The other day I heard a comment on the news that troops in Afghanistan are complaining that it is so difficult to carry out their mission because of the Rules of Engagement. Men are getting killed because of them.
I’m sure that most people in the country have no clue what they are talking about when they say, “Rules of Engagement.” It is my intention to teach you what they are.
I have been retired from the military for a very long time and I have never been to Afghanistan. I do not know what the rules of engagement are there. I can tell you that the enemy knows what they are. I can also assure you the enemy is using them to their tactical advantage.
During the Vietnam War I was stationed at Tahkli Air Base in Thailand with the 355th TAC Fighter/ Bomber Wing. The 355th did 85% of the bombing of North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I was in the Security Police and security was our job. The perimeter outside the base was infested with Thai Cong.
PC prevailed there. Thailand was officially a neutral country. Because of the neutrality of Thailand, the official position of the Thai government and the U.S. government, as well as the media of both countries was that we security personnel did not carry weapons. Everybody knew we did but it was officially denied. The media reported that we did not.
The truth was we were armed to the teeth. My duties required that I was either a sector commander, or I was a SAT Team leader. If assigned to the bomb area I was both SAT Team leader and Sector Commander at the same time. I drove a jeep with the windshield strapped down. I was armed with a .38 cal. Revolver, an M-16 rifle and attached under the barrel of the rifle was an MK 148 grenade rifle which fired a grenade with rifle like accuracy up to 450 yards. Mounted in front of the passenger seat of the jeep was a .30 cal. Air cooled machine gun. The M-16, grenade rifle and machine gun were all encased in a rubberized canvas cover. If there was an alert or if you were getting ready to fire, the weapons had to be covered up. Nobody was fooled, but if there was an attack you could not shoot back until you unfastened the cover and took it off from the weapon. This took a full minute to do. Can you imagine how many rounds an enemy can shoot at you in 60 seconds? A lot of them.
In other sectors, as Sector Commander I had only the revolver, rifle and grenade rifle. The SAT teams had the Team Leader similarly armed. He drove a pickup truck with the SAT Team and an M-60 6.5mm machine gun mounted on a tripod in the back of the truck. There was one double SAT Team using a one and a half ton flatbed truck with a tripod mounted .50 cal. Machine gun. All were covered as described before. It was supposed to fool observers, but they were not fooled.
When I first got there the bags covering the weapons caused a lot of trouble. They all had zippers on them. Sand and dirt got in the zippers and made the zippers get stuck so it was very difficult sometimes to get them open.
I suggested Velcro was a better idea. The higher-ups liked the idea. The Aircraft Maintenance Fabric Shop soon made us all new covers with Velcro fasteners. They worked much better and faster.
Our rules of engagement were as follows: You cannot fire unless fired upon. You can only fire in self defense. You cannot fire at enemy combatants who are running away from you. You cannot fire at anyone outside the base perimeter. If they are in the highway just outside the base, firing at you and aircraft, bomb dump, fuel tanks, buildings, motor pool or whatever with a mortar or rockets, you cannot return fire. You can only return fire if they are inside the perimeter of the base. These rules were known as MACVEE Rules of Engagement.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see and understand how such rules can hamper a fighting man and to cause his death. We believed those rules of engagement to be stupid ones. I can only imagine how the troops in Afghanistan feel about theirs.
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