Just to introduce you, pls correct me if im not right and add in anything what you want to share with us, about your tasks. You served in Afghanistan with the 2nd Marine Divison, as a gunner, in an M-ATV. After your deployment, you and your unit went into an FOB (which one?) where you was part of the QRT and your plt? sqd? also provide security for the Battalion CO.
I'll try to clear up some confusion. I was with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (which is part of the 2nd Marine Division). We spent our entire deployment (seven months) at FOB District Center in Musa Qala, acting simultaneously as our battalion commander's security detail, and the battalion-level quick-reaction force (in addition to the company-level QRFs). Anytime there was an incident where we were the nearest QRF, we were launched for it--primarily IED strikes. And yes, I was a .50cal gunner in a MATV, although we also took part in dismounted operations, in which case I simply acted as a rifleman.
I guess you familiar with the HUMWEE, so im curious, what are the main differences, what you observed/experienced as a user, between the up armored HMWW and an M-ATV?
I am indeed familiar with the Humvee, having gunned one all through our pre-deployment training workups. They're good vehicles, and it's amazing that they've been able to maintain their usefulness for this long, but they've grown outdated. Simply put, they're not survivable under the conditions we were operating in. Even on the up-armored Humvees like the M1114 and M1151, the bottom of the vehicle is flat and unarmored. In other words, an IED made of 40lbs of homemade explosives (HME) detonated directly underneath the hull will blow right through and most likely kill or severely wound everyone inside. In addition, the engine and chassis have received minimal upgrade since its introduction in the 1980s, and when all that extra armor is slapped on, the vehicle very quickly becomes underpowered, and has difficulty traversing particularly rough terrain. I can't speak for any other unit, but we did not use them outside the wire at all. In fact, the only two Humvees we had on our FOB were used inside the wire to move materials, trash, and casualties. A MATV, by contrast, is nearly as well-armored as an MRAP
, but is even more mobile than the Humvees were. They have a much more powerful turbodiesel engine, a four-wheel independent suspension pulled from our 7-ton trucks (also known as the MTVR--this suspension has also been retrofitted onto most MRAPs in-country), and a V-shaped hull that's much higher off the ground. The open truck bed is easier to stow a ****load of gear in if necessary. The interior is also somewhat more comfortable and spacious than the Humvee (and has five-point harnesses to hold you in the seat during a rollover) and more efficiently laid out.
In your pictures i spotted, that you wearing the new SPC armor. How do you like it? Did you missed the bulkier MTV, as a gunner ? ( I mean, it provides more protection, due to the fact, that it cover more of your body than SPC)
I hate the MTV flak jacket. It's too heavy, too bulky, and too hot. You feel like a turtle when you're wearing it, especially because of the restriction it places on moving your arms and torso. The SPC covers less of your torso, so there's more airflow (thus it's cooler to wear), and you have a much greater range of movement. Unfortunately, even with the SPC we still have to wear side SAPI plates, which to me is simply excessive. Front and back SAPIs are reasonable protection, and not that heavy. Adding those side SAPIs significantly impairs your movement and comfort, and is just enough weight to tip the balance towards "too much." But that's not a decision for me to make, and it's not likely that our superiors will ever let us ditch them.
How can you describe the relationship between you MC guys and the civilians ? As you wrote, the civvies stole your barbed wire and the kids throw rocks. But is this mean, that most of them feel anger towards you, or it was not that usual?
The locals were not necessarily hostile, but they would take advantage of us at every opportunity, especially since they know that we will not retaliate against them. This includes stealing engineering stakes (any kind of metal is a very valuable commodity over there), or demanding compensation for real or imagined transgressions. Oftentimes the kids (and only the kids) would throw rocks at our vehicles when we drove by, but I don't know how much of that was out of hostility and how much was out of boredom. For them, throwing rocks at military vehicles is probably just like American kids egging police cars. But in general, any time that we got out and talked to the civilians, they were friendly and receptive, and cooperative. Naturally, some neighborhoods were better than others. What was universal was that whoever you started talking to, everyone wanted you to do something for them. and it usually involved us giving them money or building something for them.
I think you've met some ANA guys. What do you think about them, do they under equiped, poorly trained, or you felt that the things started to changes? Same question about the ANP guys.
I won't beat a dead horse talking about the ANA. All I have to say is that most of them only seem to be there to pull down a paycheck, and are more than content to sit inside the wire all day and smoke hashish.
There are a lot of argument going on, time to time, that the M16A4 plus M4s are not so suitable in rough conditions, and always jaming. We would like to hear your first hand experiences about the M16A4/M4 (it depend on, which one you issued), and how did it perform during your deployment, under desert conditions.
