Monday, April 19, 2004

During a night rocket-hunting mission, Pfc. Joel Puntiel reflected on how quickly and profoundly violence escalated in this 1st Cavalry Division sector.

“A week ago, we were handing out candy,” said Puntiel, 22, a scout with 2nd Platoon, Troop D, 9th Cavalry Regiment. “This week, it’s a war.”...

Early in the BCT’s rotation, insurgents weren’t particularly sophisticated. “There were plenty of bad guys, but 80 percent of them were knuckleheads,” untrained, undisciplined and unprepared, Smith said. Insurgents fired quick bursts from AK-47s, then ran into canals where cool water concealed body heat from soldiers’ thermal sensors.

Since April 1, they’ve become more organized and ruthless, the platoon leader said. On April 11, BCT scouts took on 15 or 20 Iraqis who helicopter pilots spotted digging in a palm grove. The scouts discovered the Iraqis were not the typical civilian-attired insurgents, but wore matching uniforms, boots or athletic shoes, as well as army-issue equipment such as ammo vests. They were, Smith said, clearly in it for the long haul, with scouts finding coolers full of food and water caches, along with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and binoculars...

But even as they fight, Smith said, the goal still is to find “some middle ground between the iron fist and passing out candy, where we establish a trust and respect.”
I find the business about a more uniformed insurgency to be worrisome.

Certainly it would be easier on our guys to identify and eliminate a uniformed enemy...on the other hand, such things are indicators of a more sophisticated organization.

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