Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A Marine’s Afghan AAR (XIV): Get rid of the iPods on patrol

To those of who have worried about the absence of CWO2/Gunner Keith Marine‘s commentary in recent days, keep your shirts on. He has a lot more to say. And not all of it is pretty. Here, for example, he relates some alarming observations about Marines tuning out while on patrol-including a gunner watching a movie! ...

DAVID FURST/AFP/Getty Images
DAVID FURST/AFP/Getty Images

To those of who have worried about the absence of CWO2/Gunner Keith Marine‘s commentary in recent days, keep your shirts on. He has a lot more to say. And not all of it is pretty. Here, for example, he relates some alarming observations about Marines tuning out while on patrol-including a gunner watching a movie!

We had one company commander tell his guys they couldn’t bring things like iPods, personal electronic equipment etc. I initially thought he was full of shit and Marines needed something when they were inside the wire to spend their time with.

I agree with him 100 percent at this point and no doubt his guys are tighter as a company for it. Give a Marine the ability to get away with something and they will. Recommend if you find one on PCC/PCIs confiscate it until after deployment. If you find a kid with one on patrol, vehicle or foot mobile, they should be NJP’d and reduced, especially if they are in a leadership position. No shit: found a turret gunner watching a movie on an iPod, looked across the seat and realized the back seater was listening to music on his like it was SOP, neither paid me any mind. Was catching a ride with the same unit one day and they hit an IED, driving too fast over a filled in hole. I asked didn’t they just drive that route. Reply was yes but there was a hole in the ground right there so we went around it, of course on the way back the hole was filled in with an IED. So after the cordon and medevac was complete, I jumped back in the rear of a different vehicle and as soon as the radio checks were complete, the iPod was hooked into the speaker system like it was SOP — not organic 1/5 but not saying some of my guys weren’t doing the same. Different levels of discipline in all units and this was a Marine unit that lost 15 out of 20 vehicles in about a month — on the same road that we had guys finding plenty of IEDs and hitting a total of three.

To those of who have worried about the absence of CWO2/Gunner Keith Marine‘s commentary in recent days, keep your shirts on. He has a lot more to say. And not all of it is pretty. Here, for example, he relates some alarming observations about Marines tuning out while on patrol-including a gunner watching a movie!

We had one company commander tell his guys they couldn’t bring things like iPods, personal electronic equipment etc. I initially thought he was full of shit and Marines needed something when they were inside the wire to spend their time with.

I agree with him 100 percent at this point and no doubt his guys are tighter as a company for it. Give a Marine the ability to get away with something and they will. Recommend if you find one on PCC/PCIs confiscate it until after deployment. If you find a kid with one on patrol, vehicle or foot mobile, they should be NJP’d and reduced, especially if they are in a leadership position. No shit: found a turret gunner watching a movie on an iPod, looked across the seat and realized the back seater was listening to music on his like it was SOP, neither paid me any mind. Was catching a ride with the same unit one day and they hit an IED, driving too fast over a filled in hole. I asked didn’t they just drive that route. Reply was yes but there was a hole in the ground right there so we went around it, of course on the way back the hole was filled in with an IED. So after the cordon and medevac was complete, I jumped back in the rear of a different vehicle and as soon as the radio checks were complete, the iPod was hooked into the speaker system like it was SOP — not organic 1/5 but not saying some of my guys weren’t doing the same. Different levels of discipline in all units and this was a Marine unit that lost 15 out of 20 vehicles in about a month — on the same road that we had guys finding plenty of IEDs and hitting a total of three.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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