Leadership: November 24, 2003


In Iraq, American troops conduct their own CSI (Crime, or, in this case, "Combat" Scene Investigation) of each incident where U.S. troops are attacked. During the Vietnam war, the army developed the custom of treating each combat incident (that produced American casualties) with the same through investigation it had earlier adopted for accidents. Participants were interviewed, maps of the incident created and even the fragments taken from dead or wounded troops was retained, along with some of their medical records. Those records survived the war, but were "lost" until an enterprising Navy doctor (who was also a former SEAL and instructor at the DoD Medical School) hunted them down in the 1980s and put the data on a computer for analysis. The results of that analysis was amazing (showing patterns of successful, and unsuccessful attacks.) So by the 1990s, with everyone in the military using a PC, and powerful (by easy to operate) database software available, the military CSI drill became standard. By the time the Iraq war came along, everyone was into thorough reconstruction of combat events. The reason was simple; to find out where the mistakes were and correct them. 


With the defeat of Saddam's armed forces last May, fighting continued with hit and run attacks by Saddam loyalists and Islamic radicals. These attacks were numerous, peaking at about 30 a day in early November. Each such incident was treated to the full CSI drill. Photos were taken, maps drawn, troops and witnesses interviewed and damage (if any) inspected, along with enemy weapons or munitions (if available). Officers and NCOs then examine each incident and look for things U.S. troops might have done to avoid getting hit, or to strike back at the ambushers. Since all of these incidents go in one database, it's also possible to look for patterns. Oddly enough, because of this CSI database, American investigators know more about enemy tactics than most enemy fighters. This is because the Iraqi opposition consists of several pro-Saddam or anti-Western factions, and these groups cannot easily communicate with each other. While the attackers keep trying different types of attacks, coalition forces just as quickly develop new defensive measures. There's nothing really new in these small combats, for the basic ideas have been around for decades and most are clearly described in paper and CD-ROM versions of al Qaedas "how to be an Islamic terrorist" manual. But the CSI work lets commanders know how well defensive measures are working, and which units are better at it than others. While the CSI operations take time and effort, the payback in information is literally a life saver.




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