TOPIC: Soil conditions in the desert environment affect engineer support.
DISCUSSION: The soil conditions in a desert environment present special problems for earth-work for the engineer. Soil can be sandy, but may be extremely hard-packed below the surface layer. Scrapers may be more productive than dozers in constructing AT ditches. Loose soil may require reinforcement with revetments in below-ground positions, and wider and deeper ditches as obstacles.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: It is important to immediately perform earthwork upon arrival to allow equipment operators and supervisors to determine optimum equipment, methods and special requirements. Required effort, time and effectiveness can then be evaluated for obstacles, positions, etc., that are unique to that area.
TOPIC: Lack of infrastructure will place a great demand on engineer equipment.
DISCUSSION: In a desert environment, there will be a shortage of facilities, road systems, etc. Therefore, there will be a high demand for engineer support in vertical, horizontal and special construction. Unfortunately, engineer units will probably be behind maneuver units in their arrival sequence. This means, that upon their arrival, there will be an overabundance of construction projects with immediate priorities.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Engineer equipment and operators in all type units, from divisional to corps, must be prepared to begin work upon arrival. Engineer commanders must assign backup operators, must emphasize proper maintenance, and must carefully manage equipment assets to ensure support throughout the duration of the deployment. There is a danger that equipment could initially be so overworked that it would not be available for maneuver support during combat. Also, equipment that frequently is not considered important to maneuver units may be critical for sustainment support such as road graders and engineer water trailers. This equipment must be ready, and the operators must be well trained.
TOPIC: Obstacle systems in a desert environment will be difficult to tie in to the terrain.
DISCUSSION: The desert environment is relatively open and does not provide significant terrain features as experienced in Europe or at the NTC. With a few significant terrain features, it will be difficult to tie the system in with the ground and prevent the enemy from bypassing the obstacles. It will also require lager obstacle systems, usually minefields, which demand greater logistical support.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: It will be especially critical that the engineer is working with the maneuver commander to site the obstacles in support of the commander's intent. There will be no luxury to waste effort or material on obstacles in support the commander's plan. In addition, current intelligence, coupled with rapid obstacle emplacement (such as FASCAM), can allow obstacles to be emplaced when and where they are needed. Although some systems may not be tied in with the terrain, the bypass provided may bring the enemy into an engagement area, may disrupt his command and control, or may provide flank shots for maneuver weapon systems.
TOPIC: Minefields work as well in the desert as in dummy minefields.
DISCUSSION: The Allies in North Africa and the Israelis in the Middle East found that minefields instill a false sense of security in the soldier. Unless the soldiers patrolled the minefields continuously, the enemy lifted the mines and created lanes in the obstacles. Minefields were quick and easy to emplace. Many times dummy minefields, visually identical to actual minefields, served the same purpose as actual minefields, that of turning the enemy unit. Current conditions are probably little changed with respect to minefields.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Train every soldier in emplacing and lifting U.S. and enemy mines to that minefields go in quickly and the soldiers are confident in their proficiency. Place a layer of sandbags on the floor of every vehicle to lessen the impact of mine detonations and decrease the number and effectiveness of splinters. Emplaced minefields must be covered by direct fire to avoid rapid breaching.
TOPIC: Chemical Alarms
DISCUSSION: The M-8 chemical alarm detects nerve agents only. the Iraq army has and uses munitions filled with blister agents (i.e., sulfur mustard). They also mix G-agents, blister agents and conventional munitions. In this case the alarm would indicate the presence of a nerve agent and miss the presence of the blister agent. A different response is required for nerve agents than for blister agents or a mix of agents.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: A. Educate all users of the M-8 alarm. B. Immediately conduct a M-256 ticket test for each M-8 detection. C. Always expect rear area units, artillery positions, CPs and other fixed or semifixed units to sustain an attack of mixed agents. D. Use the nose as a very sensitive detector of mustard agents. Have soldiers immediately mask if they smell strange and unexplained odors on the battlefield once chemical attacks, using mustard, have been initiated. (The nose is more sensitive to blister agents than most alarms. The sulfur mustards that the Iraq army uses smell much like garlic or new-mown hay, and the nose can smell this in extremely low doses But mustard agents quickly deaden the olfactory nerves (sense of smell), and secondly, not everyone will recognize mustard's characteristic odors. Therefore, soldiers should immediately mask when they sell strange odors because if it is mustard, and they don't mask, they will conclude that they really didn't smell anything due to their lost sense of smell.) Intelligence and experience factors should mitigate over-reaction to false alarm.
