first published on December 4, 2019 by Will
It may certainly appear that way as the Marines scramble for cover and wait for the impact, but something less ridiculous is actually taking place here. The Marines are using the grenade launcher as a high-angle indirect fire weapon, like a mortar, to engage enemy positions that are hidden behind buildings and walls, which makes direct fire engagement futile.
Through much of OIF, mortar teams were not allowed to use their weapon systems in urban areas due to the risk of collateral damage. These resourceful Marines figured out a way to circumvent their restrictive rules of engagement and bring death and destruction to the enemy.
An unverified, yet believable comment was made on the reddit post by /u/P-Hustle, who claimed to be there for this incident. The compelling, but again unverified, comment is as follows:
The Army BCT we belonged to shut us down on using our 60’s and 81’s in the city, claiming it was too population dense and our guys weren’t good enough. It pissed our Company Gunny off something fierce since he’d spent years as a mortar instructor at Quantico and had set up an incredibly accurate system on the roof of the Government Center.
They eventually convinced the BCT command that we should be allowed to use our mortar systems, but that left a gap for a few months where we didn’t have any organic indirect fire assets. We couldn’t sneakily use the mortars because the counter-battery radar would pick it up and higher would know we were launching HE in the city. But the 40mm rounds from a MK19 were too small to be picked up by the radar, and with that knowledge we put together one of the coolest little things I’ve ever been part of.
I’d recently gone to Infantry Machinegun Leadership Course, where high angle indirect MK19 Fire is still taught. Our Company Gunny, being an indirect fire God, knew this could be a solution to our little problem so he tasked myself and Will Morrow (another machinegunner and the guy firing the gun in this clip) to come up with a high angle fire solution.
We tossed around a few ideas like building a sandbox on the roof where we could sink a tripod as you would do on the ground or building a bracket for the tripod legs, but settled on using an extra pedestal mount that was meant to be put in the back of an open backed HMMWV that we cemented to the roof. I cut down and filed a MK64 cradle so it could angle straight up, and drew a 6400 mil ring on the collar of the pedestal mount itself.
Here’s how this worked: We had numerous Point Of Origin (enemy mortar sites) mapped out around the Government Center, and we could hear their tubes when they’d launch rounds at us. A post would report which direction the outgoing sounds came from, the FDC would identify which Point of Origin site we were likely being engaged from and relay that to the gun crew. The pedestal mount had been laid in using mortar aiming stakes so the 0/6400 mark on the collar was direct north. We’d put together a little information sheet with the direction of each Point of Origin site, so the gunner would simply line the mark on the cradle with the require mil angle on the mount. To get our angle of fire for the range we used the high angle firing tables out of the 3-15 (USMC Machineguns and Machinegunnery manual) and an artillery Gunners Quadrant. The information sheet would tell the gun crew what angle to set the barrel at to place fire on the target.
This video is the first time it was fired. That’s Will Morrow on the gun. It looks like it’s pointed straight up, but there is a slight angle. Some of our targets were less than 500m away, so the angle was seemingly straight up. The hang time (amount of time the round was in the air) was crazy, I forget exactly but somewhere around 30-40 seconds. (ETA I just rewatched the video, 50 seconds. Crazier than I remembered).When they fired it this first time, everyone scrambled like hell to get under cover because at this point we had no idea if this was going to work.
But work it did. While the Army kept us shut down on traditional indirect, we used this system to shoot back when we’d take incoming. It wasn’t the most accurate system and I’ve no idea if we ever killed an enemy mortar crew with it, but it was enough to place HE near the enemy crews so they’d have to break down and try from somewhere else next time, keeping them from getting too dialed in.
A few months later our Mortarmen convinced the BCT command that they were good enough to get back to work, and we went back to using 60s and 81s. But for those weeks in the summer of 2006 in Ramadi, a few 0331’s got to throw little golden balls of hate at the enemy with this contraption. Ones of the things I’m most proud of having been part of, I’m almost entirely sure we were the only unit to use high angle indirect machinegun fire in combat in Iraq.
Sad footnote, Will Morrow survived Ramadi but was shot in the back of the head and killed by his ex-wife years later.