Remember that 3-25 Marines AAVP7A1 destroyed by a huge IED last month where 14 Marines were killed? Critics were quick to jump all over the military for equipping troops with vehicles that couldn’t survive those sorts of blasts. Wolf Blitzer on CNN even wondered why they hadn’t yet been equipped with up-armored humvees. A Newhouse News Service story ran in many outlets under the titles Amphibious vehicle easy prey in Iraq and Amphibious vehicle weakness exposed.
We haven’t heard much of that lately, though, have we?
I wrote about the furor at the time:
This story is a simple illustration of maybe my biggest pet peeve: ignorance of military affairs by 99% of journalists.
I think all most journalists and editors know about the military is My Lai, the Pentagon Papers, and the words “Tet Offensive”.
This wasn’t really a case of ignorance of esoteric military jargon or technical details. This was simply more of the “the government isn’t giving the troops what they need” campaign. I’m more than a little irritated that I, just this guy sitting at a computer, seems to know and understand so much more about the military than the professional journalists getting paid to write about it.
Follow the link to Amphibious vehicle weakness exposed. Which newspaper did that particular story with that particular title run in? The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
There’s a reason why it’s ironic that a New Orleans publication played along.
Marines rescued more than 100 people stranded by the destruction of Hurricane Katrina Monday after tides and high winds pummeled cities along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
Leathernecks with the Reserve’s reinforced 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, based in Gulfport, Miss., navigated the debris-filled streets of Biloxi late Aug. 29, plucking dazed citizens from their battered homes.
About 130 people were rescued by the Marines, who drove two AAV7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles through the destruction.
The amtrackers took the flood victims “to a designated drop-off point where they were returned to safety by civilian authorities,” according to a news release from Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport. One amtrac in the operation rescued 100 people, making four trips with 25 victims crammed into the crew compartment, a Navy spokeswoman said.
Then there’s Marines lend a hand in New Orleans East:
Motoring through the flooded streets of Michoud, a small neighborhood just 10 miles east of the city center, Master Sgt. Eric White saw the helicopter swooping low over his AAV7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
“I saw them waving and waving out the door, but at first I couldn’t understand what they were trying to say,” the inspector-instructor with the Gulfport, Miss.-based 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, said. “I thought, ‘what are you, Lassie?’ ” Suspecting that the Army helicopter might have been trying to point something out to him, White followed.
“I was just standing on my balcony when these guys came by on their tank and saved me,” said Corlissa Dobson, 26, as she patted White on the shoulder — safe and sound on dry land. “I had just drunk my last bottle of water.”
Now, we’ll forgive Ms. Dobson for calling the AAV a “tank”. That sort of technical mistake is understandable when made by a civilian unfamiliar with military terminology.
What’s different than that sort of error, though, is a loud and determined effort to slam the vehicle for it’s “weaknesses” or attempting to portray its use by the Marine Corps as another example of the government failing to provide for our troops.
The amtracs were ideally suited to the relief effort in the days immediately following the flooding of New Orleans. In many places, it was probably the only way to reach those in need:
The Marines move through the streets — now nothing more than maritime byways — bobbing softly, their engines groaning as the amphibious vehicles grind over a submerged car, a bumper tearing loose and rising slowly to the surface, the only evidence that this was at one time a bustling suburb of the historic city of New Orleans.
Looking over the thick steel rim of the amtrac’s crew compartment, the Marine infantrymen stared in stunned silence.
“I don’t see how they’ll ever recover from this,” said Cpl. Michael O’Brien, 26, of Dorchester, Mass., 1st Squad leader with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I expected it to be like this for a few blocks, but so far every place we’ve been has been flooded like this.”
And even in an environment where the amphibious vehicles could shine, working in that sort of situation is not a simple matter.
Screw drivers, pry bars, Ka-Bar knives — anything that pokes or scrapes. That’s what it took to get many of these vehicles going after the first day on the job here.
You see, AAV7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles were meant to carry Marines from ship to shore, slashing through battering ocean waves to drop their deadly cargo on an enemy beach. But the amtracs of the Reserve’s 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion — about a dozen vehicles in all, cobbled together from nearby units that volunteered to chip in for the Corps’ relief efforts in this storm battered city — aren’t navigating clear, unobstructed waters.
Instead, the aging amtracs are negotiating mine fields of urban detritus, swimming through ruined neighborhoods six feet beneath the fetid water.
“There’s so much crap floating around out there,” said Cpl. Andrew Neilson, 26, of Gainesville, Fla., an amtrac crewman with the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Bravo Company, 4th Tracks, as he ripped what was left of an above-ground swimming pool from a tangle around the tracks of his vehicle.
“And the water’s so dirty you can’t see it so you can’t steer around it.”
But though not designed for relief work in a flooded city, the Marines are good to go. And no complaints about lightweight amphibious troop carriers are to be found. Especially in the Times-Picayune
Also posted at Winds of Change