'Thinking Enemy' Challenges Force-Protection Measures
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2004 Adaptive tactics used by a "thinking enemy" have posed a continuing challenge to protecting American forces in Iraq, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here Dec. 13.
In a conference call with military analysts, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said much effort goes into the ongoing challenge to field a force properly equipped for its mission and enemy.
"The fact is that this is combat," he said. "We had some good things when we went in; we're learning some lessons, we're trying to adjust to that. The enemy does the same thing."
Pace explained that the initial mix of one-third armored vehicles and two- thirds wheeled vehicles used by U.S. forces once major combat operations ended in Iraq was what the commanders needed at the time. "And we were out in the light-skinned Humvees and ended up with a thinking enemy," he said.
In October and November 2003, the general said, the enemy started relying heavily on improvised explosive devices and vehicle bombs, "which caused the commanders on the ground to reassess how they were employing their troops."
"First it was one IED," he said, "and then they would put that in place and we would change our tactics, so they put in more (IEDs). And then, as we responded to that, they have another one go off. So it's very much a force versus force thinking process."
The requirement for 2,000 armored vehicles that commanders set in June and July rose to 15,000 around November, he said, "and since that time it has ramped up to about double that number."
"So as we've gone through the series of attacks on our troops and we've seen the usefulness, especially (of) the up-armored Humvee, because it's about small enough not to be an oppressive-type vehicle but it's substantial enough to protect the troops. You've seen that shift in emphasis."
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army secretary's deputy for acquisition systems management, also took part in the conference call. He told the analysts that armor is only part of the anti-IED equation.
"We've also tried to use some other pieces of sophisticated equipment to preclude the detonation of those systems," he said. Sorenson noted that when IEDs became a problem, the Army fielded a task force to investigate and glean lessons from every detonation. "And then we introduce that immediately into our training within less than 24 hours, so tactics, techniques and procedures are updated on a continuous basis."
Pace stressed that every practical force-protection measure is being taken, but added there's no such thing as "a tactical armor solution that we can put Pfc. Pace inside of some kind of cocoon that's going to protect him from everything. Clearly we cannot."
The general noted that flak jackets and helmets protect from some level of violence and tanks protect from another level of violence. But, he pointed out, preventive measures versus enemy tactics are a continuum, and U.S. forces in Iraq face "a thinking enemy that can provide a pretty good-sized blast in any particular place at one time."
Pace emphasized that U.S. forces are getting the level of protection needed "without going to the point where we have everybody riding around inside their own tank and we cannot do the job that we were sent over to do," he said, "which is not only to defeat the enemy, but also to help the populace get on to their next lives."
The vice chairman characterized as "totally inaccurate" any suggestion that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had ignored force-protection issues. He noted that commanders on the ground and he personally had agreed the initial mix of armored and unarmored vehicles was appropriate.
"Every time we've gone to the secretary with a new request for added armor and shown him the bill for it, he has been very quick to ensure that we have what we needed and has supported us very rapidly with Congress," Pace said. "And Congress has given us the money we've asked for as quickly as we've asked for it within a capacity -- industry takes time to ramp up."
The general used up-armored Humvees as an example. "When we started this, they were producing at 35 a month," he said. "Over time it has ramped up to 450 a month. Every time we've gone forward to Congress with a request for money, they have provided it. So funding has not been an issue.
"There was a little bit of a surprise last week when the manufacturer said that they could produce another 100 per month than we thought they could," Pace said. "Inside of that same day that the manufacturer said that they could go from 450 to 550, the Army modified the contract." Still, it will take the manufacturer until April to start producing the 100 more up-armored Humvees per month, Pace noted.
The nation's No. 2 military officer said Americans need to know the Defense Department will continue to afford its men and women the best possible protection. "I think we just need to make sure that the American public understands that their sons and daughters are important to us," he said.
"We are going to do all we can to protect them," Pace said. "That has both a materiel solution and a tactical solution, and we should just acknowledge where we are on the continuum and acknowledge the fact that we need to continue to press hard on this thing to get it right."