Armor: April 29, 2004

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Convoy movements in Iraq have become combat operations. Actually, its been that way for over a year. Early on, the anti-government Iraqi gunmen saw the convoys as easier targets than coalition combat troops. Until last Summer, this was very much the case. American support troops did not receive much combat training, and during the 1990s it became customary for army support troops to receive even less combat training than they had received during the previous decades. But that quickly changed when it was realized that, for the first time in American military history, the majority of the dead were not the infantry. Normally, the infantry alone take 80 percent of the casualties. For the eight months between June 2003 and January there were an average of 5.1 attacks with roadside bombs a day, and more than that with rifles or RPG rocket launchers. That has to be put in perspective, though, as there were over a thousand patrols and convoy movements a day during the same period. But that one or two percent chance a day of getting hit was enough to motivate support troops to learn all about marksmanship, tactics and convoy security. There is a special Convoy Protection School (or Road Warrior University as some of the graduates have described it) in Kuwait where troops operating convoys into Iraq can get trained on the procedures for this specialized kind of warfare. They learn how to fire accurately from a moving vehicle, what to fire at (anyone digging beside the highway, or wearing black clothes and the yellow and green headbands of the radical Iraqi gunmen, and anyone with a gun) and what to look for (a long list of telltale signs of a roadside bomb). Most important, the road warriors are taught to constantly look around as they move down the road, and keep their weapons ready to fire on short notice. The troops also learn the importance of knowing who to call for a rapid reaction force (combat troops at the ready to come rescue a convoy stopped by an ambush), and what to do if a vehicle is disabled. Navigating techniques are also taught, as having a GPS and a map is often not enough to prevent the convoy navigator from making a wrong turn into more dangerous territory.

During April, 2004, the anti-government forces increased their attacks on convoys, but were unable to stop the flow of traffic. That was because the non-combat troops learned how to fight, and fought their way through the ambushes thrown in their way.

 


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