Death Before Dismount

That is what the tankers and mechanized Infantry units used to say all the time back in the day. What it referred to was that they would die before they dismounted their vehicles and had to walk.

This mantra had seemed to come back over the last few years in Afghanistan and Iraq with the advent of up-armored Humvees and MRAPs. Over the last couple of years we have seen more and more forces riding through villages and across the countryside behind inches of bullet-proof glass and heavy armor plating.

Even though that is great for personal protection of our forces, it is terrible for executing COIN and collecting Human Intelligence. I realize that sometimes you need to drive to an objective area in order to get there safely and quickly. However once there, you need to dismount the vehicles and walk the ground. You need to get out among the populous, you need to talk to people.

So the old ideal of ‘death before dismount’ is not fitting well in Afghanistan and I think we will see it will not become the doctrine of choice when trying to execute the COIN missions that are needed in Afghanistan. For one thing, the IED threat is huge in Afghanistan. We ship over bigger vehicles like the MRAPs and they just add more explosives to the IEDs. I think the saying is “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”.

IEDs are placed on roads and common areas of approach and travel. If soldiers dismount several miles out and walk to their objective cross-country, then there is no way an IED cell can predict the exact route of travel and successfully plant an IED. By being on foot, it gives the soldiers more latitude in movement, allows them to separate from each other (allowing for greater survivability) and it allows them to have a better 360 degree view of their surroundings.

And of course it makes it easier for them to interact with the locals, observe people and execute all the fundamentals of COIN in regards to working with the local populous. I wish this mindset was in place when I was in Afghanistan back in 2006-2007 because I think we would have been much more successful than we were.

So as we see the forces in Afghanistan take on the new directives of GEN McChrystal and GEN Rodriguez, I think we will see many more of our light-fighters who were used to walking, go back to that very dependable method of movement. It may have some increase of risk and be slower, but I think the positives benefits far out-weigh the negatives.

12 thoughts on “Death Before Dismount”

  1. I agree about the need to get out and walk. Close terrain, whether urban, forest, or mountain is no friend to armor. Also, one does get a better idea of what’s going on in the area if on foot. That’s why beat cops are a heck of a lot more effective than car patrols. If you get out you can get a better read on what you’re calling in an airstrike on. Which can make the natives less restless.

    In passing, it reminds me of something I saw written of the side of a German AFV, “Mauseguge.” This translates roughly as “Mice peeking out.”

  2. I agree too. On foot you discover and have much better control of what is going on. You loose scope in a vehicle and things just move too quick. On top as you said it poses a big risk and also a bigger target.

    I think the combination of the two is obviously the go to having a most effective procedure in place/

  3. I believe tanks now have a better visibility even inside the tank. Modern tanks have cameras installed to check what’s happening outside. They also have better GPS and other positioning equipment. So why go outside and risk their lives?

  4. I love to read war stories and different epic tales about war. Your post is very inspiring and there are lots of moral values that one people can get every time they can also read your post

  5. I am not a military man, but have immense respect for our men and women who go in harms way. Learning some of the details of the “what & why” our soldiers face everyday is both interesting and inspiring. Keeps sharing these. You are doing our military a great service in educating civilians like me. Should be required reading.

  6. The stories coming back from Afghanistan are not great.They main reason “Death Before Dismount” has come back into use is because of the lacking armour on those vehicles.

  7. How many people on this page are soldiers. I am a 1st Cav man myself and this post is a load of crap no tanker is going to be getting out of his tank seeings how that’s his weapon just like no grunt will leave his rifle to knock on doors.

    1. Roc, I spent 4 years in First Team, to include deploying to Desert Shield/Desert Storm so I don’t think your opinion is the law of the land. Also, this post is about getting out on the ground in Afghanistan and really has nothing to do with tankers except for a old saying which they have said for years and still do.

  8. As a tanker “death before dismount” simply means that we are willing to die before abandoning our tank or crew.
    It has nothing to do with hiding behind armor for protection in combat.

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