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Showdown - The Battle of Fallujah - Part 15 - After Action Report

This is timely, considering the subject of education levels of our military men and women (some elitist Socialists believe that we are the unwashed, uneducated, poor masses).  By the way, I take those kind of derogatory comments personally as I was an Enlisted Soldier about *ahem* twenty pounds ago.

Our Armed Forces routinely complete After Action Reviews (AARs) after every mission (training or combat) in order to gain from lessons learned.  AARs are probably one of the cheapest and most effective tools in our arsenal.  In fact, AARs are so ingrained in our methodology that yours truly conducts them in the civilian IT world after implementations.

AARs are only guided by leaders.  They are soldier centric and focus on what was done correctly, what was done incorrectly, and how to do better next time (improve).  An AAR provides a safe venue for candid insights on unit strengths and weaknesses and is the ulitmate feedback system.

The AAR below is provided again by Seamus (via Quantico).  It was conducted and written by a Marine Sergeant and his Corporals after the Battle of Fallujah.  No Academy-grad Four Star General Officer could have done a better, more effective job.  This should be passed on to every squad sized element in our military.

It's long but worth the read.  So grab a cup of coffee and read what these educated, dedicated and motivated Marines have to say about Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) in Iraq.  You all are going to love this one:

Lessons Learned:  Infantry Squad Tactics in Military Operations in Urban Terrain During Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq

Sgt. Catagnus, Jr. E. J., Cpl. Edison, B. Z., LCpl. Keeling, J. D., and LCpl. Moon, D. A.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Scout/Sniper Platoon, Section 1

Fallujah, Iraq


Historically speaking, military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) have created casualty figures that are extraordinary compared to similar operations conducted in different types of environments.  The casualties in MOUT present a significant challenge to small unit leaders.  Casualties hit Marine infantry squads and fire teams extremely hard because generally speaking they were already under the table of organization (T/O) standards.  Some squads in 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5) commenced the assault on the Jolan with only six Marines.  It is the small unit leaders’ duty to accomplish the mission with the least amount of casualties possible.  In order for small unit leaders to complete the above task they need tactics and techniques that will prevent casualties.

Section 1 of the Scout/Sniper Platoon has attacked and cleared buildings with all the line companies in 3/5.  The authors have observed nearly all the squads in the battalion and have “rolled in the stack” with many of them.  This is an experience which few in the battalion have.  Knowing this, the authors believe it is their duty to consolidate their observations, produce a comprehensive evaluation of squad tactics and techniques, and pass it onto the squad leaders.  The authors’ intent is to give the squad leaders options in combat.  It is by no means a “bible,” but it is a guideline.  All the tactics and techniques have been proven in combat by one squad or another.  Section 1 does not take any credit for the information contained within.  The information was learned through the blood of the infantry squads in 3/5.   

The entire evaluation has one underlying theme:  Accomplish the mission with the least amount of casualties possible.

Terrain and Enemy


The city of Fallujah, Iraq is unlike any city in which Marines have trained for.  The layout of the city is random.  Zoning distinguishing between residential, business, and industrial is non-existent.  An infantry squad could be clearing a house and next door may be clearing a slaughterhouse or furniture wood shop. 

The streets are narrow and are generally lined by walls.  The walls channelize the squad and do not allow for standard immediate action drills when contact is made. This has not been an issue because the majority of contact is not made in the streets, but in the houses.

The houses are densely packed in blocks.  The houses touch or almost touch the adjacent houses to the sides and rear.  This enables the insurgents to escape the view of Marine overwatch positions.  The houses also are all made of brick with a thick covering of mortar overtop.  In almost every house a fragmentation grenade can be used without fragments coming through the walls.  Each room can be fragged individually.

Almost all houses have an enclosed courtyard.  Upon entry into the courtyard, there is usually an outhouse large enough for one man.  The rooftops as well as a large first story window overlook the courtyard.  Generally, all the windows in the house are barred and covered with blinds or cardboard restricting visibility into the house. 

