I have been listening to the television coverage of the ongoing search for several men of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division south of Baghdad in the Mahmoudiyah area. The regiment's badge is at left.
The latest I have heard indicates that these eight men were in an observation post consisting of two up-armored HUMVEES surrounded by concertina wire and that the position was attacked at 0400 (CNN Barbara Starr) from four sides, that the assaulting force breached the wire and overran the position. According to CNN, the "patrol" had been in that oupost for five hours.
If that is so, then this was not a patrol. It was an outpost placed there to watch for the emplacement of IEDs (on a road presumably). The battalion appears to have had other such outposts out that night.
- Had this same position been occupied on other nights any time recently?
- Did the squad have adequate night vision equipment and were there adequate fields of fire and observation?
- Were supporting mortar and/or artillery fires plotted in a "box" around the position. Was such fire available? What about armed helicopter support?
- How long did it take the squad's "back up" (500 yards away?) to get moving and to arrive?
- An armored HUMVEE is basically a big "jeep" with a ton of armor hung on it. Each has an M2 .50 cal. machine gun on it. The armor on this kind of vehcle will stop small arms fire (maybe) but nothing else. Were these men well enough equipped for the job?
- Were radios relied on to an excessive degree in this situation? Hand held pyrotechnics should always be included in a signal plan for this kind of operation.
A CNN military analyst said yesterday that this kind of disaster "in detail" results from having to do "too many things with too few troops." One of the captured soldiers' mother said today, "we need a miracle."
They were both right. pl