TOPIC: Wear rubber boots and gloves (MOPP gear) in desert warfare.
DISCUSSION: Wearing rubber gloves and boots in hot weather causes many problems. The hands, which are the least susceptible parts of the body to chemical exposure, quickly become soft making them very susceptible to chemical exposure and mechanical injury. The feet also become soft, but can develop a host of other related problems such as trench foot.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: A. Do not wear rubber gloves and boots in desert warfare unless direct exposure to liquid mustard agent is imminent. B. Find clean areas to get relief from wearing rubber gloves and boots before softening of the hands and feet, as well as other associated medical problems, set in.
TOPIC: Characteristics of Chemical Agents in Desert Climates.
DISCUSSION: Chemical agents dissipate rapidly in hot weather. Hot air convection currents carry agents upward and, therefore, minimize cloud travel and the threat of vapor hazards for ground troops. On the other hand, this creates a greater threat to pilots than they would face under a more moderate climate.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: A. Think of classic G-nerve agent persistency to be similar to that of water. It has little chemical similarity, but it does evaporates at about the same rate. Almost everyone can relate to how quickly water evaporates in most terrain and under climatic conditions. In very hot weather, like water, classic G-nerve agents last only minutes, but create a significant, short- lived vapor hazard. G-agent effects are immediate. B. Think of mustard agents as being delayed-acting (effects often coming 6-12 hrs after exposure) persistent chemical agents with the following rules of thumb. In the hot, daytime desert temperatures, mustard persistency will be about 6 hours of less if the mustard agent is exposed to the atmosphere (e.g., not buried). With winds of mph of greater, the persistency is reduced to around 2 hours. C. Think of classic V-nerve agent persistency to be similar to that of liquid mercury, i.e., it hardly evaporates at all. It therefore is mainly a touch hazard with long persistency (its persistency is dependent on chemical reactions with the elements, not on evaporation.) V agents, like mustard agents, are delayed acting because they must soak through clothing and the skin to be effective. Once in the blood stream, however, they are extremely fast acting and symptoms, to include death, will occur in seconds to minutes. Entry through wounds, cuts, etc., will produce immediate effects. D. During periods of active chemical warfare, have at least one helicopter pilot masked at all times.
TOPIC: Chemical Casualty Identification
DISCUSSION: Soldiers may exhibit symptoms of exposure to chemical agents, but not be chemical casualties. Heat casualties suffering from exhaustion, heatstroke or sunstroke can exhibit symptoms similar to chemical casualties (i.e., difficulty in breathing, headache, drowsiness, spasms, profuse sweating, pinpointing pupils, and death) and when wearing MOPP gear, or under the threat of imminent chemical attack, may be diagnosed as chemical exposure. Soldiers also develop psychosomatic symptoms that mirror actual symptoms. In either case soldiers may be given atropine when its not required and become casualties from atropine poisoning. Any of these scenarios could cause unnecessary panic in units.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: A. Conduct awareness seminars, classes, briefings, etc. B. Suspect other-than-a-chemical casualty if no event on the battlefield or IPB analysis indicates a chemical attack or exposure was likely. C. Suspect other-than-a-chemical casualty if only one or a very few soldiers exhibit symptoms.
TOPIC: In most cases, overreaction to the chemical threat is worse than underreaction.