The exterior doors of the houses are both metal and wood.  The wood doors usually have a metal gate over top on the outside of the house forming two barriers to breach.  The doors have two to three locking points.  Some doors are even barricaded from the inside to prevent entry.  There are generally two to three entrances to the house.  The entrances are the front, the kitchen, and the side or rear.

The interior doors are also made of metal and wood.  The differences between the interior and exterior doors are the strength and durability of the doors.  Interior doors only have one locking point and most of them can be kicked in.  All doors inside and outside of the house are usually locked and must be breached.

The layout of all the houses is generally the same.  Initial entry in the front door leads to a small room with two interior doors.  The two doors are the entrance to two adjacent open seating rooms. The size of the rooms varies according to the size of the house.  At the end of the sitting rooms are interior doors that open up into a central hallway. 

The central hallway is where all the first floor rooms lead and it contains the ladderwell to the second deck.  The second deck will contain more rooms and an exit to the middle roof top.  The middle roof top will have an exterior ladderwell leading up to the highest rooftop.


The two types of insurgents that the squads are engaging will be labeled the Guerrillas and the Martyrs in this evaluation.  The Guerillas are classified by the following principles:

1.      Their purpose is to kill many Marines quickly and then evade.  They DO NOT want to die.  Dying is an acceptable risk to the Guerillas, but their intention is to live and fight another day.

2.      The tactics used are classic Guerilla warfare.  The Guerillas will engage Marines only on terrain of their choosing when they have tactical advantage.  After contact is made the Guerillas will disengage and evade. 

3.      Their evasion route normally is out of sight of Marine overwatch positions.

The Martyrs are classified by the following principles:

1.      The Martyrs’ purpose is to kill as many Marines as possible before they are killed.  Time does not have any significance.  The Martyrs want to die by the hands of Marines.  The final outcome of their actions results in dead Marines as well as their death.

2.      Their tactics directly reflect their purpose.  The Martyrs will make fortified fighting positions in houses and wait.  Marines will come, they will fight, and they will die in place. 

Both the Guerillas and Martyrs employ the same weapons.  The weapons used are mostly small arms, grenades, and rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s).  The Martyrs have used heavy machine guns and anti-air machine guns, unfortunately, with good effects.

The battle positions and tactics that the both employ are somewhat similar.  The major differences between the two are the egress route and the fortifications.  Guerrillas have an evasion plan, while the martyrs do not.  The Guerrillas normally do not have fortified positions. 

Marines have been engaged from mouse holes within the house, Guerrillas shooting down from the rooftops when they are moving into the courtyard, Guerrillas and Martyrs shooting and throwing grenades down the ladderwells, in second deck rooms that are fortified or blacked out, and upon breaching of interior doors.  Martyrs have emplaced machine gun positions in rooms facing down the long axis of hallways.   

The egress routes the Guerrillas use are preplanned and well-rehearsed.  They move in groups and withdrawal perpendicular to Marines’ forward line of troops (FLOT).  Their movement is through windows of houses, down back alleys, and from roof to roof (only when obscured from Marine overwatch positions).  The routes minimize exposure in the streets.  Escape routes do not cross streets that run perpendicular to the FLOT, only parallel.  This is done because Marine snipers during 2nd Battalion/1st Marines’ (2/1) attack last April devastated the insurgents when attempting to cross those streets.  If contact is made with Guerrillas and the block is not isolated on all four sides then their chance of escape increases exponentially.  Isolation of the block is absolutely necessary in order to prevent any “squirters.”

Overall, the enemy has adapted their tactics and techniques in order to maximize their strong points and hit Marines when they are the most vulnerable.  They have learned from 2/1’s attack last April.  This is common sense, but it must be said in order that Marines realize the enemy they are fighting is somewhat intelligent.  In MOUT it only takes a miniscule amount of intelligence in order to create massive amounts of casualties.

