Monday, May 12, 2008

MOH #1: Paul R. Smith

Paul R. Smith

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision
of what is before them, glory and danger alike,

and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it



This is one of a series of articles Ranger does not want to write. It concerns the four Medals of Honor awarded thus far in the Phony War on Terror, and the criminal negligence that allowed each scenario to unfold, resulting in the deaths of four valorous Americans. (We are not writing "PWOT" out of respect for these men.)

The four recipients were typical American military men who found themselves in exceptional circumstances requiring desperate acts of valor. The MOH should recognize valor above and beyond the call of duty. While each of these four medals recognize such actions, they also indicate a failure of leadership and ignorance of basic military precautions which led to the sacrifices of each of these recipients.

These four medals reflect poor leadership and tactics. The medals reflect the faithful and arduously brave performance of duty on behalf of the military members, but it was criminal negligence at best that placed our service members in such dubious tactical settings.

All four of these actions are woven of the same thread: loss of life that could have been avoided through judicious military planning. Surely soldiers die in combat, but death should not result from faulty planning and leadership. Extreme valor is no substitute for planning.

Today: Paul R. Smith, SFC, US Army action 4 April 03. It is subtitled: When Engineers Fight as Infantry.

From SFC Smith's citation:

"On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers."

The U.S engineers had at least two platoons which should have been adequate to defend against a company-sized enemy force. That is, IF the U.S. troops had adequate preparation, proper security and had their weapons set in for defense.

Since they were building a Prisoner of War holding area, it is safe to assume this action should have been in a secure rear area, as the Geneva Conventions require POW's to be collected in safe areas free of enemy fire.

If this requirement were met, there should have been combat arms forces between the enemy and the engineers. But this was not the case as the attacking forces lacked depth and were loosely tied in to adjacent units.

In addition, the engineers should have been tied into the fire support net and should have had the ability to call mortar and artillery upon any attacking force. Again, obviously this was not the case.

Additionally, why if two U.S. platoons were engaged did it devolve upon an SFC to save the day? Where were the platoon-level officers?

Certainly Combat Engineers are required to fight to complete their assigned missions, but that doesn't mean they are replacements for infantry units. Without question, SFC Smith and assigned units fought like hell, but one must ask why an enemy unit can just pop up on a battlefield that should be a rear area.

Even forward enemy POW collection points should be out of small arms range.

Next: Jason Dunham

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

unfortunately, in iraq, there is no discernable rear. that's why one of the most dangerous jobs in today's army is truck driver. but, somebody, somewhere should have realized that building a prison to hold the inhabitants of your zone of operations, might, just might, ruffle a few local feathers. POW installations are always prime targets for the folks who object to them being held.

just as wishful thinking is not a strategy, certainly, valor and heroism are not substitutes for sound practical planning.

Courage is not the absence of fear, it's knowing that there are things which matter more than fear.


Monday, May 12, 2008 at 4:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

There are no rear areas in Iraq/ Afgh.Today that is true BUT NOT WHEN THIS ACTION TOOK PLACE.In a classic planned attack scenario at Div/Corps level if Iraqi units were bypassed the reserve forces or follow on forces should have dealt with them. The Div level Engr. units needed to keep up and provide support as per their assigned missions. The fact that an enemy Company could just materialize is incredibly poor battlefield management.
In addition the Engr. should have had defensive posture laid in before the attack, this was an invasion was it not?
These comments apply to the Jessica Lynch scenario also.CS/CSS should not have been exposed to combat elements of the Iraqi Army . That is significant elements. Stagglers yes but determined belligerants-NO.

Monday, May 12, 2008 at 6:43:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i got to meet jessica lynch when she was in arizona to dedicate squaw peak being renamed to honor lori piestewa. she noticed the silver star ribbon pin on my lapel and said "i got one of those too, i didn't deserve it."

i leaned in and whispered "neither did i darlin'."

she beamed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 4:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


I 'spect you did earn your, unlike anything Ms. Lynch was awarded.

I believe you fired your rifle, vs. cowering in fear.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 5:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i was not known for returning with much ammo left.

although when i was singled out for my silver star it was for an operation where heroism and gallantry were the order of the day. i was noticed and there were superiors willing to do paperwork on my behalf, but there were many folks doing the same, or better all around me.

the honor was exceptional, my behavior was commonplace that day.

jessica lynch knows well that she was not deserving of the award, that she was promoted as something she absolutely was not. she was glad when the real story of the events began to come out. she also regretted not defying her direct orders to shut up and go along with the parade, keep still and take the bennies.

defying direct orders from flag officers is a bit much to expect from young girls from the sticks don't you think?

the political nature of the awards has disturbed me. i realize that there was always a political and propoganda element to them. if one's heroism involves the son of a flag officer, expect the wording of the citation to talk about "the highest levels of gallantry" and shit like that. but, when it involves blatant and easily disproved fabrications like was the case with tillman and lynch (and, quite frankly, i would expect dozens more which haven't been found out) the honorable actions of all who have gone before are sullied by these shameless, honorless, hucksters.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 12:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

MB, it's difficult for ANYBODY to disobey a direct order.I'm not trying to indict Lynch but her standard of conduct was not befitting a combat arms orientation.BUT I DO REALIZE THAT SHE'S NOT TRAINED TO RESIST TO THE LAST ROUND AS IS SOF TYPES.It is indeed unfair of myself or anyone to denigrate her actions because they were not of the standards of elite units.And yes it's unrealistic to think that she would be strong enuf to resist the dog and pony show nature of her situation. And she was severely injured and recuperating to boot. jim

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 9:37:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i agree whole heartedly with your evaluation of her behavior that horrible day.

her "heroism" consisted of being in a truck wreck. the whole "to the last bullet" fighting that was ascribed to her was a pure and simple lie, as was the "abuse" that was alleged while she was a prisoner. she actually ended up spending nearly a day and a half longer in captivity because the folks in the image machine wanted a photo op rescue and not some unsexy and unromantic hand over by the hospital staff.

no, there simply wasn't much heroism on that day to be found. the fight happened because the officer in the lead truck got lost and took a wrong turn, all the other trucks followed because that's how convoys work.

that resist to the last round standard is a harsh one. it's the only one for a lot of us.

when that concept became very real for me, when i had actually put what i knew was my last round into the magazine, and that last magazine into my rifle i used a chunk of rubble to start putting an edge on my entrenching tool.

some of the marine regulars saw that and began to do the same.

i had a brief conversation with wesley clark about the same lapel pin.

clark: where did you get that one?

me: dong ap bai.

clark: was it woolly there?

me: charles had teeth sir.

clark: yes, he did.

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 11:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

MB, and the oscar in the lead truck got lost because Div. and Corps MP assets were not available or were not doing their classically assigned mission of controlling the MSR's.
Another argument for planning. Did you ever see a photo of European or island WW2 combat where the MP's didn't exert control of the traffic? Both direction and combat road useage priorities.

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 2:23:00 PM GMT-5  

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