Tag Archives: Iraq

Five days in the desert (2009)

This was January or February as I recall.  It was pretty hot during the day but once that sun went down it was absolutely freezing.  I took these pictures during the course of a five day reconnaissance patrol through a area not frequented by coalition troops.

I was an attachment to this unit for the patrol.  As a Special Forces adviser I had five Iraqi soldiers with me who were there to help out with local engagements, meet and greets, and so forth.  I have a lot of respect for these units who spent most of their deployment out in the desert like this.  It isn’t easy living out of humvee day in and day out.

Meeting with the local elders.  They are always very welcoming but we knew all sorts of shady stuff was going on the second we left.  We found a pretty massive weapons cache just outside this village.

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Apache attack helicopter gunruns in Iraq (2005)

Here are a few pictures I took of an Apache attack helicopter doing some gun runs on a terrorist hide out in Iraq.  They came in with rocket pods and then machine guns demolishing the cinder block building.

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Strange and Interesting weapons in Iraq

This was a nice CZ75 pistol a contractor doing some construction for us had.  I liked it enough that I was going to try and buy or trade something for it until I realized that he wanted to charge me enough that I could just buy myself a brand new one back in the US.

In slide lock.  I’ve also seen some Iraqi security forces carrying new Smith and Wesson automatics…  WTF?  Iraqi soldiers are carrying M16’s…don’t even get me started.

This is a AK rifle grenade that I was looking at in a improvised Iraqi arms room.  It is fired from the barrel of the AK-47 with a blank round that is provided with the grenade.  The pin in the nose is a safety.

This is a Gorjunov WW2 era Soviet machine gun.  It fired the same 7.62x54mm Rimmed ammo as the PKM.  I took this picture before I attempted to disassemble the thing.  Ultimately an Iraqi NCO (pictured below) showed me how it was done.  This particular rifle has been retrofitted with a bizarre flash suppressor (?) for some reason.

Check out this Chimera of a rifle.  It was home made, constructed by the soldier holding it in his home with a mish-mash of weapons components.  It features a AK receiver fitted with a home made M16 style charging handle, a PKM barrel, a improvised wooden stock, a Browning Hi-Power pistol grip, and finally a crappy BB gun scope.  This thing actually fired, I saw it with my own eyes, from a safe distance of course.

Here is another shot of the rifle with it’s owner.  You can tell he is a gear nut as well as being a gun nut.  We had a lot in common.  Note the flash bangs we gave him, the flare gun on his left side, and home made unit insignia on his chest.

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Duhok, Kurdistan (part 3)

Duhok is surrounded by mountains like this which is part of the reason why the Turks, Iranians, and Iraqis have never really been able to “pacify” the kurds.  Security is tight in Kurdistan, they certainly police they’re own.

Random building along one of the main commercial ribbons in town.

As I recall I took this picture after we had lunch.  It was some of the worst pizza I have ever been party to.  I recall walking into a bathroom to wash my hands before we ate and a orderly asked me in broken English, “Are you Special Force?!?”  Kids in town asked me if I worked with KDP (Kurdish Militia) so OPSEC is pretty much joke in this part of the world.

Strangers in a strange land.  Wish I had been able to spend more time in the area.

A chute that ran across the top of the market.  I could here workers rolling something down it but have no idea what…

I have a few more pictures from Duhok but I think you get the idea from the three part series.  If someone wants to see the rest let me know and I’ll throw them up here.

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Duhok, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq)

This will be the first of a small series of photos from Duhok, a Kurdish city sitting inside a mountain range in Northern Iraq.  This first photo is myself in a Souk (market) in the early morning just as the shops were opening for the day.  I would compare Duhok to similar developing cities you might find in Central America.  No quite first world yet, but you can still find Johnny Walker Black Label so we are not talking about the savage nations in the heart of darkness either.

A shop owner opening for business.

Need shoes?  You can get everything in Duhok to include military equipment such as weapons sights, uniforms, and body armor.  I’ve heard tales of underground weapons dealers in the area.