Squad Tactics

Squad Movement:

During house to house detailed clearing attacks, squads must minimize exposure in the streets.  The streets, especially in Fallujah, can become a death trap if a squad is engaged.  The squad should run from house to house in a stack with all elements (security, assault, and supporting) in their appropriate position.  In the street the stack should be slightly staggered like a tight tactical column.  The Marines should have some dispersion, and the pace of the running should not be so fast that the Marines are uncontrolled and not maintaining all around security.  As soon as the point man/one man reaches the courtyard breach the stack should close the gaps of dispersion and swiftly move to accomplish their tasks.

All danger areas while on the move must be covered.  Security must be three-dimensional and all around.  Each Marine in the stack looks to the Marines to his front, assesses danger areas that are not covered, and then covers one of them.  If every Marine does this then all danger areas will be covered. 

Top Down verse Bottom Up Assaults:

An infantry squad can assault structures using two different methods.  Traditionally, the top down assault is taught as being the most ideal method for clearing a structure.  Realistically, this may not be the best option for the infantry squad.  Below are the advantages and disadvantages of both top down and bottom up assault methods.

            Top Down:


1.      Surprising the enemy by moving from the top down may throw the enemy off balance.  The enemy’s defenses may not be prepared for a top down assault and the squad could overwhelm the enemy rapidly.

2.      The squad has more momentum when moving down the ladderwells. 

3.      If the squad knows that the enemy is inside the roof can be breached in order so grenades and explosives could be dropped on top of the enemy.

4.      The enemy’s egress routes are greatly reduced because the squad can isolate the house by holding security on the back alleys and the front of the house from the roof.


1.      Once the squad makes entry and contact is made, pulling out of the structure is extremely difficult.  This limits the options for the squad leader on how to engage the enemy.  The structure must be flooded and Marines have to go overtop of casualties in order to kill the enemy.  Momentum must not be lost.  Marines have been left behind in houses because the momentum was lost. 

2.      If the squad decides to break contact they are moving opposite of their momentum and more casualties will result.

3.      Marine squads may not have enough Marines to effectively flood the structure.

4.      If casualties are taken they are nearly impossible to pull up the ladderwell with all their gear and a limp body.  This is another reason why the structure must be flooded.   

5.      The casualties will not receive the immediate first aid because the entire squad must be committed to neutralization of the threat.  The swiftness of medical attention may mean the difference between life and death.

Bottom Up:


1.      The squad leader has a slew of options when contact is made.  The structure does not have to be flooded.

2.      Momentum can be maintained in assaulting or breaking contact and the squad leader can switch rapidly from one to the other relatively quickly.

3.      The structure can be cleared with fewer Marines because the clearing is more controlled and smooth whereas top down is always in high gear.

4.      Casualties can be pulled out faster and easier simply because gravity is working for the squad.


1.      The squad is moving into the enemy’s defenses.  It is easy for the enemy to hold the second deck and ladderwell.

2.      The squad is slow moving up the ladderwell which makes it harder to maintain momentum.

3.      The enemy has the ability to escape by using its preplanned routes.

Overall, there should not be a standard assault method.  Rather the squad leader should understand the advantages and disadvantages of each, assess each structure quickly, make a decision on which method to employ, and then take actions that maximize its advantages while minimizing its disadvantages. 

Gaining Footholds:

Footholds are extremely important.  By establishing footholds the squad establishes strongpoints during the assault that can be used for consolidation, coordination, base of fire positions, rally points, and casualty collection points.  The squad must move from one foothold to another, never stopping until each foothold is attained. 

The succession of footholds that the squad establishes will be different when assaulting from either the top down or the bottom up.  The following footholds should be seized in this order when assaulting from the top down: 

1.      All rooftops

2.      The inside top deck

3.      Each individual lower level to the bottom deck

4.      The courtyard

The footholds seized when assaulting from the bottom up are in the reverse order.  They are the following:

1.      The front courtyard

2.      The first two seating rooms

3.      The central hallway

4.      Each successive upper deck with its respective rooftop

5.      Uppermost rooftop

At each individual foothold the squad can consolidate and coordinate its further clearing of the structure. If contact is made the footholds can be used to establish a base of fire in order to assault or break contact.  When breaking contact they are used as rally points in order for the squad and fire team leaders to get accountability of all their Marines.  The squad will bound back through each foothold.  A foothold can also be used as a casualty collection point.

