The Youssifiya Abductions

I'm sorry, but on this one I have to ask if someone dropped the ball.

Here's the thing that concerns me. You have a checkpoint deep in enemy territory. It is manned by a Specialist (E4) and two PFC's (E3). There appears to not have been any NCO oversight of this checkpoint operation -and- (most disturbingly) these three appear to have been left without meaningful support.

Reports from the scene indicate that a nearby checkpoint heard explosions and small arms fire from the area of the checkpoint in question and reported it. Then a "quick reaction force" arrived on scene within 15 minutes.

Excuse me? You call 15 minutes "quick"? In combat actions, 15 minutes is a lifetime, especially if you are a force of three men. It doesn't take a very large force to overwhelm three men. This is what I mean by "meaningful support".

There should have been a reaction force supporting this checkpoint that could arrive within a few minutes. That reaction force could have supported several checkpoints (for example the one who reported hearing the sounds of combat) and needn't be all that large. When you are dealing with three men a single loss is a 33% decrease in firepower. This reaction force could have been as few as 2 or 3 more men. That would have substantially increased their fire power and perhaps given the men the chance to evade the enemy or hold out for those 15 minutes it took the actual reaction force to arrive.

When I was in the military, we had a concept called "NCOIC"... Non-commissioned Officer In Charge. The NCOIC of a guard detail (such as this checkpoint operation) would constantly wander between his guards checking on their well-being and readiness. This could have been that immediate reaction force that these men needed...

When the reaction force arrived, it found that Spc. David J. Babineau, the most senior man on the checkpoint had fallen in the attack and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker missing in action. The Mujahedeen Shura Council (an umbrella group that includes al Quaeda in Iraq) quickly announced that they had kidnapped to two soldiers. This does not bode well for these two men. I hope for the best, but realism tells me this is going to be ugly.

My question is this. Why did a unit as prestigious as the 101st airborne leave three of their own so exposed and unsupported? This is not the 101st's first trip to Iraq. They should be well-versed in combat operations in the Iraqi theater by now. I'm not saying that the upper leadership of the 101st is to blame. The fault for this probably falls more squarely on the shoulders of the company CO or platoon leader that planned his unit's deployment and left these men out there as low hanging fruit or on an NCO who simply wasn't watching over his people as he should.

While the votes are still out on this one and I wasn't on the scene, I must say my military experience tells me, this one smells a bit like a dropped ball. If I'm wrong, someone please straighten my thinking out.

All in all though the military has been doing an excellent job at ensuring our troops are not taken prisoner during this war when compared to others. Please note that what I'm writing here is not an idictment of the war in Iraq, it is merely the questions of an old grizzled ex-military guy who doesn't understand how something like this could have happened if things are still done like they were when I was in.

UPDATE: New information has come out about the fate of these missing servicemen. Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesmen have announced the discovery of these men's tortured bodies. As a military parent myself, my heart goes out to their families.

Further it appears that more details are coming out regarding the circumstances under which these men went missing. These details make the scenario more understandable to me and vindicate the these soldier's chain of command. I'm sorry for doubting you.

More of the eye-witness account has been published that reads:

"...three Humvees were manning a checkpoint when they came under fire from
many directions. Two Humvees went after the assailants but the third was
ambushed before it could move

That would seem to indicate that these troops were not left unattended on some dark intersection in the heart of the deadly city as I had initially feared. Terrorist forces simply attacked in a well coordinated, well planned ambush with this as their goal. I still would have liked to have seen the reaction force on scene somewhat faster though.

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