Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Read: "HOGs in the Shadows: combat stories by Marine snipers in Iraq" by Milo S. Afong

Read: HOGs in the Shadows: combat stories by Marine snipers in Iraq by Milo S. Afong, 2007, 9780425217511.

Very good. Much better than I expected. I thought this would be a dry and poorly written work but Afong did real well.

There are 13 chapters in here and the stories can be very compelling with a lot of neat detail but not overly detailed technical or gun-nerd stuff. The first chapter is about the Marine Corps' scout/sniper selection process and training. Subsequent chapters are about individual Marines and their tour(s) in Iraq.

There are some incredible stories of urban combat. Two that stick-out are a four vehicle convoy of HUMVEEs that gets shot up going through a town that have to turn around and return when the road is blocked. They are shot up a second time and then return for a third time when a vehicle whose radio antennae is shot off is unaccounted for. Turning back for a third drive through the ambush zone one vehicle get a direct RPG hit on it's turret killing the gunner, wounding the crew and stalling the vehicle in an intersection. A long shootout ensues while getting the vehicle occupants to safety. The second story has a sniper and another Marine wounded and stuck on the first floor of a house while insurgents on the second story keep help away. Both sides trade grenades and the sniper - without his M16 - uses his Beretta to kill four insurgents as they come down the stairs and finally throws a remotely detonating claymore upstairs - wounding himself, again - to escape.

Without exception each sniper is very eager to get kills. A couple guys get buck fever right before or after the first opportunity and have to calm themselves. The "one shot - one kill" ideal is not the perfection I thought it was. It reminds me of a television program that compared military versus police snipers. Military shooters have the whole torso as a target while police shooters look for instant incapacitation with a head shot. Of course, police snipers are shooting at less than a 100 yards and Marine snipers will take shots from 1000 yards out. But Marines do not expect the enemy to die right off. They want to get the kill and if took a while for the enemy to bleed out that could be all the better; especially when the Marines could then target rescuers.

There were some close range shots (100 yards or so) where the shooters would aim at the head but the Marines were usually ranging far away outside the usual range of riflemen and machine gunners. A couple snipers would in their first engagements were getting upset about their targets being taken by machine gunners before the snipers could fire. They then remembered that they needed to search beyond 300 yards.

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