When I deployed to Iraq in 2003 with the Marines, I had a KABAR that I carried with me always. A bunch of the Marines in my platoon did the same. None of us had been to combat (back then we only had a few in our Battalion that had deployed to Desert Storm and only 1 who had actually had Vietnam service) and so we all had our own thoughts and ideas about what invading Iraq was going to be like. We had been given our desert combat uniforms (DCU) which blended well into the Iraqi desert. But then as typical of the Marine Corps getting hand-me downs, ALL of our chemical suits and ballistic vests were in the dark green forest camouflage pattern. “So much for concealment…” I supposed at the time. Better yet, the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) that we were given had no SAPI plates which meant that our ballistic vests were really there just as a nice warm sweater – in the Iraqi desert. Really, the tag reads “protection from fragmentation and 9mm submachine gun or lesser threats. This vest does not protect against knives or sharp objects.” What were the main arms of the Iraqi army? AK-47’s, which fire a 7.62 round, a might bigger than 9mm. My platoon in particular was lese majeste in regards to our fitting out. When our chemical suits (also forest camouflage) started to acquire rips and tears due to our having to actually wear them and work in them at the same time, the NBC (nuke, bio, chem) officer told us to just use duct tape on them. While I’m sure that it would work it didn’t inspire us with confidence of actually surviving a chem attack. The best news ever, however, especially for a former grunt, came when we were given our ammunition. 31 rounds. That’s 2 magazines of 15 with one in the chamber. We were told in our platoon to spread load them across magazines to make it appear to be more if we were engaged. Now, I get it. We were support and the majority of ammo was rightfully allocated for the infantry elements in front of us. But we’re the frickin United States of America. Every service-member should have had a full combat load. On our convoys, our 246G’s had 15 rounds. Just enough for the belt to flop into the canister and look like it was full. Doctrine at the time was different. They still were the under the impression that only front line troops were really going to need the stuff. But, remember that story about Pvt. Jessica Lynch? Yeah, that was a maintenance company convoy that happened to be only a few miles from where we were operating at the same time. So, yeah, me and my platoon always wore our KABAR’s on our legs like a stupid SEAL wannabe. But it wasn’t just because it looked cool. We knew that if we actually came into contact with the enemy that after 31 rounds, we were going to be utilizing our knives very quickly. What a different time that was…we call it the “wild, wild west” now because of how just free and open the operational doctrine was. There were many times that my maintenance fire team would jump into a soft sides Hummer, with no radio, and just drive looking for American vehicles and equipment we could repair, strip, or…ahem…”acquire.” The stark difference in convoy experience is shown in the two pictures at the end. In one, I have full kit in a MRAP rolling in a convoy that is tracked via radio, satellite, and hours of pre-mission planning. In the other, is me and a buddy sitting in the open air in a lone vehicle just taking a cruise through the Iraqi countryside. No radio, no blueforce tracker, no hours of planning and rehearsing. And check it out…just me in the sweater and 31 rounds. But I always carried my knife.
Thankful that I only needed use it for my machismo and MRE’s,