Structure Clearing:

Types of entry

During the assault on a structure there are three different tactics that the squad can use for entry into the structure.  The three types of entry are dynamic, stealth, and subdued.  The dynamic entry is violently aggressively from start to finish.  The commands are verbal and yelled.  The squads lead by fire placing one or two rounds in every door that is closed or window that is blacked out.  Fragmentation grenades, stun grenades, and flashbangs are used.  At night, surefire flashlights are employed in order to clear.  The movement of the squad is swift and overwhelming for the enemy inside. 

The stealth entry is exactly the opposite of the dynamic entry.  The squad breaches quietly, moves slowly, speaks only in whispers, and listens for any movement within the house.  There is extreme emphasis placed on initiative based tactics (IBT).  During night clearing, night vision goggles and PE Q-2’s are used instead of surefire flashlights.  The stealth entry confuses the enemy on exactly where the squad is in clearing the house and allows the squad to maintain the element of surprise.

Subdued entry is a combination of the two previous types.  The squad moves quietly until they encounter a room.  Upon entry into the room, Marines are violently aggressive.  After the room is cleared, the Marines switch back to the stealth method of entry.  This type of entry allows the squad leader to control the rate of clearing while maintaining some element of surprise. 

It is important to note that squad leaders must vary the type of entry.  The squad must constantly mask its movement through every form of deception that may confuse the enemy inside the building or room.  It is up to the entire squad to use its imagination and vary their entry tactics and techniques as much as possible.  The objective is to keep the enemy off balance and not allow him to get into the squad’s rhythm.   


There are three types of breaching that were used in Fallujah.  The types of breaching are mechanical, ballistic, and explosive.  Mechanical breaching of the exterior walls of the courtyard or gate was mostly done by amphibious assault vehicles (AAV’s), tanks, D-9 bulldozers, or HMMWV’s.  Sledgehammers and hooligans were used to breach both the metal and wooden doors of the house, but this was and is not the preferred method for breaching.  Sledgehammers and hooligans are slow and they require the breacher to stand in front of the door being breach.  Obviously, standing in front of the door allows the enemy to engage the breacher through the door.

Ballistic breaching was used mostly on exposed pad locks.  Both M16A4’s and shotguns were used.  The M16A4’s were employed because there was not enough shotgun ammunition for the amount of locks that had to be breached.  They were fairly effective on first round breaching of pad locks if the round was placed near the center.  The M203 was also used for breaching.  Squads would breach doors of houses that were 50 to 100 meters in front of their position with the M203.  It worked extremely well on the exterior metal doors.   

The last type of breaching employed was explosive.  A multitude of charges were used in order to breach walls, gates, exterior doors, and interior doors.  Some of these will be discussed later in this evaluation.

An important principle in breaching that was learned is the Marine making entry is NEVER the breacher.  The breacher should always fall in the back of the stack and never go in first.  Marines have died because they followed there own breach. 

Speed is the most significant factor in all types of breaching.  If one method of breaching is not working then the breacher must quickly transition to a different type.  Standing in front of a door and beating it with a sledgehammer for ten minutes is unacceptable.  The breacher must be able to employ different methods.  The squad leader must ensure that the breacher has the necessary equipment and explosives for each method.  Every time the squad is stalled because of a breach it is placed in a vulnerable position.  Breaching swiftly and effectively is necessary in order for the squad to maintain momentum.

Movement of the Squad within the Structure

Within the structure the squad should move from one foothold to another.  The initial foothold is established by the security element.  The security element rolls into the courtyard or rooftop and clears every room on the outside.  The assault element proceeds directly to an entry point to prepare for the breach.  The support element falls in trace and makes the breach. 

