Saturday, May 30, 2009
The Bad News Bears
Today's firefight lasted 2.5 hours. Which I know sounds crazy until I explain how it goes sometimes. We're driving down the road in an 8 vehicle convoy when we take a few shots from the ridgeline maybe 800 meters away. So we stop and start returning fire in the vicinity of where it was coming from. An Army convoy happened to be right in front of us, so they coordinated artillery and mortars on the enemy positions. But with all the rounds and explosives raining down on them, we simply could not get those guys out of their positions in the mountains. Things would be quiet for a few minutes, and we'd think they were finished, and then they'd shoot a burst our way. This went on for what seemed like forever. The bad guys would shoot a few rounds and then we'd return fire for a minute or so. Wait a couple of minutes and repeat. Finally we called an end to it and started to get the ANA back into the vehicles to push out of there...but as soon as we started driving away we'd take another burst of machine gun fire nearby and the ANA would jump out of the vehicles and light up the mountainside.
Here's a few interesting tidbits from it all:
-the ANA needed an ammo resupply from a nearby base 30 minutes into the fight since they'd shot so many rounds so fast.
-several ANA went into a local shop and drank chai during the fighting; many other ANA began eating lunch from their semi-covered positions during the shooting. The eating wasn't even the funny part - the funny part was how much they were enjoying the food and the camaraderie under the circumstances. They were a bit put off when I refused their offer of a granola bar.
-the Apaches finally showed up and showered the area with rockets (this usually puts an end to the bravado of our good friends in the mountains), but to no avail as the sporadic shooting continued. When the guy on the ground tried to correct the impacts of the Apaches' rockets, the pilot came back over the radio laconically replying, "We hit the spot the rounds were coming from."
-at one point we decided to use the vehicles as cover so the ANA soldiers, who do not yet have the luxury of armored vehicles, could run across an open area on the road. The ETTs managed to execute with our vehicles but the ANA driver drove off and left his guys in the open when three of them tripped and stumbled over each other.
Some of the stuff you really have to laugh at. The image of the ANA First Sergeant walking around gesticulating and yelling at his guys, and then after hearing a pop shot from the enemy, turning and distractedly firing a 20 round burst from his AK toward the mountainside while hardly losing a beat on his rant at his guys was absolutely priceless.
On the positive side, the ANA did keep their big guns working the whole time, and none of them were afraid to fight. They all will jump out there and start shooting, even if they don't aim and squeeze off all their rounds at once.
Once the fixed wing showed up and started dropping bombs it came to an end; this was shortly after we finally managed to get everyone on or in a truck and get clear of the area. As for a better way to fight the fight.... When guys are buried into the mountains with strong, covered, bunker-like positions from which to shoot at us, it's tough for us to combat them. Assaulting 800 meters up a steep mountainside is not really feasible. The best thing we can do is get a bomb directly on target. I've bagged on the Army in the past for using anti-tank weapons to shoot at individuals, but today something like a TOW missile complete with its infrared sights would've been handy to destroy a bunker or cave. Preemptively, we can go up there and destroy those positions, which is something we do with regularity. But not often enough apparently.
As for the title of this post...I put it there for comic relief, not because we're really that bad. The ANA have made me proud on a number of occasions - today just wasn't their finest hour. And in any case, I've learned by now that if you can't laugh a little bit at some of the ANA antics, you're bound to drive yourself nuts.