LIfe in sunny Anbar province
Joao Silva for The New York Times
Sgt. Jesse E. Leach of the Marines assisted Lance
Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo, who was shot by a sniper
in the town of Karma. He survived.
Sniper Attacks Adding to Peril of U.S. Troops
KARMA, Iraq, Nov. 3 — The bullet passed through Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo as his Marine patrol moved down a muddy urban lane. It was a single shot. The lance corporal fell against a wall, tried to stand and fell again.
Karma is a town near Falluja in the unruly province of Anbar.
His squad leader, Sgt. Jesse E. Leach, faced where the shot had come from, raised his rifle and grenade launcher and quickly stepped between the sniper and the bloodied marine. He walked backward, scanning, ready to fire.
Shielding the marine with his own thick body, he grabbed the corporal by a strap and dragged him across a muddy road to a line of tall reeds, where they were concealed. He put down his weapon, shouted orders and cut open the lance corporal’s uniform, exposing a bubbling wound.
Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo, shot through the right arm and torso, was saved. But the patrol was temporarily stuck. The marines were engaged in the task of calling for a casualty evacuation while staring down their barrels at dozens of windows that faced them, as if waiting for a ghost’s next move.
This sequence on Tuesday here in Anbar Province captured in a matter of seconds an expanding threat in the war in Iraq. In recent months, military officers and enlisted marines say, the insurgents have been using snipers more frequently and with greater effect, disrupting the military’s operations and fueling a climate of frustration and quiet rage.
Across Iraq, the threat has become serious enough that in late October the military held an internal conference about it, sharing the experiences of combat troops and discussing tactics to counter it. There has been no ready fix.
The battalion commander of Sergeant Leach’s unit — the Second Battalion, Eighth Marines — recalled eight sniper hits on his marines in three months and said there had been other possible incidents as well. Two of the battalion’s five fatalities have come from snipers, he said, and one marine is in a coma. Another marine gravely wounded by a sniper has suffered a stroke.
A sniper team was captured in the area a few weeks ago, he said, but more have taken its place. “The enemy has the ability to regenerate, and after we put a dent in his activity, we see sniper activity again,” said the commander, Lt. Col. Kenneth M. DeTreux.
Marines in two infantry companies recounted more cases, telling of lone shots that zipped in as if from nowhere, striking turrets and walls within inches of marines. They typically occur when the marines are not engaged in combat. It is as if, they say, they are being watched.
By many measures, the Iraqi snipers have showed unexceptional marksmanship, usually shooting from within 300 yards, far less than ranges preferred by the elite snipers in Western military units.
But as the insurgent sniper teams have become more active, the marines here say, they have displayed greater skill, selecting their targets and their firing positions with care. They have also developed cunning methods of mobility and concealment, including firing from shooting platforms and hidden ports within cars.
They often use variants of the long-barreled Dragunov rifle, which shoots higher-powered ammunition than the much more common Kalashnikov assault rifles. Their marksmanship has improved to the point of being good enough.
The Soviet theory was to supply every squad with a sniper's rifle and to shoot close in. It was to give as many units as possible the ability to snipe.
Well, someone is training snipers using the Soviet methods, which is to get a bunch of ok shooters, have them practice in the field and then unleash them on the enemy.
posted by Steve @ 10:04:00 AM