After the breach is made the assault element makes entry and clears the first two sitting rooms simultaneously by splitting the stack or clears the entire top deck.  The support element will assist the assault element by peeling off and clearing rooms or breaching any doors.  Security will be left at the courtyard or rooftop foothold in order to isolate the structure and secure the squad’s egress route.  Security can be maintained by only two Marines.   The rest of the security element will fall in the stack.

After the initial foothold in the structure the stack will consolidate and then advance and clear to the next foothold.  The succession will continue until the entire structure is cleared. 


At all times the squad will move by using IBT and adhere to its principles which will be addressed later.  No Marine should make an uncovered move.  The squad should move at a pace that is swift, but controlled, exercising “tactical patience.”

Actions upon Enemy Contact

The squad leader’s options for actions upon enemy contact vary according to where the squad is in its clearing and whether any casualties have been taken.  In any contact, the squad and squad leader have two priorities.  The two priorities are eliminating the immediate threat and pulling out any casualties.  More often than not, the two priorities are connected because in MOUT the enemy is usually close (within feet) and the enemy fire has wounded a Marine.

If contact is made in the courtyard or rooftop the squad should break contact, isolate the house or block, and call in supporting arms (tanks, tracks, etc.).  There is no reason to place Marines into the building until it is thoroughly prepped.   

If contact is made in the house then the squad leader must quickly evaluate the situation and decide the best course of action.  Generally, the squad leader has the following three options:


1.      Break Contact – Breaking contact is more of an option during the bottom up assault because of the difficulties in changing the momentum during the top down assault.  If casualties are taken or the enemy resistance is strong then this may be the best action for the squad leader to take.  Upon breaking contact the squad will bound from one foothold to another getting accountability of all Marines and ensuring that no Marine is left behind.  When leaving the house the squad can place a satchel charge or another explosive device in order to bring down the house or burn the enemy out.   

2.      Flood the House – Squad leaders may choose to flood the house with Marines if a casualty is taken during the top down assault or if the enemy threat is not significant.  Casualties cannot be dragged up the stairs quickly, therefore, Marines must neutralize or suppress the threat in order to extract the casualties.  In some situations the only way to do this may be to flood the house.

3.      Hold the Last Foothold and Clear by Fire – Footholds are strongpoints where the squad can fight from.  At the foothold Marines can return fire, throw grenades, and use explosive devices to neutralize the enemy.  After the enemy has been damaged the squad can move in and clear the house.  If the roof top is the foothold the squad is holding, then the roof could be breached by a directional charge.  Grenades or incendiary devices can be thrown into the structure flushing out the enemy.

CASUALTIES MUST NEVER BE LEFT BEHIND!  The squad leader must ensure that every Marine moves with a buddy.  Each buddy is responsible for pulling the other out of the fight if he goes down.  The squad leader and fire team leaders must have accountability for all their Marines at all times.  There is no excuse for Marines being left behind in a building while the squad pulls out. 

Organization of the Squad:

Some squad leaders in the battalion split their squads in two and assigned different sectors to the two different parts.  They did this to move faster through the houses because they were tasked with clearing a lane that may have contained up to fifty or sixty houses.  Although this worked and the squads moved faster through their assigned sector it is not the best employment of their squad.  The following reasons are given on why splitting the squad is not advisable:

1.      If the squad contained twelve Marines and is split in two that leaves two teams of six Marines.  Clearing a structure with six Marines, even though the house is small, is extremely risky.  If a buddy team of two Marines got hit and went down there would not be enough Marines to provide covering fire while pulling the casualties out.  Critical seconds would be wasted waiting for the other team of the squad to come in the house and support the extraction of the casualties.  The chances of wounded Marines getting left behind increases exponentially.

2.      If contact is made by both teams simultaneously then the squad could be cut down in a piecemeal fashion within a matter of seconds before other squads could even move to reinforce. 

