Terminal Lance #140 “Escalation of Force”
August 12, 2011
Shout, show, shove, shoot.
This was the mantra given to turret gunners in my battalion during my time in Iraq. The “Escalation of Force” procedures varied depending on the tools available to the gunner. For me, I had a square of brightly colored orange safety-fabric strung up to a stick (literally, a stick–as in, from a tree) with 550 cord for shouting; I had a pen-flare for showing, which was a small flare shot out of a pen-sized launcher; I had my M16-A4 loaded with tracer rounds for shoving, and of course my beloved M2 .50 for shooting.
All of us knew the steps, and they weren’t hard to remember. However, during my time in country, the guidelines became increasingly strict. As a result, Marines would more or less be apprehensive to actually shoot at an oncoming vehicle. Not because they might shoot back, but because they might face punishment back in the rear. I recall one event on MSR Mobile, we pulled off onto a side road. My vehicle, the lead truck, successfully traversed the turn, however the vehicle behind me had a close call with an oncoming Iraqi truck. The gunner, we’ll call him Bob, ended up taking a couple of warning shots at the vehicle to get it to stop moving.
Bob followed all of the necessary EoF procedures, but when we got back to the rear he was placed under an absurd investigation. The Iraqi was fine, no one was injured, it was really just a misunderstanding of the Iraqi driver. While Bob ended up being cleared, and rightfully so, the company ended up putting our entire platoon under a death-by-powerpoint style presentation of EoF procedures. In addition, they decided to fill the rest of the day with other safety classes that had nothing to do with EoF, shooting, or Iraq.
I’m pretty sure the next morning just about everyone in the platoon told Bob, “Hey, don’t shoot at anyone today–I don’t feel like sitting through another day of bullshit classes.”
I will concede that it is a tricky situation. Ultimately I believe the strict enforcement of EoF procedures undoubtedly lead to less innocent deaths of Iraqi civilians–a very favorable result. However, for the grunt–for the guy behind the gun–it becomes a stressful fumble of figuring out what step is next and whether or not it is actually the right thing to do.
However, the same can be said for just about any situation in a war when there’s guns and people involved.
With that said, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m encouraging skipping steps or discounting the validity of EoF procedures. I implore all turret gunners to use their best judgement with the tools available.
In other news, my book is coming out next week!
I’ll have the URL for you the day of the release, there are no pre-orders but I don’t think we’ll sell out of them, so don’t worry about it. We’re shooting for an August 15th release, but that may be off by a day or two depending on how fast the shipment to the fulfillment center goes. I will keep you all updated, be sure to check the Facebook fan page and my Twitter for the latest updates. I’ll also be updating the News section of the site with book details when it’s available.
Be advised: there may not be a new comic on Tuesday. I’m moving this weekend and may not have my internet set up in time in my new apartment. Not to mention, I’m moving.
Anyway, have a great weekend! If you tap it, take photos.