Tip of the Spear, Us Marine Light Armor in the Gulf War Essay
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“Tip of the Spear” is Greg J. Michaels’ experience as a Marine Non Commissioned Officer` in a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) company in the 1991 Gulf war. Not the fiction of a technology thriller, it is the first book written on present day US wheeled armored vehicles in combat, and the men who fought in them. It looks at the mission of the LAV units, the needed training that is difficult in peace and the capable leadership of Non Commissioned Officers and Officers required for a unit to be cohesive and functional.
These real experiences include the effort to operate effectively in a desert environment devoid of recognizable terrain features that are basics of map reading and land navigation. Early Global Positioning Satellite receivers (GPS) helped but there were not enough units and experienced users to make a difference. Communications, even with the frequency hopping SINCGARS radios could and did not always work. Contact with aircraft providing ground support was only possible with the command vehicles and there were several occasions of mistaken identity by friendly aircraft that led to Marine casualties.
An Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) device could have also helped in preventing these accidents. Greg Michaels looks at his experience in Desert Storm as the manifestation of Honor, Courage and Commitment. Michaels understood that this was their purpose in Desert Storm; to free Kuwait. The book serves as an insight into the organization of the Light Armored Infantry Battalions (LAI) s where the LAV-25 and its variants serve. The vehicle’s combat experience will influence the future utilization of the US military’s largest number of wheeled armored vehicles.
The Marines have used the LAV flexibly in its role of reconnaissance, mechanized infantry, or infantry support. The new versions of the LAV are a TOW combination on a 25mm turret and the 4. 2-inch breech loaded mortar turret, fire support version. The readers can relate to Michaels’ examples of good leaders in an organization and their dedication to the men and the unit. It reminded me of the concern of a Philippine Marine officer who had the same drive for his unit. The Philippine Marine Commandant raised a toast to him as one of the “most professional” officers in the Marines and the AFP.
He added his regret of losing this good officer who had requested to retire after his completing his tour as the Commanding Officer of the 6th Philippine Marine Battalion. This book will be of interest to the Philippine Marines who use the other contender of the United States Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM)LAV trials, the V-300 manufactured by Textron (Cadillac Gage). The V-300 was provided to the Philippines as part of the last Military Aid package for the former US bases at Clark and Subic. The APC variant has a manually traversed turret similar to that on the AAV-7.
It is armed with a . 0 cal M2HB machine gun and a 7. 62mm machinegun (M60) in place of the 40mmAutomatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) of the AAV-7. The Philippine Marines also have the 90mm gun turret of the V-300 as a fire support vehicle. Gregory J. Michaels enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps in 1984. After serving in the Gulf War, he became an instructor in the LAV Leaders course at Camp Pendleton. He is now a master sergeant with the Recruiting Command in Indiana. –This text refers to the Paperback edition. Images of U. S. Marines assaulting Pacific beaches in World War II have stereotyped the service’s roles and personnel for more than fifty years.
This frank firsthand account of Marines sweeping over sands of a different sort in fast armored vehicles retires that popular legend and recasts the Corps as the modern, professional fighting force it was in Desert Storm. Battling a savage environment, an unknown enemy brandishing threats of nuclear, gas, and biological attacks, and a host of technological and tactical snafus, Alpha Company of the 1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion pushed forward at the “tip of the spear” past burning oil fields, hundreds of Iraqi tanks and vehicles, and heartrending friendly casualties to help liberate Kuwait City and drive the Iraqis back to Baghdad.
Here G. J. Michaels, a section leader and vehicle commander, provides a vivid, personal chronicle of events as they unfolded. Michaels further draws on his thirteen years of LAV experience to examine lessons learned from the war as well as its controversies, including the confusion over use of the LAV as both recon scout and infantry support and the lack of effective identification/friend-or-foe systems.
Selected for the Marine Commandant’s Reading List when first published in hardcover, this book offers a vivid, firsthand account of Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War. A U. S. Marine sergeant in Alpha Company of the 1st Light Armored Vehicle Battalion (LAV), Michaels provides a revealing look at what it was like to endure and prevail in ground combat at the platoon and company level.
Readers are given an opportunity to look inside the battalion as it battles a savage environment and a host of tactical snafus while pushing forward at the tip of the spear to help liberate Kuwait City from the Iraqis. It is seldom that students of war get a coherent, literate account of the life of a non-commissioned officer in a combat zone. This is just such an account, and, as such, it is required reading for anyone who is interested in small-unit leadership.
As the 2nd Platoon Commander in the author’s company during the Gulf War, I can testify to the overall accuracy of his account. I have only minor criticisms. First, the author is too kind to some of the leaders of our battalion, men who deserve to be excoriated for their role in the friendly-fire deaths of eleven of our Marines. Second, in several areas of the book he writes with a naive simplicity about the political realities that led to the war. These are minor complaints, however, and they do not detract at all from the important heart of the book.
The author admirably captures the difficulties of operating in the desert and the anxieties of a combat leader for the life of his troops. It is full of lessons that any military leader needs to learn, chief among them to train to the limits of endurance and to trust your troops. More than anything, though, the book is a testament to the skill, daring, and courage of the backbone of the Marine Corps: the Marine NCO. Tip of the Spear is much more than a moving and entertaining memoir of the Gulf War. It is a textbook for small-unit leaders.