When the squad leader organizes his squad he must think about enemy contact always.  Squads must not be split in order to increase the speed of clearing.  Commanders should not put stress on the squad leaders to clear at a speed that would force the squad leaders to split their squad.  Tactical patience must be exercised at every level. 

The squad should be organized by using the traditional three elements of assault, support, and security.  The amount of Marines contained within each element will vary according to the squad’s number of Marines, the skills and abilities that each individual Marine possess, and the weapons systems that each Marine employs (M249 SAW, M203, and ACOG scoped M16A4’s).

The assault element must contain no SAW’s if that is possible.  A SAW gunner must never clear rooms.  The assault element should contain the most number of Marines because every room must be cleared with two Marines.  The support element will supplement the assault by falling in the stack and peeling off to clear rooms.

Support should include any engineers or assaultman attached to the squad.  A SAW gunner should be included in this section in order to provide massive firepower in the house if contact is made.  The corpsman is also located in support because he can use his shotgun to breach as well as provide quick medical attention to casualties.  The support section will fall in the stack behind the assault element to assist in any way. 

Security should contain the other remaining SAW’s in the squad.  The security element is responsible for clearing and securing the courtyard or rooftop foothold prior to the assault element moving to the entry point.  When assault and support make entry into the structure, two Marines are left behind to isolate the house (rooftop) and secure the squad’s entry point.  The rest of the Marines will fall in the stack behind the support section.  The security Marines will hold security on all danger areas (mostly the stairs) when the assault and support are clearing each foothold.

Squad leaders must appoint each fire team leader as an element leader.  There are no longer fire teams, only assault, support, and security sections.  Each element leader will maintain accountability for his section.  It is easier for the squad to maintain this organization until the attack is completed and then the traditional four-Marine fire team can be reinstated.  The squad leader should emphasis unity of command and succession of command should the squad leader become a casualty.

Squad Communications:

Inter-squad communication between the Marines in the stack is both verbal and visual.  Simple, clear, and universal language should be used.  Universal language is words and phrases that are standardized so every Marine understands the other.  Words and phrases such as, “Hold right, clear left,” and, “Frag out.”

The one man should describe to the stack what he is seeing.  In other words, the one man verbally paints the picture for the stack behind.    Marines in the stack should be listening not talking.  Talking should be kept to a minimum.

After Clearing-Continuing Actions:

After the structure has been cleared the squad must immediately conduct the detailed search of the house for weapons.  The search must be quick but thorough leaving nothing untouched.  Weapons were found in every conceivable place, underneath couches in the cushions, in between piled up blankets, etc. 

Another continuing action would be to render the interior and exterior doors unable to close.  This will help if the structure needs to be recleared later.  Marines will use their creativity to think of ingenious ways to accomplish this task. 

Mission or Time has Priority:

In detailed clearing attacks, time should never be the priority.  Marines should never be rushed because they become sloppy and are forced to create shortcuts in order to accomplish the mission under the time restraints.  This does not mean that the squads shouldn’t be pushed.  This means that a realistic timeline for the attack should be made; a timeline that takes into account the overwhelming task of clearing multiple blocks of houses that may contain platoon sized elements of insurgents.

Individual Techniques and Tactics


Training is continuous, whether in a combat zone or not.  The responsibility of the squad leader is to ensure his squad is combat ready.  The individual Marines in his squad must be continuously trained otherwise the Marines will lose proficiency in MOUT skills learned through experience during the attack.

Training does not have to be physical, it can be verbal.  The most effective training in this environment is for the squad leader to sit down with his squad and talk.  The squad should run through combat scenarios and have individual Marines tell the squad what their jobs are and how they will do it.  Communication between Marines can be practiced by talking through universal language, such as, “Open door right, closed door left,” or, “Peel right,” and telling each other what is meant. 

All Marines must exercise initiative during combat.  Squad leaders must design training techniques in order to stress initiative.  Marines must be able to look around, assess what his squad or partner is doing, feed off it, and act in order to support them.  Initiative based training is paramount.

