Theodore's World: US Troops Afghanistan Ordered to Patrol With Their Weapons Unloaded

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May 24, 2010

US Troops Afghanistan Ordered to Patrol With Their Weapons Unloaded

Fighting a War without Bullets?

Human Events

by Chris Carter


Commanders have ordered a U.S. military unit in Afghanistan to patrol with unloaded weapons, according to a source in Afghanistan.

American soldiers in at least one unit have been ordered to conduct patrols without a round chambered in their weapons, an anonymous source stationed at a forward operating base in Afghanistan said in an interview. The source was unsure where the order originated or how many other units were affected.

When a weapon has a loaded magazine, but the safety is on and no round is chambered, the military refers to this condition as “amber status.” Weapons on “red status” are ready to fire—they have a round in the chamber and the safety is off.

The source stated that he had been stationed at the base for only a month, but the amber weapons order was in place since before he arrived. A NATO spokesman could not confirm the information, stating that levels of force are classified.

“Our overall aim is to defeat the insurgency which means we must gain and then maintain the support of the Afghan population,” said Lieutenant Commander Iain Baxter, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in a statement to HUMAN EVENTS. “This must be the objective of every action taken by ISAF service members, and it calls for responses that de-escalate situations where the use of deadly force may not be necessary. In doing this, leaders at all levels make enormous efforts to ensure that troops balance their own protection with the protection of the Afghan population.”
“The idea that any combat unit would conduct any operation, including patrolling and even manning a security post—in which direct action may or may not take place—and not having weapons loaded, borders on being criminally negligent in my opinion,” says Lt. Col. W. Thomas Smith Jr., a recognized expert on terrorism and military issues. “This is nothing more than infusing politically correct restrictions into already overly restrictive rules of engagement. And this PC nonsense is going to get people killed.”

According to Smith, "American soldiers are highly skilled in the use of 'loaded' weapons, and so should be trusted to operate with 'loaded' weapons. If someone overseeing decisions on ROE [rules of engagement] thinks not, then ratchet up training. But don't put a man on the street and force him to go through multiple prompts when a gunfight breaks out. Remember, the situation can go from quiet to kinetic in half the time it takes to breathe."

In an ambush situation, just how long does it take to engage a target when your weapon isn't already loaded?

“Too long,” states Sandy Daniel, military veteran and deputy director of the Victory Institute. “The first couple of seconds in an ambush are critical, and when that block of time is used to load a weapon instead of firing, you are losing the time you need to stay alive. Patrolling without a chambered round is suicide.”

Smith adds, "Let's not forget the catastrophic result of not having weapons loaded on Oct. 23, 1983, when a U.S. Marine sentry barely managed to load his weapon and get off one or two hasty, ineffective shots at the speeding bomb-ladened truck that crashed into the Battalion Landing Team headquarters in Beirut. The truck breached the building, the explosives were detonated, and 241 Americans perished in the largest—at that time—non-nuclear blast in history."

Based on discussions with veterans of previous conflicts spanning back to the Vietnam War, ordering troops to conduct patrols or to man a security post with weapons on amber status is actually quite common. In Vietnam, troops were typically ordered to patrol with weapons on amber, however the order was rarely followed or enforced. Troops operating at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, in Bosnia, and during the Gulf War had similar orders. In some cases, troops were instructed to remove magazines from the weapon completely, storing them in pouches. Worse yet, troops were only issued a handful of bullets in which to defend themselves in case of enemy contact.

The ROE our troops in Afghanistan follow, commonly known as the “Karzai 12,” are classified.But this :

1. When on the post, mobile or foot patrol, keep loaded magazine in weapon, bolt closed, weapon on safe, no round in the chamber.

2. Do not chamber a round unless told to do so by a commissioned officer unless you must act in immediate self-defense where deadly force is authorized.

Marines were ordered to know these rules—which they carried on them at all times—as well as they knew their name, rank, and Social Security number. As Smith points out, we can see just how ineffective these rules were, and how deadly they were to U.S. forces. Had our leaders allowed Marines to carry loaded weapons, perhaps the 241 Marines, sailors, and soldiers killed in the Beirut attack would still be alive today.

Even if this order did originate from a company commander, this travesty is still the responsibility of the leadership that handed down such restrictive rules of engagement. NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's emphasis on protecting noncombatants is such that commanders are willing to jeopardize their troops in such a manner as ordering them into battle with unloaded weapons.

Hopefully, our military won't experience another preventable mass casualty incident like the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. But with our leaders repeating the failures of the past by not permitting our troops to carry loaded weapons, it seems we have become our own worst enemy.


Wild Thing's comment.......

Commanders have ordered a U.S. military unit in Afghanistan to patrol with unloaded weapons, according to a source in Afghanistan.

Forget learning the lessons of 9/11, we obviously haven't learned the lessons of the USS Cole yet, or the Marine Base, or so many other attacks on our military and Americans.

“Our overall aim is to defeat the insurgency which means we must gain and then maintain the support of the Afghan population,”

And the idea is to let them know we are walking around targets is really going to win their hearts and minds.

Here’s a news flash. You are never going to defeat the insurgency pussy footing around trying to win friends with the Afghan population. The enemy has one tactic, and that’s to terrify. The only way to stop them is to kill them dead.

Posted by Wild Thing at May 24, 2010 06:55 AM


Gee, who came up with this idea, Mickey Mouse or was it that pusillanimous purple putz Barney. Nobody does this only the UN and Obama could come up with something this stupid. Why give them ammo at all, if the bad guys show up the troops can yell bang, bang, and then get themselves shot with real bullets.

