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Thread: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

  1. #1
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    Post Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Michael Yon is a War Correspondent who has been reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004. I came across one of his archived dispatch reports he made in 2005, while he was embedded with U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The report is his view regarding the critical need & role that flashlights/headlights make in combat.

    Although the following report is somewhat lengthy, I can think of no other place than CPF to share it with & get some thoughts & opinions. With that said here's the report;


    First in a Series "Survival Kit Contents : Headlights"
    Baquba, Iraq
    Troops rotating into Iraq should try to avoid dying needlessly.

    Our troops in Iraq are increasingly prepared; the new up-armored Humvees, for instance, are routinely shot at and blown up by roadside IEDs and usually the troops walk away. I saw one vehicle yesterday where the front end had been nearly blown off two days earlier, yet everyone walked away. The shockwave blew the earplugs out of the soldiers’ ears, but they were fine and returned to duty. Despite the good news, there is always room for improvement.

    Many of our troops are not being issued critical items. Items that can save lives. In a word: lights. There is no doubt that Coalition soldiers and Iraqi civilians are dying in Iraq because they lack the right kinds of lights.

    Consider this situation: some nights ago, we were in firefight. The .50-caliber gunner in the Humvee that I took cover behind had a problem that threatened to deadline his gun. We were taking serious direct fire. We needed his machine gun. Amid all the shooting, his voice called out, I need a light!

    During the same firefight, while bullets were flying, soldiers started running out of M16 ammunition. One soldier was searching among all the ammo piled in the Humvee, trying to feel for the M16 magazines. “Where’s the M16 ammo?!” he shouted. The Humvee was packed with machine-gun ammo, with hand grenades, and with 40mm grenades, but where did the M16 cans get kicked to?

    Moments later, as the shooting raged, a voice on the radio crackled that yet another .50-caliber gun on another Humvee in our convoy would not fire. We now had problems with two machine guns, and were running out of M16 ammunition. One gunner was using my headlight while someone else rummaged for ammo.

    This was not good: we had four Humvees and four crew-served weapons. Two of those weapons needed lights to keep them working. Not to mention the other problem of “where’s the M16 ammo!”

    Although I will argue that every soldier should have a light, it is also true that ammo cans and other essentials should be marked with Velcro or other tactile materials so soldiers can quickly identify them by feel in the dark. This trick works, but doesn’t change the fact that our troops need lights. More specifically, they need headlights.

    Practically every raid I go on,
    whether noon or midnight, someone says, “Who’s got a light? I need a light!” The soldiers know that headlights are not available through the supply channels except to the medics. Some soldiers have had lights mailed from home, but this leaves many others in the dark. And if that soldier who is left in the dark happens to be a machine-gunner or other key person, everyone else might be left in the cold, dead.

    In Iraq, every person is key. Every soldier should have a headlight.

    Now, soldiers have lights, but they usually have the wrong kinds.
    Many troops are wearing the thumb-sized LEDs. These are nice for the FOBs (I have two), but are practically useless on raids, in firefights, or when people get shot and need assistance. Soldiers and contractors cannot depend on those five-dollar lights when leaving the FOBs; they are not suitable for combat.

    I’ve heard some argue that headlights are not needed and that the smaller LEDs are sufficient. Most of the people who make this claim have insufficient experience in harsh environments.

    In addition to the small LEDs, some soldiers are depending on their weapons’s lights. The problem is that these are extremely bright and do not have red filters. There’s no question that these Surefire-type lights on the weapons are important, but their usefulness has a limited scope, primarily for clearing buildings and shooting people. The Surefire-type lights should be used for combat only; they are not best for times when both hands are needed for searching in closets and rummaging around through trunks and drawers. When a soldier doesn’t have a headlight, another soldier often has to stand there pointing his loaded weapon to illuminate the search zone.

    There are situations where someone is shot, blown up or otherwise damaged and the number of people who can provide direct assistance is limited because at least one other soldier needs both hands to operate the Surefire. The tactical weapons’s lights are simply not meant to be general-purpose illuminators. They are also vampires that suck vital juices from batteries so thoroughly that the cells practically collapse like raisins after a single night. If serious combat were only an occasional threat over here, this power-consumption might not be a major drawback. But when combat patrols and raids are happening on a daily basis, this extrapolates into a serious problem, not to mention that the lithium batteries for these lights are expensive and often hard to find in Iraq. The elections may have been a big success, but we’re at least a decade away from a Wal-Mart just up the road.