Constructive criticism should be encouraged.  Every Marine debriefs each other, telling good and bad observations.  The squad leader will also be critiqued by his Marines in an appropriate fashion.  The criticism is not meant to undermine the squad leaders’ authority.  It is to allow the squad leader to instruct the Marines on why he chose to run the squad the way he did.  Young Marines will gain knowledge about squad tactics that they may never have figured out if the squad leader did not tell them. It will prepare them for leadership billets.  It will also give them confidence in their squad leader because they will trust him and his knowledge. 


Techniques that individual Marines need to be taught and practiced are the following:

1.      Pieing off all danger areas.  Even before entry into a room as many danger areas as possible should be pied off leaving only one or two corners that need to be cleared.  Don’t blindly rush into a room, especially if the door is opened.

2.      Using the buddy system.  Two Marines always peel off the stack, never one. 

3.      Picking up uncovered danger areas, including when opening doors to furniture when it can fit a man inside.

4.      Clearing obstacles, such as furniture.

5.      Prepping rooms with grenades.

6.      If the room is too small for two Marines or not enough Marines are clearing the house to hold security on all the danger areas, the two-man turns around and covers the rear of the Marine clearing the room.

7.      Moving stealthily through a structure even with broken glass on the ground.

8.      Making a stealth entry with NVG’s and PEQ-2’s.

9.      Making breaching charges and placing them on the locking points of different types of doors.

These are just some of the techniques that need to be practiced and passed on to younger Marines. 


Initiative based tactics (IBT) should be taught.  There are four rules of IBT.  They are the following:

1.      Cover all immediate danger areas.

2.      Eliminate all threats.

3.      Protect your buddy.

4.      There are no mistakes.  Every Marine feeds off each other and picks up the slack for the other.  Go with it.

Every Marine needs to understand and memorize the rules governing IBT.  These rules should not only apply to MOUT, but all small unit infantry engagements.  Rule number four must be pounded into the squad.  There are no mistakes when clearing a structure in combat, only actions that result in situations; situations that Marines must adapt to, improvise, and overcome in a matter of seconds.

Supporting Arms

Throughout contemporary American military history there has not been any opponent that could not be overwhelmed by American supporting arms.  The United States Marine Corps has historically been an innovator with the employment of supporting arms.  The Marine Corps created the concept of close air support (CAS) in Haiti during the Banana Wars, helicopter envelopment in Korea, and the combined arms team portrayed in the modern Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF).  Fallujah has been another proving ground for American supporting arms.  The insurgents were completely overwhelmed by the massive indirect fires and close air support on the first two days of the battle. 

At the squad level the results of the fires were felt through the type of enemy they encountered.  The enemy dug in deep into the houses, not allowing themselves to get caught in the open.  The infantryman of 3/5 have learned the advantages and disadvantages of fixed wing CAS, rotary wing CAS, tanks, combined anti-armor team (CAAT), AAV’s, artillery, bulldozers, and 81 and 60 mm mortars through practical experience. 

Fixed wing CAS is an enormous weapon that has great effects on the ground.  The major problem with it is the amount of time it takes to get bombs on target.  It took entirely too long for bombs to be dropped when Marines were in contact.  The minimum safe distance of the ordnance was too great in order for even the block to be isolated and that allowed the enemy to escape countless times.  Fixed wing CAS should be used for deep targets.  It should not be used when Marines have isolated the structure and trapped the enemy inside.  A tank or CAAT section can be more effective Marines do not have to be withdrawn from the cordon.

In contrast to fixed wing CAS, rotary wing CAS was extremely timely, but the effects on target were not extraordinary.  The hellfire missiles used did not bring down entire structures, but they did do some damage.   

