Tom Buchino: Success or failure hinges on factors including individual and collective skills (training and experience) and the immediate ability to operate as a Team, thus Small Unit Tactics.

About the author

Tom Buchino, Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Special Forces (Ret.), with over 23 years of active duty services. Tom started Tactical Ranch in 2010 and recruited a cadre of instructors from all aspects of the SOF arena and specialized law enforcement personnel. 

Tactical Ranch operates in conjunction with Covenant Special Projects, LLC (CSP). Tactical Ranch and CSP specialized in elite risk mitigation advisory services and training for the U.S. and allied nation governments, local, state, federal agencies, and private customers.


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Iraq in 2003. Before the “Official Kickoff” of the coalition forces air campaign, a small group of Special Operations Forces (SOF) conducted an infiltration of Iraq to set up and secure an isolated, abandoned airfield. Unclassified.

A mounted patrol during the initial invasion into Iraq in 2003. (Unclassified).

Before the “Official Kickoff” of the coalition forces air campaign, a small group of Special Operations Forces (SOF) conducted an infiltration of Iraq to set up and secure an isolated, abandoned airfield.

The mission was to conduct a clandestine infill of other SOF teams for reconnaissance operations from the secured airfield.

The airfield seizure team consisted of one (1) SF A-team and one (1) SF-B Team (a small headquarters command and control element), and a handful of Air Force Combat Controllers.

Upon successful occupation and set up of the airfield, the SOF contingent received multiple small teams via prompt delivery from time-staggered blacked-out MC130s.

With US SOF operators’ successful and undetected infiltration complete, all were dispatched to different recon sectors.

The Airfield Team was ordered to initiate movement North to Baghdad to get Eyes-On the Baghdad International Airport (Saddam Intl. AP / SIAP).

The small SOF element traveling in GMV (ground mobility vehicles) and Toyota Tacoma’s were joined by a Civil Affairs (CA) Section with two (2) HumV’s.

The CA section was integrated into the SOF convoy, placing their vehicles between the A team-leading and B team bringing up the rear.

The combined team pushed North in the dark cold, reaching the Euphrates River crossing as the sun began to rise.

Before crossing the bridge, a final security halt provided the team confirmation that aerial intelligence indicated no insurgent presence.

As the team made their push over the bridge crossing the Euphrates, and all vehicles now approaching the Southern, downward slope of the bridge, the convoy became engulfed in enemy small arms fire from all directions.

Front, Rear, Left, and Right contact as the Fedayeen had laid in ambush positions covered by buildings and elevated rock walls awaiting the patrol’s Entry into the Kill Zone.

Multiple RPG teams and soviet DShk heavy machine guns positioned at multiple roadway intersections supported the Fedayeen’s efforts.

The US team’s options to Break Contact or Fight Through were made for them when the Assistant Patrol Leader (rear of the convoy) identified that there had been break-in contact and one vehicle was no longer positioned in convoy order.

As the SOF operators continued to engage targets with both rifles and mounted machine-guns and MK-19 grenades launchers from vehicles (now at much higher speeds), the announcement of the lost vehicle was sounded over the radio.

With the team fighting from their convoy and the ever-expanding distance between the trucks, the trailing Tacomas made a stance at an overwatch intersection.

They dismounted a couple of operators to recover the lost Civil Affairs vehicle.

All of this came amid a seemingly endless ambush of enemy participants.

Supporting fires allowed the dismounted troops to maneuver and vector the wayward vehicle back into convoy configuration.

Both the SF and Civil Affairs soldiers returned fire to the repositioning enemy forces.

The commander and lead element located an open field to assemble, set up security and defensive positions, and awaited the trailing arrivals.

Upon the arrival of all vehicles, defenses were set as the team prepared for a counter-attack. To this point, the Unit had received no severe casualties.

However, many of the vehicles have suffered multiple non-disabling wounds.

Communications with higher (command) reporting the situation was established while a motivated US Air Force TAC-P (an attached member of the team) dispatched Close Air Support from an A-10 Thunderbolt.

Due to enemy armor positions located to the patrols North, the determination to fight back through the ambush site and cross over the Euphrates once again was made, brief to all teammates, and executed with the firepower of the A-10.

The extended period spent coordinating air support, reporting, and refitting for round two allowed the Fedayeen time to re-form and position for their counter.

Never go through an ambush a second time…

That’s just common sense.

But, when the options are tanks vs. trucks or some buggers in decent position vs. SOF guys and other American troops with a crap ton of bullets, the answer is a no-brainer.

After positioning the Tacoma’s in between the heavier HMMV’s and ensuring the A-10 inbound run, the detachment began its violent egress through the city back the rivers crossing.

Round two proved to be more intense than the previous, but the A-10 showed no mercy, and the US ground element’s speed and fire accuracy was more than the opposing forces anticipated.

As the egressing US forces laid waste to stationary targets, the A-10 spent every grain of its combat load on the hardened positions and one poor bastard bad on a motorcycle, the team was able to cross the danger zone and egress South, over the bridge spanning the Euphrates to a secure rally point; all without a serious casualty.

Yes, many of the vehicles looked like Swiss cheese, one even died just after making it to safety, but the team was secure and in the defense.

Live to Fight Another Day!


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