Friday, November 03, 2006


Convoy Stories

Jack Army describes a recent convoy.

He observes how a civilian driver reacts to a gunner’s “corrective action” when the driver was driving too close to the convoy. (The corrective action was to reorient the gun towards the driver.)

Those folks looking for a fight will get one. I'm not worried about that. It's the regular folks that are just going about they're daily lives that I worry about. Those are the folks that I'm here to protect and they are caught in the middle, as it were. So if they get too close to my big, heavy, dangerous trucks they could get hurt or their cars get damaged. If the enemy decides to attack us while civilians are near, they will get hurt... and they don't wear armor plates, helmets and drive around in armored vehicles. Their flimsy cars, motorcycles and donkey-carts will get ripped to shreds.
So, it is a little humorous to see the quick reaction of a local guy who realizes that US Army Gunner will not take "no" for an answer when he says, "slow down."
It is also a relief.

We dealt with this a lot, with some interesting variations between "in city" and rural, and between different communities.

We ran 4-5 convoys a week out of Tikrit. Most commonly, we did a 40 minute run between FOBs, half in city, half rural outskirts, but all within short distance of Tikrit.

Our guys (gunners and drivers) grew increasingly frustrated as the months went on. Iraqi drivers and pedestrians grew less and less concerned with US forces, less fearful, more reckless. On the one hand, that meant they felt safe. On the other hand, it meant they weren't as careful as they needed to be, and it was harder for us to spot potential trouble.

IED attacks were directed primarily against Iraqi police in our area, otherwise pretty quiet. We had no live combat, a couple of IED spottings with only two (ineffective) detonations, and they were on the less frequent trips to remote areas.

What that meant was, our drivers and gunners often felt like it was better when everybody was afraid. They'd get pissed off at some idiot. They almost wanted to chance to fire somebody up. They tried using stones -- something short of a burst or warning shot, especially in the city. Sometimes they needed to make a very obvious show of pointing the M2 directly at somebody, or operate the vehicle to get somebody's attention.

We kept reminding the crews about rules of engagement, latest threats, techniques, procedures. Calmed them down. Did After Action Reviews (AAR) after every convoy. Kept telling them, less fear means more trust.

In contrast to our local Iraqis, whenever we traveled around Baji, the situation was markedly different.

There, the troops stationed in that area had a much more hostile community. But they must have been having the desired effect.

Whereas in Tikrit, drivers would pass, cut you off, get in your way, ignore you. Near Baji, about 100 yards out they started going off the road in the requested fishbone formation. You might get angry looks as you passed by, but better an angry look from 200 feet than ambivalence at a couple feet away.

And much like Jack Army, we were always relieved when Iraqi responses didn’t require careful interpretation.

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