June 21, 2007:
Roadside bombs in Iraq now cause over 70 percent of the U.S. casualties.
Moreover, most of the bomb casualties
now are combat troops, not the guys and gals who run the supply convoys
up from Kuwait, and to dozens of bases in Iraq. Those routes are close watched
and well patrolled. The danger comes when combat troops move into a n new area
and have to patrol a lot of roads that are not closely watched for people
setting up bombs. Not only are there more bombs to be encountered in these areas,
but the troops naturally spend more time looking for them as they drive around
on patrol. They should be looking for the bad guys and suspicious activity, but
self-defense must come first.
To lower the bomb threat, many infantry commanders
are resorting to an ancient practice; walking. This eliminates nearly all
contact with roadside bombs. Troops can't always accomplish their missions on
foot, but many jobs can be done that way. If a raid is on a location a
kilometer or so from the base, walking is no problem. Many such raids are
usually carried out early in the morning, in order to take the suspects by
surprise. Going in by foot in these situations is not a problem.
Another major activity, patrolling, is usually done
in the vicinity of the base. You can see a lot more on foot, and have more
opportunities to get information from the locals (who are increasingly willing
to give it.) Even with all the heat, the troops appreciate the opportunity to
amble about. Normally, the only work done on foot is frantic scrambling in
combat, after dismounting from an armored vehicle. But whether the troops like
to hike cross country or not, they all quickly come to appreciate the decline
in roadside bomb casualties, or the anxiety that one may be just down the road.