Friday, October 12, 2007

Hello, Mr. Flash Bang!

Flash Bangs are essentially grenades without the shrapnel. Lots of sound and light with little to sear through any of your tender bits. Lest anyone get the wrong kind of idea, it is definitely not a good idea to hold on to one of these whilst it makes the pretty colors or noises, but you can be relatively close to it with little harm. They will scare the bejeezus out of you, even if you are expecting it, though.

My first experiences with these neat little devices came in training. Towards the end of one of my work-ups, we had the opportunity to do some simunition training with them. Simunition is basically 9mm paintball-on-crack, but that is entirely another story.

One memorable incident was when I had the opportunity to watch one squad leader develop the mother of all attack plans, violating the KISS principle that I had already learned the hard way. Naturally, everything went awry just about at the word 'go'.

The plan (as I understood it) was that the base of fire would lay down covering fire while the assault elements would take up positions around the building. With not enough radios, the squad leader would coordinate with the base element, and they would begin throwing 'grenades'. As soon as the flash-bangs went off, the base element would cease fire, and the assault team would make entry. [Mistake #1, probably a better idea to have the actual assault team toss the flashbangs]

What happened was that the three different assault elements discovered that there was only one way to access the building [Mistake #2, Intell? We don't need no stinkin' intell!]. That way was currently being 'covered' by the base of fire team, so it was a no-go. Therefore, the three elements congregated in a nice tight group right in one of the kill zones of the building [Mistake #- Aw, heck, you get the picture]. The instructors started tapping Marines on the head, screaming 'SNIPER, YOU JUST GOT SHOT, ASSHOLE!!! LAY DOWN!'.

Squad leader, realizing that this was somewhat less than ideal, tried to establish communication with the base of fire element by waving his arms. Those guys, recognizing the pre-arranged signal, started chucking the flash bangs. The assault elements started taking flash bangs to their group, and attempted to force their way into the building. The instructors were pissing themselves with amusement at the picture definition of the phrase, 'goat rope'.

Sheeeit, I would never be caught in THAT situation....

When we got in country, the unit there before us had a few established standard operating procedures. They ran a lot of convoy ops, stayed mainly on the road, and didn't worry about civilian traffic in the convoy. They had never really been hit by a suicide vehicle-born improvised explosive device (SVBIED). After some new intel, a couple of bad days, and a little common sense, we figured to put a stop to civilian vehicles weaving in and out of our convoys, but we needed a way to communicate with the locals, and a means to discourage the stubborn and the stupid.

We started to talk to the local imams and mayors, telling them to pass the word that we would not allow civilians to approach our convoys. We also started handing out pamphlets in English, Arabic, and in pictures for the locals to stay away from us when we were on the road.

After a while, the new SOP became standard, and most in the area would avoid getting too close. Eventually, some info from another area drifted to our ears. Someone was passing the word that if local-Joe was driving along lost in his own thoughts, a way to get his attention and strongly suggest that he keep away from us was with flares and flash bangs.

They managed to get EVERYONES attention.

We wrote it into our SOPs for machine gunners. If a vehicle approaches too quickly, or at a high rate of speed, make every effort to; signal for them to stop with hand and arm signals or verbal commands. Shoot flares or flash-bangs. Use your weapons. Everyone was very clear that everything other that opening fire on a suspicious vehicle was if there was enough time.

There were more than a few memorable incidents with the flares and flashbangs. It definitely get the heart going pitter-patter when you watch one of your vehicles turn a corner or crest a hill when all of a sudden, you hear BOOOOM!!!! Every damn time I thought that they had hit another IED, but it would usually turn out to be that the gunner had to throw a flash bang.

At one (yeah, *snort*, just one) intersection there were these little children that always came running out to beg for candy. 'Meester, meester, candy meester!!!' Those little buggers could run pretty fast, too. Marines would sometimes save candies or unwanted MRE components to give to the them.

One afternoon there was not enough time to stop to chat with the kiddos, we had to blaze home for some reason or the other. Approaching the intersection, I was on the radio with higher, and keeping an eye out so that we didn't squish any of the crumb snatchers. Running at an angle to the hummer was this really pretty little Iraqi girl, begging for candy. 'what the hell, might as well', I thought to myself as I extended the half-eaten bag of M&Ms to her. My gunner atop the Hummer had a higher perspective and was able to spot a vehicle seemingly disregarding all of the other stopped traffic to approach us from the cross road at a high rate of speed. Just enough time to do something, but apparently not enough time to advise me, he shot off a flare...and a flash bang or two.

Flares make a really loud whooshing sound, especially when the sound is reflected off of the turret armor.

Girl - Meester, Meester!!!

Me - Here you go, salaam!

Girl - Thank you meester, than-


Me - Fuck Me! RPG!! RPG!!

Girl - AAAaaahhhh!!!

Me - Aaaaaahhhh... .... ....?

Remember how I mentioned that we were approaching the intersection?

Well, after the gunner tossed everything he had up there, we had just enough time to get to the intersection before the second and third flash bangs went a distance of about 3 feet from my door.

It had the desired effect, in that it got noticed by EVERYBODY, and the driver of the civilian vehicle decided that it might be a good idea to stop lest the Marines stop being so nice.

I'm for the moment blind and deaf, the gunner is about 1/10000 of an ounce of trigger pressure away from making this guy have a Really Bad Day, and the little girl is probably traumatized for life. I didn't even mind screaming exactly like that little girl, I was just happy it wasn't actually an RPG.


Kaerius said...

Haha, well I hope the poor girl didn't get traumatized for life.

As for you... just another murphy moment in the marine core eh?

Chris in SE TX said...

Your stories ROCK!

You have a unique combination of having the experiences, and being able to write about them...

.... not to mention the fact that unlike some people (cough, Law Dog, cough)... You actually keep posting new stories all the time!

Keep going!

Oh, and the comment about Rednecks from Texas being handy if you need to drive throuhg mud, THAT WAS JUST COOL!!!!

Murphy said...

Kaerius: They were all Murphy moments...

Chris: You are very kind- too kind, some might say.