DISCUSSION: Wearing the MOPP suit in hot desert temperatures as a precautionary measure to impending chemical attacks can result in more casualties, including death, than a chemical attack would produce. Wearing MOPP gear and doing hard work, such as humping ammunition, digging in, or attacking, can quickly put soldiers at risk. The internal body temperature is quickly elevated (upwards of 105 degrees F) and the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body are destroyed. Death results. Unless the chemical attack is a direct hit on one's location (most won't be), there is adequate reaction time to assume a MOPP posture if MOPP gear is readily available. At least, the risk is less in hot temperatures than by keeping soldiers in MOPP gear as a precautionary measure. If the attack is off target, it will only arrive at the speed of the wind. Closing your eyes and holding your breath will buy valuable time to get a protective mask on. The MOPP suit can then be quickly donned, if necessary, for a mustard vapor or liquid hazard.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: A. Always operate at minimum MOPP levels. Accept risk in the chemical defense business just as with any other aspect of warfare. Expect a fair share of chemical casualties along with other conventional casualties. B. Remember, mission accomplishment is paramount, and risks must be taken if MOPP posture will prevent mission accomplishment. C. Don't win the chemical survival battle and lose the tactical battle. D. Don't become consumed with chemical survival and ignore other important tasks, missions, etc.
TOPIC: Leader Identification
DISCUSSION: Leader's strength of character is lost when MOPP gear is donned. Everyone becomes automatons. Leadership becomes increasingly more difficult. Frustration quickly sets in, accompanied by irritation.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: A. Units must establish an SOP for identifying leaders. Leaders should find ways to be visible while wearing MOPP gear. For example, the chief of staff could always carry an axhandle or other trademark. Others should do similar things. B. Conduct entire-unit realistic training. C. Get adequate rest to better be able to cope with frustration irritability. D. Accept degradation associated with wearing MOPP gear.
TOPIC: Delegation of Authority in a Chemical Environment.
DISCUSSION: Leaders have a tendency to not delegate authority while in MOPP gear and try to do too much themselves. Consequently, they become the first to fall out due to sheer exhaustion.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Error on the side of over delegation during periods where MOPP gear is worn. Let the number two man handle the action, as our doctrine requires, so the number one soldier can get uninterrupted rest.
TOPIC: Personal Hygiene
DISCUSSION: Soldiers tend not to shave every day in a combat situation, especially in a desert environment where water is a precious commodity. But if soldiers do not shave every day, they cannot get a good seal on their protective masks and are likely to become casualties in the event of a chemical attack.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Make it a command policy that every male soldier shave every day. Use of battery-powered electric razors can reduce water requirements.
DISCUSSION: Deliberate decontamination is seldom a good idea in desert operations. The natural weathering due to hot temperatures, wind, and humidity, will normally reduce contamination to acceptable levels before a deliberate decontamination operation could be planned and executed. Also our current decontamination operations require large quantities of water. This in itself will probably preclude conducting deliberate decontamination operations.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Conduct deliberate decontamination only as an exception to policy when operating in extremely hot temperatures. Ensure that the decision to conduct deliberate decontamination operations makes sense both tactically and technically.
TOPIC: False Alarms of the M-8 Detectors.
DISCUSSION: The M-8 alarms will periodically malfunction producing a false alarm. Nothing can be done to prevent this. This problem will have to be accepted and dealt with on a case- by-case basis.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: A. Always array alarms, and, if only one activates, suspect a false alarm. B. Suspect a false alarm when no obvious chemical attacks have occurred.
DISCUSSION: Threshold concentrations of nerve agent vapors can quickly cause miosis (involuntary constriction of the pupil). This results in loss of visual acuity and depth perception. Effects can last minutes to hours depending on vapor concentration. This will cause serious problems for pilots, riflemen, and anyone else performing duties where visual acuity and depth perception are necessary for mission performance.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Immediately close your eyes, hold your breath, and don your mask when a chemical alarm sounds during an attack on your position.
TOPIC: Contaminated Casualties.
DISCUSSION: Contamination problems can be greatly reduced if the clothing is immediately removed from all chemical casualties. It is unlikely that chemical casualties will have significant quantities of liquid contaminates on their skin as most will be present on their clothing. This will greatly facilitate moving chemical casualties through medical channels.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Make it a requirement to immediately remove all clothing from chemical casualties. Cutting it off is recommended.
TOPIC: Chemical Protection in Hot Weather.
DISCUSSION: Light infantry and other combatants that require light loads and minimum heat burden can use ponchos for field- expedient, short-term MOPP gear. Ponchos were not designed for this, but common sense tells you that they will give short-term protection from any liquid. The MOPP suit is designed to give long-term protection from liquid agents. This involves some risk taking, but the risk is normally worth taking in the desert.
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