Convoys will now stand and fight when attacked in Iraq
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — In a change to Army tactics, U.S. soldiers will stand and fight instead of shooting and pressing on when their convoys are attacked on Iraqi roads, according to Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.
“In the first two years of Iraq, convoys (under attack) just fired and kept rolling,” said Maj. Roger Gaines, the battalion’s operations officer said Thursday. “That gave bad guys the perception that Americans run away. Now, convoys will stop and engage the enemy.”
The change is part of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker’s underlying philosophy of a more rigorous response to attacks, Perritt said in a telephone interview Thursday.
The training is mandatory for all soldiers, regardless of their military occupational specialty.
Members of the 1st Armored Division’s 141st Signal Battalion tried out the new policy while practicing live-fire convoys this week at the Grafenwöhr Training Area.
“We are training to take the fight to the enemy,” said Gaines, a 45-year-old Portland, Ore., native. “If you stop and fight, you can at least neutralize them or take it to the point that they disengage.”
On Thursday, 35 soldiers from the battalion’s Company C convoyed across a range, responding to simulated roadside bomb and several small-arms attacks. Each time the convoy was attacked, soldiers leapt out of their Humvees and took cover before unleashing a hail of rifle and machine-gun fire on pop-up targets.
Company C’s 3rd Platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Joshua Mendoza, 26, of Chandler, Ariz., said shooting on the run did not send insurgents the right message.
“They have been seeing how convoys are being attacked and driving off,” he said. “The enemy has felt like they might be winning. Now we are going to take them out.”
The change in tactics is necessary because insurgents are getting smarter, said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Ahlborn, 36, of San Diego.
“They know our reactions to certain things. Two years ago, they would never try and stop us,” he said. “But now IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are becoming more prevalent on the battlefield, and they are doing anything they can to try and stop the convoys.
“So what we are trying to do is plan for any type of contingency or scenario that insurgents might throw at us. The objective is not to chase them down. Just protect yourself and neutralize the threat that is immediate to your convoy.”
Sgt. Joel Arbour, a Company C soldier, served in northern Iraq from 2004 to 2005 with 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment.
The 28-year-old Santa Fe, Texas, native said he’s been attacked by small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, roadside bombs, car bombs and suicide bombers during convoys in Iraq. Back then, units would put down suppressing fire and keep moving.
But times have changed, he said.
“The insurgents have learned that we blow on through. They know you are going to run past, so they will ambush [soldiers] down the road with a frontal ambush,” he added. “This training gets us ready for multiple attacks.”