Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who Fights This War?

One of my regular riding buddies is a senior colonel in the armored brigade headquartered here. He has only been riding a couple of years, but is an avid and competitive runner and likes riding a lot. He is 46, planning to retire after this tour, and looking forward to riding in Colorado where he and his wife plan to live.

During the Gulf War in 1991, he was a platoon leader in charge of five M-1 tanks during the invasion of Iraq. By the time he went through the armor officer training in the late 80s, the M1 had completely replaced the M60A1 that I served in back the 70s. But we are both old armor guys (No tanks here at Tallil) and sometimes talk about tanks.

He is very animated when he talks about crossing the desert in an M1 and some of the battles he fought before that brief war ended. He has a look that is so happy that it shows through a helmet and sunglasses even when we are riding 18mph side by side when he talks about the Gulf War. "Our tanks were in charge of the battlefield," he said. "We could engage targets effectively at 3000 meters--they couldn't hit us at half that distance."

The other night he told me about on particular engagement when a company of Iraqi infantry were surrendering, moving toward his vehicles from a position a few hundred meters away. Suddenly the group of surrendering soldiers got fired on by other Iraqis concealed behind them. Iraqi tanks appeared at 2000 meters out. He and the other tank in his section fired on the infantry in ambush with machine guns, the other three tanks fired on the approaching Iraqi tanks. "We got the two Iraqi tanks with first-round hits," he said. "One was 1980 meters, one was 2340 meters. I saw the hit on the near tank. The turret flipped 10 feet in the air and landed beside the hull."

We then started talking about firing tank rounds and how cool it was that was firing fin-stabilized solid shot ammo with a 5700-foot-per-second muzzle velocity. He is currently involved in reconstruction and all of the very unwarlike things that soldiers do in this war, but when the talk turns to tanks, he is a happy guy.

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