Thats akin to landing in a hot zone with blanks. Don't laugh it happened. April 29, 1965. We spent the first 6 hours virtually unarmed or no ammo. We had plenty of other stuff, 81mm rounds, 105's, 106's for the re-coil less rifles, etc but no 7.62mm for the M-14. About an hour later a jeep came in from Santo Damingo with a trailor loaded with flak jackets. Being at the beach we had to unload the trailer, so they could be sent back to the ships, the first one I grabbed was covered in blood but no hole in it. The first thought to pop into my head," Holy shit, this is for real," and second when the hell is the real Ammo going to get here'. It arrived about midnight, but it was a scary 6 hours.

This Amber crap, is just that Bullshit, and will do nothing but get good troops killed and for what to make some son of a bitch in Washington feel good that he made a difference by sacrificing his own troops for some civilian whose loyalties are not with our troops but with the Taliban , the friggin enemy.

Posted by: mark at May 24, 2010 09:33 AM

With crap like this, I wouldn't be surprised to see the enlistment and reenlistment rates drop.

Don't forget, McChrystal is Obama's hand picked general to run the war in Afghanistan.

A retired Marine, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, rips into McChrystals ROE's.

Posted by: BobF at May 24, 2010 09:53 AM

This is a "Cover your Ass' order from some officer(s). It is to reduce the chance of an accidetal discharge. Good idea in training exercises, bad idea in actual combat. This means some commander(s) does not trust his troops. Also means he may be trying to avoid doing the paperwork neccessary when there is a casualty due to an accident.

This PC shit will lose the war for us.

Posted by: TomR at May 24, 2010 10:14 AM

Great Article BobF, and excerpt from Bobs article:

When four Marines were killed in another ambush, near the Pakistan border, a McClatchy Newspapers reporter embedded with the unit wrote that its request for artillery fire support was declined because of the rules of engagement. The reporter quoted Marines as saying women and children were replenishing the insurgents' ammunition. So because of these stupid ROE's our troops are getting killed. And this MORONIC 'Courageous Restraint' will kill even more troops. Because of these assholes in Washington.

No shit, this is the point, there are no friendly civilians near an ambush, they are there for one reason to help the inurgents or kill our troops themselves.

If they were innocent they would not be there in the first place.

Posted by: mark at May 24, 2010 12:27 PM

I don't even know what to say. This is insane. The top brass should all go to Obama and tell him where the sun sets. To do less, they along with Obama should be arrested and tried as co-conspirators to murder at the first combat death of a dis-armed American soldier.

What's next unarmed drones, aircraft carriers with no planes? One can only guess. Now his NWO speech at West Point. WTF.

Posted by: Bob A at May 24, 2010 04:47 PM

I am younger than Mark but I too heard about Vietnam units landed in hot zones without being issued ammo first though six hours is as long as I ever heard without some catching up. This whole idea of keeping troops separated from weapons and Ammunition was stupid when it got started and then it was partially because of large numbers of drunken draftees.
had hoped that I had heard the last of such ROE, I was wrong to hope.

Posted by: Avitar at May 24, 2010 05:10 PM

Avitar, let me clarify that. This was the Dominican Republic, it was a warm up for Vietnam. We landed in an LCM the rest of the troops of 3rd Battalion 6th Marines were helo lifted into the city of Santo Damingo. The Ammo problem happened when we were loading into the LCM the Navy broke out the wrong ammunition and we discovered they were blanks, it was too late to wait for the right stuff, the well deck was already flooded, the LCM's engines were running we were going with or without ammo. As far as I know our platoon was the only one issued blanks. Even the Weapons guys(M-60's) had the right stuff but they weren't about to give away a couple of boxes so we could strip all the links. This, as far as I was concerned was an unforgivable offense.

Never had that problem in Vietnam. For one, there was no reason for anyone to even have blanks stored.

Then, every Carrib cruise the Battalion going south, would drop a company off in Gitmo, to man the perimeter then proceed to Viequese for Field excersises etc. But that year we were suppose to go to Panama for Jungle training. (penisve thought) I wonder if it had anything to do with, a few weeks earlier, the 3rd Marine Division landed in Vietnam. Nobody was thrilled about Panama, so lucky us we found an alternative. Within a week their was another Battalion of Marines 1/8 (later to become the Beiruit Marines) and the 82nd Airborne came down. In all of this confusion and mayhem, we evacuated over 1800 civilians to the LPH Boxer and even a baby was born during this evacuation and they named the kid after the ship it was either the Boxer or Fort Snelling with a name like that he was bound for greatness.

Sorry everybody I got off on a tangent here. My sole point is you can't send troops into a combat situation without ammunition/ without being ready to 'rock and roll' and the proper equipment. Somalia comes to mind too. Both democrat presidents.

Posted by: Mark at May 24, 2010 06:14 PM

This a little off topic, but there's no obvious mailing link. I'm selling a Flowboard on Ebay (kind of like an extreme skateboard) and am donating all the proceeds to the Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund. So if you know anybody who's interested, just stop by here and bid.
Thanks a bunch!

Posted by: J P at May 24, 2010 10:46 PM

HUGE thank you for all of your input on this.

BobF., thank you for reminding us about this hero and his Farther.
I posted about it back in October.

Mark thanks for sharing about Vietnam.

I thought I read the title of this wrong when I saw the article I haad to blink a few times, This is so insane.

Posted by: Wild Thing at May 25, 2010 12:58 AM