I love the electrical wiring in this part of the world.  The orange paneling on the side of the white car indicates that it is a taxi.

I’ll put up some more pictures of Kurdistan later, it was definitely a fascinating place to visit.

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The insurgent answer to American technology

Watch this video carefully. I considered not mentioning it at all due to OPSEC however this video makes it clear that their is none.  The enemy is well aware of how to defeat our systems so if their is any operational security then it exists to keep the public and soldiers themselves from knowing that their high tech armored vehicles are far from invulnerable.  The enemy constantly changes tactics based on what they see on the ground in real time and what they see on the internet in nearly real time.  The US military is so obsessed with centralization that it is impossible for us to respond in kind.

As the war changed, politics changed with it.  America’s outrage over 9/11 lasted six months or so before being forgotten so politicians had to justify why so many men and women were dieing overseas.  Various measures were taken, one was to put so much bureaucracy in front of the troops that it became difficult or impossible to launch effective combat operations and so fewer casualties.  Aside the hiding soldiers behind the walls of their FOBs they were bundled behind layers of armor (vehicle and body) if they did have to go outside the wire.  As a matter of for instance, this is the type of vehicle we used during my first deployment:

This is a GMV outfitted for combat, the picture is not mine but one I pulled off the net.  Usually, you would roll with the doors taken off but these guys probably left them on to help keep the afghan dust off their radios and other sensitive equipment.  Assaulters can sit in the back and easily jump off when you reach the objective.  While moving they can return fire with M240 and M249 machine guns mounted to pedestals on the various pivot mounts.  The .50 gunner has a clear field of fire and is unencumbered by crap stuck all around the gun ring.  Both the driver and the commander have clear fields of view.  As IED’s became more prevalent we were driving these by my second deployment:

This is a picture from my personal collection with faces and the Stryker’s tail number blacked out.  Notice the slat armor around the vehicle.  This was to defeat RPG rockets which can also be done with a chain link fence.  Supposedly the piezoelectric fuse in the PG-7 anti-tank rocket gets detached when it slams into the fence (or this type of armor) about 80% of the time.  While assaulters are bottled up inside the vehicle at least there is a good amount of room in the back for personnel and equipment.  While in transit they can pop out of the air guard hatch and man machine guns on pivot mounts like on the GMV.  The TC hatch allowed the tactical commander to sit high for good observation.  Notice the Remote Weapon System (RWS) on top.  While they are accurate they also reduce the gunner to playing a real life video game on a screen down inside the vehicle.  My third deployment looked more like this:

Another from my collection.  As you can see even the Iraqis are now driving up-armored humvees and are scared to ride in GMV’s or other non-armored vehicles.  Historical note: Iraqi humvees are the only model that comes with custom made ashtrays for smoking while in transit with all armor plated windows slid up.  Almost all American forces by this point were driving this abomination:

Now everyone is completely locked up inside a missile/IED magnet.  The gunner sits inside manning the RWS and if you run out of ammo in that thing you are basically screwed.  The gunner has to 1: unbuckle his seat belt 2: get out of his seat and open the top hatch 3: squeeze through the hatch (which is virtually impossible while wearing your body armor and yes, you wear that while in transit inside this thing) 4: retrieve a fresh ammo can(s) from the roof of the vehicle from racks troops have had to weld in place since no one had to foresight to think of ammunition storage when they built the MRAP 5: dump ammo into the RWS can and load the roads into the feed tray 6: squeeze back down into the vehicle 7: get back in the gunner’s seat and use the controls to chamber the first round 8: pray you don’t have a mis-feed 9: do all of this while the vehicle is driving 60mph.

Stuck inside the MRAP passengers are generally forbidden from sticking out of the air guard hatches in the back (somebody might get killed) so everyone just sits in their seats and falls asleep while in transit.  Why, not?  It’s not like you are in a position to effect anything if something happens anyway.  Arriving on an objective you have to use a switch to operate a air powered piston to open the 500 pound rear door.  The MRAP became mandatory for use by any and every commander afraid of taking casualties.  The MRAP has it’s purpose, as I said yesterday, it’s great for swivel chair generals to tour the “battle space” and get their tax free pay for the month but that is about it.  For Special Operations, Infantry, or any other troops who actually participate in combat rather then drive around at 30 mph in hundred vehicle convoys waiting to hit a IED the MRAP is a massive waste of time and money.