Thus far in my career, I've probably had about ten stoppages when using my M16 or M4, and all but one were caused by faulty magazines. I did not personally fire my M4 enough to run into any issues during the deployment. None of the members of my platoon ever mentioned anything going wrong, and I have not heard much from others in the battalion either. My opinion is that it's mainly an issue of training and discipline. If you take care of your weapon, it will take care of you. That means frequent and effective cleaning and lubing of your rifle. Doesn't hurt to periodically unload, clean, and reload your magazines either. I did it about once a month.
On the FOB, are there any chaw hall with field kitchen or something, or mostly you ate MREs and tinned food?
On our FOB we had a long tent set up with tables and benches as a chow hall. For breakfast and dinner, they usually served UGREs (Unified Ground Rations Express), which is basically the same kind of preserved food you find in an MRE, only heated and served in a tray to deceive you into thinking it's real food. MREs were available at any other time of day. Periodically a supply run would come in with "luxury" foods, like cereal, beef jerky, muffins, soda, even frozen chicken and steak sometimes, but this was not very often. They also tried using local meat and vegetables to make a few meals, but this usually ended up with alot of Marines getting sick.
Based on the pictures, you mostly used flat, dirt roads, did you encounter any "rollover" ? Or the new MRAPs has no such problems ?
The roads were not nearly as flat as you might think. A "road" in Afghanistan is really just a very long patch of dirt that's been made bare by lots of people driving over it. They're very uneven, and there were many times that I thought we were going to roll over (a scary prospect as a gunner). Fortunately, the only instance we had of a rollover was the MRAP I showed in the photos. In that case, the road narrowed significantly and was raised above the surrounding culvert. The MRAP got a little too close to the edge, some dirt gave way beneath one of the wheels, and it went over.
Which nation's soldier did you met or work together overthere ? And what is your opinion about, those non US forces in Afghanistan whom you met, or if you did not worked or met any of them, what is your opinion/impression about non US forces in Afghanistan?
The only international forces I worked with was the British unit that we replaced in Musa Qala (I honestly don't know what specific unit they were from, although I believe they may have been from the Household Cavalry). The Brits are very well-trained, very professional, but also laid-back. Most of them also have a wicked sense of humor. I disagree with some of their tactics and the way they conducted themselves in some situations, but I won't speak ill of them. They're good to go in my book.
What was the most frightfull situation during your deployment ?
The most frightening situation was when vic-1 hit their first IED going towards Salaam Bazaar. The dust cloud completely enveloped the truck, and as it cleared, the only movement I saw was the vehicle commander's door lazily swinging open. I thought he was dead for sure. Turned out all he got was a bruised heelbone from the force of the blast coming up into the floor.
How do you feel, is it worth it for you, to go out there?
Do I want to go out there again? Hell yes I do. I've only been back less than two months and I'm ready to go. I hate being in garrison, and knowing that other Marines are out there fighting right now while I'm back here in the States is not comforting whatsoever. I'm a grunt. My purpose in life is to train, fight, and have my fellow Marines' backs. The prospect of spending more than a year back here before deploying again is rapidly becoming unappealing to me.
What do you think, where is Afghanistan going, what does the future look like for the country?
I really can't say where Afghanistan is going. What I can say is that it really depends more on the Afghans themselves than on our efforts. We can only keep killing Taliban and give the people there an opportunity to make the effort to rise up out of the stone age. As it is, it seems that they're perfectly content to keep living in squalor, danger, and under oppression.
I saw some of your fellow Marine already using the new danner mountain combat boot. What are your impressions with it? If you not using it, or dont know anything about that, if you tell me what is your issued combat boot, and share us with your experiences with it, like it is comfortable-keep your ankle in one piece on rough terrain etc, it would be great too.
All of us were issued one pair of the new Danner RAT (Rugged All Terrain) boots before we went to Mojave Viper (also known as Combined Arms Exercise or CAX), which was our final exercise before we deployed. I wore it all through the month at CAX in the winter and it was outstanding. Extremely comfortable, and the leather is already so soft that they don't even really need to be broken in. Seemed like they were pretty much completely waterproof too, no matter how much it rained or I had to wade through ankle-deep water. The only reason I didn't wear it in-country was that the RAT boots we were issued are heavily insulated and do not have vent holes. As a result, after only a couple days in Afghanistan I decided they were too hot, and reverted to my normal hot-weather Danners. The Marine Corps approves a couple different brands of combat boots, namely Bates, Belleville, Altama, and Danner, which all come in temperate-weather and hot-weather varieties. They're all pretty good, but I prefer the Danners. I just find that they give me the best stability, comfort, and durability, even though they're heavier and pricier than the others. But it all really boils down to personal preference.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us. We wish you and your fellow marines a safe and successful next deployment.