A military academy in Amman, Jordan, asked me to speak about operating in hostile environments. I used this video to demonstrate what not to do in an ambush, and the importance of the six P’s: prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. With respect, I’ll point out what could have been done to prevent the loss of three private military contracters working for Edinburgh.
Be forewarned, this is only a primer. Realize that not every detail will be dissected in this after-action review.
You are viewing this from the convoy’s third car on Route Irish in Baghdad, Iraq. Driving Route Irish was the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with only one empty chamber in your revolver—odds were good you were going to see fireworks. The three cars sit idle on this devil’s highway.
- Never remain static.
- Get your ass off the “X”. Do it now!
Full disclosure, the convoy was held up by U.S. forces that were clearing a suspected I.E.D farther down the road. This is no excuse for their posture.
Small-arms fire breaks right of the convoy. Within seconds, the lead driver in car one disembarks. This is a costly and unconscionable error. This man literally drives the convoy. All actions are based on his decision-making. He needs to be the “wheel man,” your best driver. Seconds later, his partner exits and returns fire over the trunk.
The passenger in car two cracks the seal of his car, opens the door, and allows bullet after bullet to tear through the vehicle like a sledgehammer through a window. I’m sure his teammates didn’t appreciate rounds bouncing inside the car like a pinball machine.
- Remain in your vehicle unless it’s immobilized.
- Never exfiltrate to the side of contact.
The situation is now past the stage of chaotic. Any prior planning of a tactical response to contact is out the window. Even the operators who have their wits about them are now at the mercy of negligent teammates. Keep in mind, all they have to do is load up and drive—do it now!
To the left, a teammate appears from car three, clearly impaired. If you don’t have a plan in your head, stay in the car because now you’re a liability to the team.
“You’re hit in the femoral, buddy.”
This is the message exchanged between two teammates in car three. Devastating. You have less than a minute until you bleed out from a wound to the femoral artery.
- There is zero radio communication given the medical severity. No one from car three is engaged. No excuse.
Car two sporadically parallels itself next to the lead car. This is the correct tactic for a cross-load if car one is inoperable. Again, the passenger in car two exits in the direction of incoming fire. Someone finally throws smoke, allowing temporary concealment.
- A passenger from car two leaves the door ajar, exposing operators on the opposite side of the vehicle.
- Car two utilized an accurate response by paralleling itself to car one. There is no other action taken by the operators. Get your ass off the “X”. Do it now!
The operator of car three appears again to the left flank, disoriented. His buddy bleeds out and dies. Blood stains the asphalt and bodies are lifeless in the middle of Route Irish. Only then is a medevac request broadcasted over the radio.
Three operators perished in this ambush. It’s a disheartening cautionary tale. War sucks and tragedy is a certainty. We can learn from examples like these to improve our tactics and take the fight to the enemy smartly.
Only the dead have seen the end of war — Plato
Image courtesy of picsfab.com