COP-ing Out in Ramadi

October 11, 2006  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

COP Anvil, Ramadi

Okay, first my bad. I'm not with 1/6 Marines. I'm with 1/6 2nd Brigade, First Armored Division. It's not my fault they put two units with the same name in the same city. In the event, I don't think being with 1/6 Marines would be fun time right now.

They did find the missing man from the IED explosion. He had not been captured. Rather the force of the blast apparently tore him apart and tossed the pieces so far as to make it difficult to locate them in the night. This is gruesome, to be sure, but far better than being tortured to death and clearly the Marine never knew what hit him. The IED was a 160 millimeter Soviet-block artillery shell, which is extremely large. The largest howitzers we have in theater are 155.

As to the Delta company soldier who stepped on the IED, it looks like he might be able to hold onto his foot. Too early to say. In any case, he was certainly lucky it was such a small IED.

COPs are tiny compared to FOBs like Corregidor, which had a full battalion plus numerous support elements or about 800 men in all. In fact, this place comprises just two houses leases from Iraqi civilians. First Armored Division has put in 11 COPs so far, I believe, and is building a 12th. There will probably be many more to come.

In any counterinsurgency effort, a key to pacifying an area is to plop fortifications with interlocking communications into enemy territory and sending out patrols. For example, King Edward I of England (the guy who had Braveheart drawn and quartered) used castles to subdue Wales. Nowadays we call this "grab and hold." Originally we started doing that in Vietnam but gave it up in favor of search and destroy missions from large base camps, which helped contribute to losing the war.

One value of a COP versus the much larger FOBs and the huge camps such as Camp Ramadi is that this is an enemy that inflicts most casualties and damage with IEDS, greatly restricting movement. But missions from COPs are inherently short-range; you're already almost there. That's less road to be on and fewer IEDs to worry about.

Another advantage of a COP is a shorter reaction time for one unit to support another, although that's rarely necessary because the enemy just doesn't mass in large units. They don't have the men to do that like they used to. This inability to mass also makes COPs possible. In Vietnam, the enemy had lots of soldiers and highly-trained and motivated sappers that could cut through concertina wire barriers, throw satchel charges, and wreak havoc while the VC infantry came up behind them. This allowed them to inflict heavy casualties on small units, such as those manning howitzers. On a few occasions, they completely overran those positions. But the chance of a COP being overrun is essentially nil.

From this road the terrorists would then literally fan out in the area where the COPs have been inserted. That is, their area of operation was shaped like a fan. But the troops from the COPs have rolled them up in a counter-clockwise pattern such that the only major activity left now is in a slice near the Tigris. Areas that Capt. Sapp would originally only send full platoons into, sometimes even with armor, he will now allow a squad of perhaps 12 men to enter. At some point, the bad guys will be pushed out of this last piece of the fan. Where they'll go, who knows. The point is that they'll have been denied their first choice of an operating area. It's like knocking off the head of a terrorist cell. Yes, he'll just be replaced. But the man originally chosen for the job is now dead and the cell weakened to that extent.

I'll be writing more about COPs when I get back.