Attrition: Marines Count Their Lower Losses


November 29,2008: The U.S. Marine Corps 2/7 (2nd battalion of the 7th marine regiment) recently completed a six month tour in Afghanistan. The unit was expecting less action than they experienced in Iraq, but this proved not to be the case. The thousand man battalion suffered 150 casualties, including twenty dead. This was more losses than the 15,000 marines in Iraq suffered during the same period.

But compared to earlier wars, the losses were quite low for the 2/7. During the Vietnam war, the 1/9 (1st battalion of the 9th marines) averaged 93 men killed in combat every six months for the four years the battalion was in Vietnam. Overall, the casualty rate in Iraq was about a third of what they were in Vietnam. And the casualty rate, even recent ones, in Afghanistan have been lower than in Iraq before al Qaeda was defeated last year.

War is still dangerous, especially for the marines, who are primarily infantry (most of their support troops are sailors, including the combat medics attached to each marine unit.) The marines are not only infantry, they are "light infantry" (few armored vehicles), and employ very aggressive tactics. This leads to quicker, and more frequent, battlefield success, but also results in more friendly (and enemy) casualties.





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