The Rumor Doctor has seen blogs claiming that U.S. troops in Afghanistan can’t have a round in the chamber when they go outside the wire.
That means troops would have to do more than aim and pull the trigger to shoot. They’d have to pause and pull back on the charging handle to prepare the weapon for firing. That extra moment can be precious when faced with a life-and-death situation. Of course, with an increased emphasis on preventing civilian casualties, that extra step might also prevent accidental discharges or give troops more time to think before reacting.
But would that be going too far and would it endanger soldiers’ lives?
The Rumor Doctor was naturally curious. And he found that such a rule was not the result of any wide-ranging instruction. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has not issued any such general order, said ISAF spokesman Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale.
“Force protection levels are dictated by the local threats and determined by commanders at the lowest possible tactical level, so without knowing the specific unit from which this report came I can’t verify with absolute certainty that verbal or written guidance has not been issued locally,” Breasseale said in an e-mail.
The Rumor Doctor heard from a soldier in a military police company in eastern Afghanistan who said his unit was under orders not to have a round in the chamber when going outside the wire.
The unit the company had replaced was under a similar order, which company noncommissioned officers said came from higher, the soldier said.
Rumor Doctor tried to e-mail the company commander in question but was referred to first to Task Force Bastogne, under which the company falls, and then Combined Joint Task Force 101.
“While it is not our policy to comment on the specifics of those force protection measures, I can tell you that individual unit commanders have the flexibility and latitude to increase or decrease their force protection posture as needed and as appropriate for the situation,” Master Sergeant Brian Sipp, of CJTF-101 public affairs said in an e-mail.
So Rumor Doctor gave ISAF public affairs the name of the unit in question. Shortly afterward, the soldier on the ground informed the Rumor Doctor that soldiers in his company were suddenly authorized to chamber a round outside the wire.
RUMOR DOCTOR’S DIAGNOSIS: Sure sounds like this rumor was true, but the company-level order has since been changed. If someone tells you that you can’t have a round in the chamber when going outside the wire, e-mail the Rumor Doctor at