then said that everyone needed to find cover in the trucks or in a house, and everyone needed to be at least 75 to 100 meters away from the house. The battalion commander had gotten approval to use the 155 Excalibur Global Positioning System round. 

A walled courtyard makes a dandy blast containment system… 

My battalion commander, having been briefed by Newton earlier about my plan, had anticipated a need for this type of fire support. Thankfully, he started the request process immediately. I was going to use .50 cal and MK19, but this Excalibur idea was even better. Newton said the grid to the house was being verified and refined at the tactical operations center. 

One or two minutes later, Newton called back and said the airspace was clear, and that the guns were “at my command” to fire two rounds with delay fuses. He would be my relay to the artillery’s fire direction center. Once all squads were briefed and in a safe position, I told Newton to fire. Antiseptically, he announced, “Shot, rounds complete” and about 30 seconds later “Splash.” 

The impacts of the two rounds were dead on and collapsed half the house. There was also a terrific explosion at the gate that I could not quite figure out. It was like a secondary explosion but in a weird place. This explosion collapsed part of the exterior wall exposing the front of the house. One man crawled out of the rubble with a tactical vest on and was immediately shot down from multiple directions. 

Some of the men from the platoon gleefully cheered on the radio at our enemy’s demise. Blessing brought everyone under control on the platoon net with a sharp rebuke. I have to admit I cheered too—but Blessing pretended not to notice. Anyway, he grinned as he put down the mike. 

The whole of the day’s emotions began to hit me, and I had a hard time controlling a jittering in my jaw and a shaking in my hands. I was not cold, and I was not scared. I think it was just a lot for me to emotionally get control of. This dream was different, because I was not reviewing my mistakes as a dead man. Not only had I not made the same mistakes as before, I had done things correctly that I had not considered. 

More hard lessons came to mind: 

  1. War is not a sport, but it is a team effort. Not only had I listened to the near instinctive lessons of my previous dreams, I also took advantage of the leaders around and above me. My noncommissioned officers guided my tactical planning below, and my superiors supported me from up the chain.
  2. War is not fair, so use all the advantages you have to kill the enemy before he can kill you. In this case, my original intention to use heavy fire against the house would have killed the enemy. It would have, however, left at least some of my Soldiers exposed. Using the pinpoint artillery strike allowed us to kill the enemy without risk.
  3. The first step in gaining the initiative is to grasp what the enemy is likely to do. I didn’t have time to conduct a full blown study of what the enemy was going to do. I did have time to do a quick leader’s appreciation, and it paid off.
  4. Never forget the enemy is studying you as you study him. Deception works if you show him something he expects to see.

I prayed for our Soldiers killed in action and hoped that the other 1,245 estimated bad guys in this sector would be less inclined to fight. Unfortunately, these days, the conquered refuse to act like they’ve been conquered. The fight goes on. 

Suddenly, I awoke with an intestinal tidal wave urge to defecate an extremely loose stool. The common term of “mud slide” would accurately describe my problem. I made it to the Porta Potty in the nick of time. In the rush, my nightmares were almost erased from memory. Once settled in, I pulled down the “wash your hands” sign taped on the inside of the door, and I began to jot down the nightmares on the back of the paper. The lessons learned in the nightmares served me well during a long deployment that could only be described as a constant movement to contact that went in circles. Great-Great-Grandpa BF would be proud. 


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