In their weekly "Inside the Ring" column in the Washington Times, Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough printed a "wish list," from a Marine who recently returned from Iraq, Sgt. Garrett Barton. According to Sgt. Barton, a machine gunner who served in last fall's Fallujah offensive, Marines engaged in Military Operations in Urban Terain (MOUT) still lack essential training and equipment. Among his observations:
"A firefight in a MOUT environment against drugged-up insurgents is not the place to discover Pfc. Smith needs to work on his shoulder pressure and manipulation of the [testing and evaluation],"
"This is life and death. The average grunt is swamped with weight; Marines carry gear and ammunition that include flak jackets, Kevlar helmets, two ceramic plates, M-16s with seven magazines, grenades, radios, water, chow, night-vision equipment and more."
"Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain;" This is not good when Marines need to move quickly in a combat situation, and the extreme weight reduces their fluidity."
"The M-16 is prone to jams; I can personally attest that I kept my weapon properly cleaned and lubed yet within ten minutes I had two jams ... in Al Fallujah; The M-16 round is "too fast, too small and too stabilized. It cannot compete with the 7.62 fired by Warsaw Pact weapons" such as AK-47s.
Sgt. Barton said he has never seen armor-piercing rounds for his M-240G medium machine gun.
"Our current enemies like to use [car bombs]. Personally, I would feel more comfortable shooting at a vehicle laden with explosives if I had armor-piercing rounds," he said.
Troops also need more powerful hand grenades. "The insurgents in Iraq like to inject themselves with adrenaline," Sgt. Barton said. "The casualty radius of our current grenades is insufficient."
Sgt. Barton concluded his "grunt wish list," which was sent to the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va., saying he tried not to be too critical, knowing current resources are limited. But he noted: "Any improvement is a big step in our capabilities."
A few thoughts (from an ex-Air Force guy). The limitations of the M-16 are well known, and the present weapon is at the limits of its technology? It's worth asking when we will finally replace the M-16s, and give our troops a better, more reliable weapon. On the issue of armor-piercing rounds for our machine guns, this type of technology has been around for decades; it should be standard issue for our troops, particularly those trying to stop vehicle-borne suicide bombers. Congressmen obsessed with prisoner menus and "flushed" Korans at Gitmo would be better served by tackling the problems listed by Sergeant Burton.