    Many soldiers prefer the mini Maglites.
    I have several at home in the US. Great little lights: for the glove box, the nightstand, the basement, for camping, and for cops. Soldiers sometimes fashion “headlights” by clenching the little metal Maglites between their teeth. But after running, dodging bullets, hurdling obstacles for city blocks, then running up and down stairs carrying plated body armor, weapons and hand grenades, a soldier trying to grip and aim that little metal light between his teeth will be lucky not to inhale it. Besides, why jerry-rig something that you can get inexpensively and well-made in the US?

    Having used headlights for years I know there are a number of good models, but I have found one in particular that works well here in Iraq: Petzl brand, TacTikka Plus model. And, for those cynics who read about all the pundits on secret payrolls to promote programs and policies, let me just say–I have no professional relationship to the Petzl Company. They probably never heard of Michael Yon; and if they have, they haven’t bothered to solicit or pay for my endorsement.

    Here’s what I like about the TacTikka Plus. It has 4 LEDs. It is small and bright. It is comfortable to wear and designed so that the controls are intuitive to operate, even in chaotic environments. It has 4 settings: dim, medium, bright and strobe. Few people seem to use the strobe, but the three other adjustments come in handy.

    The TacTikka Plus also has a red-light shutter. There is a Tikka model that does not have the red filter. Do not buy this light. No headlight should be brought to Iraq without red-light capability. A drawback is that the TacTikka Plus uses AAA not AA batteries. However, with good batteries, the TacTikka Plus is bright enough for close work.

    Advertisements claim that the AAA batteries will last for about 150 hours of continuous use, but I change the TacTikka Plus batteries every twenty or so hours.
    These lights cost about forty bucks, and can save lives. Yesterday morning, I snapped the photograph above of a soldier wearing a Petzl with 3 LEDs. He’s getting good use of it, but the model with 4 LEDs is a better choice. The Army medics use this TacTikka Plus; if it’s good enough for combat medics, it’s pretty doggone good.

    In a coming post I will describe how Ghost Platoon here in Baquba has found ways to avoid shooting innocent Iraqis by using cheap spotlights.

    (http://www.michaelyon-online.com/fir...headlights.htm)
    Last edited by cleetus03; 10-09-2009 at 02:22 PM. Reason: grammar

  2. #2

    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Nice story!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    They were selling this light at the NEX last week in one of their "high profile" locations for a few weeks. Almost bought it. Nice to see other options besides tactical SF's and SL's being sold!
    Fenix P2D * Surefire 6PL * Surefire E2L * Surefire E2/KL4 * Surefire E1L * Streamlight Nano * Streamlight Scorpion * Maglight 3D * MiniMag LED * Lumapower Connexion * Proton Photon * Maratac AAA * Nitecore NDI

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    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Wonderful story to read and worry even more about all our troops. God Bless Them!

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    Flashaholic* Cataract's Avatar
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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Very interesting. I was making jokes a years ago that I had better illumination than the army... this story make it look like I wasn't joking at all!
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    Moderator Kestrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Very interesting reading, thanks for posting.

    Side note, it's not very surprising that stobe wouldn't be found to be very useful on a headlamp.

    I wonder how the SF Saint Minimus would fare in comparison to the Petzl? (Please don't flame me, as I'm not up-to-date on them. I know this isn't the /headlamps/ subforum, it's good to have this thread in the /general/ subforum, as the article is reviewing & comparing the illumination needs of the soldiers over there.)

    Again, good article.
    K
    In the past we have had a light which flickered, in the present we have a light which flames, and in the future there will be a light which shines over all the land and sea.
    - Winston Churchill

  7. #7

    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    I know that there are organizations that do donation packages to deployed troops. These packages usually contain some cookies, candy, and other food treats.

    Anybody know of an organization that will help send lights (and other necessary equipment) to troops? I'm sure I could scrounge up $40 to buy a soldier a head light that could help save his life.

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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Quote Originally Posted by e_dogg View Post
    I know that there are organizations that do donation packages to deployed troops. These packages usually contain some cookies, candy, and other food treats.

    Anybody know of an organization that will help send lights (and other necessary equipment) to troops? I'm sure I could scrounge up $40 to buy a soldier a head light that could help save his life.
    Does the military provide batteries to the troops? If so, what kind?

    I'd hate to donate a light that ends up going unused because the soldier can't keep it fed.