As you can see from the video in the beginning of this post the MRAP and other armor packages for humvees have done something, but not a lot to prevent casualties.  Terrorists introduce new weapons and tactics.  IED’s are built larger and larger.  If you want to cut down on attacks and prevent IED’s you have to conduct offensive operations against the enemy, not hide behind the fortress walls of your Forward Operating Base with it’s Cinabon, Burger King, and massage parlor (yes, they had one in Bagram airfield) or inside a armored tin can of a vehicle.

The most important element of maneuver warfare is…that’s right, maneuver and you can’t do that weighted down with 80 pounds of body armor and equipment on your person or from the inside of a heavily armored vehicle where you have no situational awareness.

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Inside a Stryker armored vehicle

This is another picture from ’05 when I was the TC of a Stryker, one of those eight wheeled armored vehicles you used to see before the army started driving the so called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.  I was surprised by the Stryker and fairly impressed with its performance while I felt the MRAP was a piece of crap.  The MRAP might be great for swivel chair generals to tour the green zone while visiting from the Pentagon in a VIP convoy but the damn thing is to tall, loud, and constricting for combat troops to operate from.

I know I’m going to draw some fire from MRAP groupies who believe the propaganda that a MRAP chassis has never been penetrated by an IED, or that it’s okay to only have a couple hundred round ammo can for the Remote Weapon System (RWS) because according to the company, “Fire fights only last for thirty seconds”  but having operated out of MRAPs, Strykers, GMV’s, and up-armored humvees, I was the least impressed with the MRAP.  I could probably write a full blown essay about this stuff…

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Combat Operations in Iraq (2009)

My second trip to Iraq I was in the same region I had been deployed to in 2005.  In ’05 the entire country was in chaos but by ’09 things were completely different.  The area shown in these pictures was downright deadly the first time I was there, we’d get into firefights every time we went into those neighborhoods.  Four years later we were able to walk around the market just carrying a pistol and BS with the locals.  This is a typical mission in today’s Iraq.

Out and about in the city with Iraqi forces we were promised a good sized enemy cache.  Digging around an empty lot this is what we found: a empty box buried under a few feet of dirt.  Yeah, it looked like a container for PG-7 rockets for a RPG but they were long gone by now.

A little more digging around the empty lot revealed this cornucopia of insurgent party favors…yeah, so this one was pretty much a bust.  A rusty AK magazine and some 7.62x54R bullets for a PKM.  I was going to torch it with a thermite grenade but the Iraqi commander stopped me.

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Sunset in Iraq

A picture I took while out on patrol during the summer of 2005.

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Combat Operations in Iraq (2005)

I took this picture while out on patrol in the summer of 2005.  At the time I was the tactical commander of a Stryker armored vehicle.  Back then Iraq had essentially no government and was basically in chaos so explosions and firefights were fairly normal.  I remember rolling off the FOB that day and seeing this pillar of black smoke rising above and city and wondering what was on fire today.  We had our own mission to worry about but as we got closer I saw that it was another unit’s Stryker burning.

The Stryker has dual self leveling gas tanks on both of its sides that supposedly blow outwards if penetrated by a IED, RPG, or whatever but this one was belching fire out of the back ramp.  You could hear rounds cooking off inside as well.

Here is a closer look.  While waiting for further orders regarding our own mission a Stryker from the other unit came pulling up alongside me.  A panicked looking lieutenant asked if I’d pull security for him down one of the nearby roads.  He was busy trying to seal off the area.  I told him, sure, but we could get orders to move out at any moment.  He seemed a little overwhelmed (guess I can’t blame him) and took off down the street.  A few minutes later our orders came over the radio and we had to leave.  Never found out what happened to that burning Stryker or the soldiers involved.

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