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.