Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rolling Thunder

I spoke with Captain Dan Maze this afternoon, the Battalion S-2 for 3/7. Captain Maze spoke uninterrupted for almost 2 hours. It was a very good interview and he kept my interest the entire interview. Originally entering the Corps in December, 1998, Captain Maze was granted dual MOS's - Low Altitude Air Defense Officer (LAAD) and Air Defense Control Officer. After initial assignment to 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Battalion at Camp Pendleton, he attended the light armored vehicle (LAV) officers course and was subsequently assigned to the LAV Air Defense Platoon (LAV ADP), the only LAV-mounted Stinger Missile platoon in the Marine Corps at that time. Although Stingers are often thought of as man-portable surface to air missiles, the LAV ADP has multiple Stinger missiles mounted to her armor.

Surprisingly, the stinger variant LAV's actually belonged to 4th light armored reconnaissance(LAR) Battalion, a USMC reserve Battalion within the 4th Marine Division. This placed Captain Maze and his troops in an unusual circumstance - they were an active duty platoon working within a reserve Battalion. This was a tactically brilliant decision by Marine Corps Headquarters, as both the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions on the west coast (Camp Pendleton) and east coast (Camp Lejeune) would have squabbled like children if their sister Division owned the unit and they did not. It was a win/win situation for Captain Maze, as he was able to provide task organized support to both 1st and 2nd MARDIV, as well as having the opportunity to work with the reservists of 4th LAR Battalion during their drills and Annual training.

Following the kick-off of OIF 1, the LAV ADP split into sections and Captain Maze was attached to 3rd LAR as they moved northward toward An Nasiriyah during the initial "push" of the war. Captain Maze recalled how his convoy drove into an ambush near An Nasiriyah, not realizing the enemy was waiting for them in ambush positions. The enemy was estimated at 200-300 strong and was situated in a perfect U-shape ambush on both sides of the road. What the enemy didn't know was the LAV ADP variants are not only armed with Stinger missiles, but also have a turret mounted 25mm gatling gun that shoots approx. 1800 rounds per minute. The gatling gun is designed for used against airborne threats, but can just as easily be turned against ground targets, much like the mini-gun Jesse "the body" Ventura used to battle the space alien in the movie Predator. Combined with the armor, speed, and versatility of an LAV, as well as the "get some" attitude of the Marines in the convoy, the 40 minute firefight ended victoriously for the good guys with only 1 injury to any of the Marines in the convoy. A post battle examination of the killing grounds revealed a mess of weapons, notebooks, personal articles, and other items left behind in the deserted ambush positions. Most likely, the enemy figured they'd be shooting at lightly armored, soft skin vehicles such as the HMMWV's or 5-tons found normally in logistics trains, rather than well the well armored LAV's of 3rd LAR Battalion.

Captain Maze mentioned the "push" to An Nasiriyah and Baghdad. He's not the first Marine to use this term. I've heard it used a lot lately. Apparently, the Marines have adopted the term as a the latest reference to any sort of operational movement. They'll say "let's push" when a convoy heads out, or mention of a unit "push" whenever a patrol heads out to the field. New times, new slang.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time"
- Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC

Modern translation: "Git Some, Marines!"