    --flatline
    Last edited by flatline; 10-09-2009 at 09:39 AM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Surefire HL1-C-TN. Mounts directly to the PASGT or ACH and is very useful. The author was correct though, a lot of soldiers don't have head lights, and most don't even have weapon lights unless they're infantry or some type of MOS that uses them frequently. Most soldiers don't even know that the caliber of lights we play with day to day here at CPF exist. I had a Lumapower M1 160lm model that amazed people in my unit, the only other light that was as close to being as bright was an old INOVA (maybe 90 lumens) that someone had. I hate to even mention that most people are using POS incan lights of some sort or another still.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    I sent a knife to an anoymous soldier through a catalog knife company I have used a lot not long ago, it was a very gratifying thing, even got a thank you note from him. I actually sent two, a SAK and a CRKT folder. Some companies have set up a program where you can buy an item, in this case a knife at a discount price and they will send them. Have not yet seen one for flashlights however, much the shame, I would do that one also. One would of course need to make sure the company is reliable and reputable.
    Lee

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  11. #11

    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    I am retired now, but spent four years in Iraq and Afghan. The type of lights used is a diverse and complicated issue to handle in a short post, but I can provide some insight. The popularity of the minimag is primarily due to the fact that all the exchanges sell them, so they are readily available. In addition, they are small in size, inexpensive, fairly rugged, can be bought with a filter kit, and a there is a ready supply of AA batteries. Higher quality handhelds and headlamps are usually purchased by the individual soldier. MOS and unit of assignment have an influence on this. There are high number of extremely savvy light users in the military. Surefire is by far the most recognized, and used. I bought, out of my own pocket, a very early 6P well over 20 years ago. The problem encountered is having enough light to perform the given task, without making a target of yourself. A light source, seen by the enemy, becomes the point of aim. It is just part of the human psyche that tells you "aim at the light". This is one reason why many GI's do not want a light on their head. The type of ordinary batteries within the supply system are cheap alkaline, such as the BA 30 (D cell). A supply person can make a local purchase, or impact card buy, and get anything that is commercially available, if authorized.

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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    The tactical weapons’s lights are simply not meant to be general-purpose illuminators. They are also vampires that suck vital juices from batteries so thoroughly that the cells practically collapse like raisins after a single night.

    If serious combat were only an occasional threat over here, this power-consumption might not be a major drawback. But when combat patrols and raids are happening on a daily basis, this extrapolates into a serious problem, not to mention that the lithium batteries for these lights are expensive and often hard to find in Iraq.
    I'm assuming the tactical weapon light's he's talking about are the INCAN 6P & G2? I wonder if the CR123's are bought out of pocket or provided? Or if soldiers use RCR123's as well? And while I'm wondering.........Has the Mighty M60 been introduced to the Military yet?

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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    I sent 10 EO1's to a member here who is a medic back in August, had I read this, I may have sent a couple of headlamps instead. Still waiting to hear if the EO1's made it there... Fingers crossed.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Quote Originally Posted by cleetus03 View Post
    I'm assuming the tactical weapon light's he's talking about are the INCAN 6P & G2? I wonder if the CR123's are bought out of pocket or provided? Or if soldiers use RCR123's as well? And while I'm wondering.........Has the Mighty M60 been introduced to the Military yet?
    I'd assume "tactical weapon lights" refers to Surefire dedicated weaponlights issued by a unit, not handhelds. Soldiers are provided batteries for their issued gear, but I doubt the military issues rechargeable 123 batteries.

    Suffice to say, when working for the government, you'll never get all the gear of the exact brand you would like to have. Sometimes, that's a good thing, other times, bad.

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    Default

    just wondering about the fact mr. yon does not type about all around work, but mentions battle situation and headlamp together and this several times.

    Sure I am no soldier, but anywhere "not safe" I would never use a headlamp.
    Also all the situations do not need headlamps, maybe E01s would have been adequate with all of them.

    Maybe 2 hands are needed to getting the .50s to work again, then something like E01 must be much easier to use with the lips, than a Minimag - again the "make Your head no target"-headlamp thing counts here, imho.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    Putting a light on your head is a risk. Maybe there is a need to weigh that risk against another.

    There are alternatives that the author doesn't mention such as multicolor angle head lights with clips such as the Streamlight Sidewinder, Quiklite, First Light Tomahawk and Liberator, Surefire Helmet light (which can be attached other places), Energizer Hard Case and others, not to mention the ubiquitous Fulton Anglehead.

    These can be clipped to the front of a vest and, while presenting a target for enemies, at least that target is protected by hard armor plates. They also lack the aiming ability of a headlamp, but that might be a worthwhile tradeoff for not getting shot in the head.

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    Flashaholic* gorn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Critical Need & Role that Flashlights make in Combat. (Article)

    When my Son was in Iraq AA, AAA, and CR123's were issued. Now he is in Afghanistan and it is a whole new ball game. He can't consistently get any type of battery issued. It is so bad at the Combat Outpost he is at that the only water supply they have is in the form of bottled water. The bottled water they have has long since passed it's expiration date. He says it is so chemical tasting that it is almost undrinkable.

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