RANGER AGAINST WAR: Partnering with the Unknown -- SSG Miller MOH, Pt. 2 <

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Partnering with the Unknown -- SSG Miller MOH, Pt. 2

Bullet in a sand storm
Looking for a place to land

Bullet in a sand storm

Full heart beats an empty one

In the deck they dealt to man

Use me while you can

--Use Me While You Can
, Bruce Cockburn

SSG Miller Medal of Honor, Pt. 2:


When we left
Part I, "the entire friendly force still has the freedom of maneuver, has not decisively engaged and maintains initiative, and the main enemy fighting positions had not yet been approached or engaged. At this point it is still a fight to establish and maintain contact."

Their next move contradicts military doctrine.

It is a strange decision to partner with an unknown friendly unit and enter intense combat without knowing the friendlies capabilities and proclivities. This
ad hoc approach is NOT the way elite units operate. One cannot plan in-depth with an unknown quantity leading the point.

"During the movement, Staff Sgt. Miller continually reinforced proper patrolling techniques as well as repeatedly adjusted and corrected the ANA rate of speed. Realizing that the engagement area was located in the mouth of a small, extremely steep and narrow valley that created a natural choke point, Staff Sgt. Miller directed the ANA to disperse from a file into a modified wedge."

Why would anyone enter a choke point -- another word for "kill zone" -- when the high ground is obviously well-defended? Why not pull back and request the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) or conventional force to reinforce the effort? Simply put, twelve men do not an assault force make.

"This contact initiated a near-ambush from a company-sized group of insurgents. The insurgent forces fired on Staff Sgt. Miller’s patrol with multiple PKM machine guns, RPGs, and AK-47 assault rifles from distances of less than 25 meters.

"The patrol was completely vulnerable, in the kill zone and without cover in a complex ambush with insurgent fighting positions located to the front (East), the left (North), and the right (South)."

Why did the patrol enter into such a precipitous tactical environment? When does aggressive soldiering become foolhardy activity?

"It soon became evident that numerous insurgents occupied prepared, elevated and hardened fighting positions in the mountain rock with overhead cover along the North and South valley ridgeline. Insurgents on the valley floor to Staff Sgt. Miller’s direct front, left, and right were fighting in defilade and possessed ample cover and concealment necessary for the employment of overwhelming fires on the totally exposed patrol."

This is confusing as the enemy was in defilade. If they are in defilade, then aren't you also in defilade?

"In the face of devastating insurgent fire, the ANA located directly behind Staff Sgt. Miller broke formation and bound away downhill and out of the kill zone, leaving Staff Sgt. Miller alone and with no support in the open terrain."

If the fire was so devastating, why were no ANAs killed while pulling out of the area? Why would anybody occupy open terrain in the face of intense fire? Why not pull bakc and organize a hasty defensive position? Why not bring the SAW back into the main perimeter to provide direct defensive fire? Why not dismount the vehicular 7.62 machine guns and ground-mount them for defensive purposes?

"To the front of Staff Sgt. Miller’s position one PKM machine gun and five AK47s were inflicting devastating hostile fire on the retreating ANA members and the remaining ODA patrol. Understanding the potential for catastrophe, Staff Sgt. Miller boldly charged the enemy and accurately engaged the entire force with his squad automatic weapon, thus eliminating the threat.

"With heavy fire from insurgent forces from all sides of his position engulfing him, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to engage at least four other insurgent positions, killing or wounding at least 10 insurgents."

This is remarkable since previously we saw that the enemy was in defilade.

"The darkness of the night and limited visibility made Staff Sgt. Miller’s weapon, also the most casualty producing, the greatest threat to the insurgent ambush. The highlighted muzzle flash and the distinct sound from his SAW instantly marked Staff Sgt. Miller as an easily identifiable target."

Why was the MK 19 not serviced and returned to action? Why were the vehicle MG's not utilized by the ODA to provide covering fire? Where was the on-call artillery?

"Staff Sgt. Miller’s cover fire was so accurate that it not only provided the necessary cover to save his team, it also suppressed the enemy to the right flank of the patrol, to the point where they could not reposition from that direction against the ODA for the duration of the engagement."

This belies the idea of the enemy being in defilade. Also, since they were in prepared positions they would have avenues of escape safe from direct fire. Artillery would have been most useful at this time. One man cannot keep an enemy company-sized force pinned down, especially when they occupied numerous prepared fighting positions.

"During his final charge forward, Staff Sgt. Miller threw two hand grenades into fighting positions, destroying the positions and killing or wounding an additional four insurgents. Only when Staff Sgt. Miller realized his fellow team members were out of immediate danger, and in positions to support him, did he attempt to move for cover."

Neither the ANA nor ODA elements entered the kill zone. Only Miller was forward and out of supporting fire range prior to his sustaining his mortal wound. This is not prudent soldiering. Where does valor split from ill-advised tactics? The teams were able to move, and Miller's fire was not supernatural.

Pt. III: Things Don't Line Up

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Blogger FDChief said...

jim, my understanding is that FA fires are very limited in Afghanistan. The restrictive terrain, ROE, supply and service issues make CAS the "indirect fire" of choice.

My question would be; why the hell would you send a small patrol way the fuck into bandit country without having at LEAST a company-sized QRF saddled up on the PZ ready to descend on, above, or behind this gang of muj like the hammer of God?

My old platoon daddies drove the idea that you NEVER hung your ass out without knowing where your support was, how it would get there, and how long it would take them to get there. Plus if you were smart you made sure that they had alternate routes and means of transportation to get there, in case weather shut off the helos or bad guys closed the roads...

Reading your analysis just pisses me off thinking about how his higher hung this guy out. What a mess.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 1:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Nothing adds up in this action.
The friendlies did not have sufficient combat power to press an assault, nor the ability to sustain in heavy contact. This should've been apparent to a drunken blind man.
Did anybody actually expect a cakewalk in a traditionally hostile area with nasty fuckers in abundance.
Using my training it would take a infantry bn. in a coordinated attack to secure this battle area.
And to what purpose?
If the powers that be won't authorize arty support then the action should be scrubbed.
When we fight rifle to rifle we've already lost. Is it a fair trade -1 fine American soldier for......
It was very difficult for me to put these ideas to paper.
I'm glad that at least 1 person understands my points.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 3:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Publius said...

Ranger, I think a lot of people understand your points here. I give you all the credit in the world for doing this, but I don't know how you can stand it.

I just absolutely hate it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 8:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Carl said...

I get it Jim. Perhaps many do not like your honest (experienced) questions layered over the official tale. Isn't that old saying "truth is the first casualty of war" pertinent here?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 12:46:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is reminiscent of the 'Lone Survivor" critique (or Marcus Lutrell's story) that originally brought me to your blog in my search for reasoned analysis.

I'm with you and FDChief's points.

It's sad.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 12:56:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I'm always happy to hear from you.
It took me a month of this rolling around in my guts before i could decide to put it to paper.
I can't stand it either.
MI guys understand that, but us grunts are more obtuse.
Everything that i say is based on doctrine and every soldier knows these things.
I wrote on the Murphy MOH and will touch on it again in my synopsis.
One thing that really grabs whats left of my nuts is the statement in the citation that purports that a WOG yelled God willing or some such garbage just before SSG MILLER smoked his camel..
My question-how did the Amies hear this over the din of battle, while separated physically, and with warmers on their ears(probably) AND WITH HELMETS RESTRICTING THEIR RECEPTIVITY.
This is just too much for an old cynic to swallow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 10:54:00 AM GMT-5  

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