By far the best two supporting arms used were tanks and CAAT.  Tanks and CAAT were the infantryman’s best friend.  The battle would have been incredibly bloodier if it hadn’t been for tanks and CAAT.  The tanks were able to provide a 120 mm direct fire weapon on the spot of any contact within a matter of minutes.  The thermal sites were able to pinpoint exact position of snipers and then effectively neutralize them within seconds.  CAAT was able to use its M2 .50 caliber machine guns and Mk19 grenade launchers to breach as well as destroy buildings were fire was received from.  CAAT also helped the squads by clearing the buildings that lined the street in their lane.  The infantry should never attack in MOUT without tanks or CAAT.

Mortars and artillery proved effective by forcing the enemy to stay in the houses and not allowing the enemy to fight the Marines in the streets.


The variety of explosives used during the fight for Fallujah will not be mentioned here.  The few that will be explained have a common theme of being obscure and may be forgotten if they are not written down.  Each explosive device was developed in response to the enemy’s tactics and has been proven to work. 

The following is a list of explosives, a description, and their uses:

1.      “Eight Ball” – 1/8 stick of C-4 – Used for breaching both interior and exterior doors, effective and doesn’t use a lot of C-4

2.      “House Guest” (Named by 2nd squad, 1st platoon, I Company) – Propane tanks placed in the central hallway with C-4 used to ignite it, creates a fuel air explosive – Used for bringing down a house when contact is made inside, propane tanks must be full

3.      A 60 or 81 mm white phosphorous mortar round, wrapped three times with detonation cord and a 1/4 or 1/2 stick of C-4 – Used when contact is made in a house and the enemy must be burned out

4.      Molotov cocktails – one part liquid laundry detergent, two parts gas – Used when contact is made in a house and the enemy must be burned out

All Marines should be familiar with explosives and proper placement of the charge for breaching.  Any Marine should be able to cut time fuse, crimp a blasting cap, and put the blasting cap in C-4. 

Randomness of Tactics and Techniques

The infantry squad must have a tool box of tactics and techniques.  The squad should not fall into a pattern were they become predictable.  Being predictable allows the enemy to prepare and modify his tactics in order to exploit the squad’s weaknesses.  The squad must be trained well enough to flow through or combine each tactic and technique fairly easily.  Marines must use their imagination to think of ways to vary their tactics.  The enemy must be kept off balance by changing, at random, squad tactics.  For instance, vary the method of entry into the structure, lead by fire then don’t, assault top down then bottom up, don’t use the same entry point every time, throw a fragmentation grenade on the middle roof then assault bottom up.  Avoid patterning by all means. 

Combat Mindset

Preparing Marines for battle is a difficult task for the squad leader.  Squad leaders must be the rock and drill into his Marines that no Marine will be left behind.  Marine combat infantrymen understand the meaning of Semper Fidelis.  No Marine is left behind. 

Marines have to prepare mentally for casualties and be able to rebound quickly in order to kill the enemy swiftly to prevent more casualties.  The old saying, “Anything that can go wrong, will,” is always in effect in combat.

Every time a squad makes entry they should expect to make contact.  Surprise, speed, and maximum violence wins small unit battles.  Marines and leaders need to make quick decisions on the move and under fire, always remembering unity of command. 

In combat, Marine leaders are required to stand up and take charge.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.  The “chief syndrome” will create mass confusion on the battlefield.  Being a good combat leader sometimes means stepping back and allowing the Marines to do their jobs.  Platoon commanders must allow squad leaders to lead their squads, squad leaders must allow element leaders to lead their elements, and element leaders must allow their Marines to take initiative.   


In conclusion, this evaluation is nothing more than a guideline for infantry Marines.  Squad leaders should take this evaluation, study it, critique it, give it to their squad, have them study it, critique it, and then sit down together to discuss it.  The tactics and techniques contained in the evaluation were gained at an enormous price.  Marines were killed on the field of battle developing these tactics.  It is the duty of every Marine infantryman to not allow these lessons to die with time.  This evaluation is only one step in passing on the knowledge.

So there you have it. An aptly written AAR by one Marine Sergeant and his Corporals.

[Showdown (The Battle for Fallujah) Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve,Thirteen, and Fourteen]