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Cryo Chamber

Infantry combat changes little in Gulf War II

href=””>Donald Sensing has


good analysis
of the trends in infantry combat over the last

several decades, and how the recent war with Iraq was fought by the grunts on

the ground. Contrary to popular wisdom, American infantry have not seen a

fundamental shift in the application of their art, except for the ways they’re

able to rely on technologically advanced airpower and artillery. At the tip of

the spear, where the rubber sole meets the sand, little has changed since

WWI: (more…)

During the recent Iraq campaign,

Marine riflemen
were interviewed about their experiences by

after-action interviewers.

Almost all interviewed stated all

firefight engagements conducted with small arms (5.56mm guns) occurred in the

twenty to thirty (20-30) meter range. Shots over 100m were rare. The maximum

range was less than 300m. Of those interviewed, most sniper shots were taken

at distances well under 300m, only one greater than 300m (608m during the

day). After talking to the leadership from various sniper platoons and

individuals, there was not enough confidence in the optical gear (Simrad or

AN/PVS-10) to take a night shot under the given conditions at ranges over

300m. Most Marines agreed they would “push” a max range of 200m only.

Believe it or not, those ranges were almost exactly the same as in

World War I, according to General of the Army Omar Bradley, reported in his


General’s Life
. As commanding general of the 82d Infantry

Division early in World War II, Bradley invited Medal of Honor recipient Alvin

York to visit his troops. (The 82d was not yet an airborne division at that

point.) York was a legendary Tennessee marksman who had earned the only Medal

of Honor awarded to an 82d Division soldier in the Great War. Bradley hosted

York in his own quarters.

I queried him closely on his experiences

in France. One important fact emerged from these talks: most of his effective

shooting had been done at a very short range – twenty-five to fifty

More… Mr. Sensing also refines his thoughts,

after some e-mails that he had ignored the influence of “rules of engagement” on

American infantry in Iraq. I’ve written on ROE in the past, and I agree with his

analysis here. The fact that our troops had restrictive ROE reinforced the fact

that they fought at close range, since they were forced to positively identify

targets before engaging them.

…infantry couldn’t do recon by fire in Iraq, at least very much,

because the potential for civilian deaths was too great. So Iraqi defenders

retained the initiative of when to begin the firefight. As far as I can tell

from my readings, firefights began at close range. That meant that half the

advantage of machine guns, their longer accurate range, was usually obviated.

Still, though, I find it pretty interesting that whether the rules of

engagement were restrictive or permissive, the typical engagement ranges for

rifle fire in combat have remained virtually unchanged since World War


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