[Pt II of April 7 Marine Reconnaissance Ambush] --
Actions at the objective:
The enemy had RPG's and at least three light machine guns suppressing the friendlies. Marines are taught to dismount attack, which is commendable, but it is not the best course of action.
They must break out of the kill zone and it is better to do so in a hardened vehicle than on foot (as dismounted Infantry.) While the enemy forces were effective, there were holes in their operation.
They did not seal the kill zone, nor did they have a well-conceived exit after the action. The Marine's described this as a near ambush, but the fact that it was not initiated with an explosive device suggests enemy incompetence. Additionally, the enemy's guns were neither dug in nor in hardened bunkers, also demonstrating a questionable level of proficiency.
In short, the enemies were not top-drawer soldiers.
There was nothing stopping the Marine's follow-on vehicles from swinging off the road and rolling the enemy's shoulder. Anything should have been done to break the tempo of the ambush.
Again, a mortar or 40 mm round would have been a literal life-saver: never send a man when you can send a mortar round, instead. The Marines were not carrying grenades, which are most needed when assaulting machine guns.
Now for the hard calls (which is what they pay officers for):
The lead vehicle is in a bad way, but he is still drawing enemy fire, which lessens the fire on the potential maneuver elements. A deep move right and left and a vehicle assault to the middle of the enemy's position would be a possible course of action, and one would expect this to be a normal immediate action call for recon Marines. It was not done, however.
In past battle analyses, we have discussed the need to determine if enemy fire is effective or ineffective, a key combat lesson. If a recon unit lacks air assets to do route recon and clearing, then perhaps the mission should be reconsidered and reconfigured.
That this failed mission was not casts aspersions on the Marine's training and counter-ambush techniques. Remember: if the enemy can see you, then you can see them. If they can hit you, ditto.
Ranger's take is that courage and valor are not substitutes for correct route recons and terrain analysis prior to launching a road-running event. Distance and interval should be enforced between march elements. This rule holds even for elite troops; complacence is not a military virtue.
These prior preparations and adherence to protective postures may seem tedious in the face of Marines willing to dismount and be "kinetic", but such precautions may prevent the grievous injuries and loss of life suffered when they are absent or given short-shrift, as they were on 7 April 2004 outside of Fallujah for an unlucky group of Recon Marines.
Now this is the point where the reader says, "But you weren't there!", which of course is true. But shock action and firepower are linked to keeping your vehicles mobile and to providing effective suppressive fire, and both were deficient on the side of the friendlies in this action.
Had any or all of these offensive-defensive actions been employed, another sad and tragic event in a litany of such events might have either been avoided or at least, ameliorated.