Dispatches From Iraq

Received via Mike Sloniker 2 May 2003

Subject: AAR 1 MARDIV fwd from US Army Infantry School



* War commenced prematurely due to information received from CIA regarding the presence of Sadam in Baghdad. Likewise CIA liaison at 1 MARDIV HQ was off the mark. Reports of up to 90 T72s advancing towards border pre-D Day forced Div Comd to change plan that had been in place for 6 months. After having changed F15E confirmed report in fact incorrect, tanks were same 6 tanks that had been present since D-20 days. Plan back to the original plan. Sufficient flexibility and training within the organization to make changes at short notice.

* Comd 1 Div (MAJGEN Mattis) chose a relaxed informal style within his Div HQ pre-war. He would ensure different staff briefed each day to give exposure and ensured different members of audience would ask a question each day. No free rides. HQ had a Sadam moustache-growing contest that relaxed things somewhat.

* On the commencement of the war first discovered none of the T62s and T72s was occupied which was a bit of a concern. All lined up neatly in tactical formation with Iraqis standing next to them surrendering holding out wads of cash to the Marines. There were competitions being held between the tanks (2nd Tanks led the advance) as to who could get the longest-range tank kill. Longest recorded was 4,100 metres.

* Rumor spreading was rife in particular over the most secure means the SIPRNET. People were using it as a chat room and making unsubstantiated allegations and claims on this means. Commanders lost faith in the SIPR and chose direct voice comms as the best means. It also created confusion and fear amongst Marines that was unnecessary.

* Iraqis feared Tanks and LAR more than anything. However the fanatics were quite happy as long as they didn't have to deal with dismounted infantry. The weather had huge effect on both operations and morale. But the force kept moving on regardless albeit confined to the hardball.

* Commanders knew there would be only three supply routes during the war. Two for the Marines one for the Army. Commanders knew they would be long and choked; therefore they took everything with them, which made the supply routes even longer. The long supply lines could not be controlled by the MPs because they were not included in the forward echelons, and due to choked routes could not get to the forward echelons to clear the chock points.

* Rumor control again caused a negative effect upon the operations. Marines were hearing negative reports of Iraqi actions and were therefore displaying a negative attitude towards the Iraqi population.

* The Iraqis had made extensive defensive preparations around all towns. The works had been well planned and sited with engineer input. The trenches were where Marines conducted the majority of fighting around the towns.

* Battle preparation, maintenance and prep for the next day was poor. Marines were exhausted by day four with little sleep and rest. Commanders in particular were making questionable decisions due to lack of rest. There was continued implementation of the stand to / stand down procedure, which was compounding the lack of rest for the Marines. Some companies took it upon themselves to remedy the situation such as Fox 2/5 who modified this procedure to allow the Marines to get more sleep.

* Confusion continues between Marines and Army in particular around the vicinity of Nasiryiah where Army re-supply columns were being ambushed. Marines were not aware in many instances of their presence and were tasked at one stage to go back and rescue bulk fuel tankers and their crews who were hiding in the scrub after one contact. Having said that communication within the Marines, in particular 1 MARDIV and Task Force TARAWA did not exist due to not having the same fills. Personal face-to-face comms was the only means of coord between the two forces.

* Nasiriyah saw the culmination of this confusion over MOUT. Commanders were not prepared to go in and clear a town no bigger than Victorville. This was an initial hesitation that eventually subsided to some outstanding MOUT ops later in the action by 5th and 3rd Marines south of Baghdad.

* CASEVAC was predominantly by road through the Battalion Doctor and aid station. Air was at least 45 mins away. The CH46 did not have the legs to keep up with the advance and therefore the Marines saw very little air other than Cobras.

* Comd 1 MARDIV commanded the Div via one HUMVEE and two aides who remained with him throughout. One aide kept the batteries in his IRIDIUM up the other rubbed out red icons on the map. He commanded via the IRIDIUM and the map on the side of the HUMVEE. He was usually no less than 100-200 metres behind the lead Battalion or main effort. He would talk to Regt Comds on the insecure IRIDIUM using veiled speech only. Nothing else!

* Iraqis would always camp under palm trees and therefore that was where the majority of contact was joined. The Republican Guard were surrendering on masse, however because of the speed of the advance the Marines usually ignored them due to not wanting to take on the burden of EPWs. So we guess they just walked home.

* The Army used a Blue Force Tracking device that worked well. The Marines need a similar system.

* Most Marines used commercial GARMIN GPS rather than military issued GPS. Personal preference.

* Communications were particularly poor; one Battalion managed to be out of comms for up to 6 hours, VHF was not the answer and did not perform well in this operation.

* There was an operational pause. JFLCC imposed a 4 day OP PAUSE prior to final assault on Baghdad.

* There was a lack of common intelligence picture throughout the Div. Points that were being picked up as a result of one Battalion's action about the enemy were not being passed up the chain for other units to take not of. Lack of comms had some bearing upon this, in addition personnel are not trained to take note of what will be important both up the chain and laterally to neighboring units.

* The planning cycle was way behind the execution being conducted by the forward commanders. Div HQ was still producing lengthy OPLANS and FRAGOs that were too late for the commanders, as they had already stepped off. Staffs are adhering to the training and requirements they are taught by MSTP for CAX.

* Force Recon suffered from a lack of employment. Their employment was considered far too high risk.

* Nighttime was for driving not operations. Night vision devices were put to very good use for night driving, however only one night attack was conducted by 3/7.

* MOUT continues to be point of contention between Army and Marines. Army plan was always to isolate and conduct limited raids, Marine intention was to penetrate and hold key terrain within the towns and cities. The actions in Baghdad were primarily a result of the actions of Comd 1 MARDIV.

* Cobras were employed more as ISR than CAS and suffered from resulting ground fire.

* Mech / Infantry work and protection requires more work. A lack of understanding of how the parts work together to form a team protecting each other's vulnerabilities. There needs to be a clear understanding between a convoy and a tactical movement. 5th Marines line of advance was approx 100km long.

* Fadayeen tactics fell apart the moment Marines dismounted and cleared through the buildings. Their tactics were far more comfortable with dealing with vehicles and Marines that remained mounted.

* Fire discipline was poor at times with one weapon system opening fire, which led to all weapon systems opening up.

* UAVs were used down to Battalion level and were great value. They need to incorporated into Marine training.

* PRR is invaluable and Marines can't see how they will work without it in the future. Some range problems and comms interference in some buildings but not in others. Otherwise great piece of gear. Every Marine was seeking ACOG. Squad leaders were taking it for themselves for reasons unknown, probably for ease of targeting. They all wanted it.