Mark Hertling

Mark Hertling



A new stream on an unfortunate topic: battlefield deaths & casualties. Last night, @ErinBurnett on @CNN asked me why it seemed the casualty rates on the RU side were so high. I didn't want to talk "body counts," as the numbers differ depending on who is reporting. 1/25

So I started by reminding her that early in this fight I had predicted that the casualties incurred on a high-intensity, technology-heavy, conventional force battlefield would likely be the tens of thousands. When I first said that, it was met with surprise. 2/

But that shouldn't suprise anyone. The kind of fight we see in UKR is nothing like what the US army experienced in OPN Just Cause, OPN Desert Storm...& especially not what we saw in OEF & OIF. The 1st two were one sided affairs, the latter 2 were complex counterinsurgencies. 3/

In insurgencies, fighting is up close and personal, with rifles, some artillery, & the "new" threat IEDs. While each casualty was deeply personal for those who fought in these places, they were relatively low. As importantly, med support & casualty evac was excellent. 4/

Soldiers had better first aid training. There were "combat lifesavers" aiding well-trained medics. New type bandages to treat wounds, etc. The "golden hour" for evacuation from battlefield to various levels of care was quick & effective...a standard that became a norm. 5/

The skills of medevac pilots & their crews were terrific (one of my medevac crew chiefs in Iraq told me he had flown 1700 missions, and never lost a patient in flight)... ...and the docs/nurses at Combat Support Hospitals (CSH) and above were phenomenal. 6/

This illegal RU invasion of UKR is very different. It's a "force-on-force" fight between a"technologically advanced army" (RU) vs an army w/ less equipment, but with more heart (UKR). RU had 190k troops attacking. UKR had 250k defending. Fights were not squad vs squad.7/

On the RU side, it's hundreds of T72/T80 tanks, BMPs, BTRs, BRDM (personnel carriers), self-propelled & rocket artillery, jets, drones hundreds of support vehicles roaming the battlefield. On UKR side...some of the same, but also high-tech tank & aircraft weapons. 8/

From my read of the battlefield, RU's plan was filled with hubris, lacked combined arms operations, and was dysfunctional in logistical support. UKR's plan was to fight RU by "holding on to their belt-buckles," prioritizing targets, & destroying their killers & logistics. 9/

RU used 4 axis of advance for a grand plan of a battle of annihilation (google it). UKR always wanted to conduct a campaign of attrition (google this, too). Both of these kinds of fights result in massive amount of battlefield casualties. 10/

RU is likely sustaining more, based on reports of kills, their lack of casualty evacuation & an apparent lack of combat medical systems (has anyone seen a red cross painted on ANY RU vehicles yet?). But their casualties are also due to how they fight. Here's why. 11/

Look at films of UKR ambushing RU columns. Every UKR soldier/territorial has some type of anti-tank (AT) weapon slung over their shoulder. Every UKR soldier is a RU armored vehicle/truck killer. 12/

If a UKR squad ambushes a RU column, each soldier with 1 AT missile engages 1 vehicle, and. -A RU tanks has a 3-man crew (they have auto-loaders instead of 4 crewmember, like us). -A RU BMP has a driver, a vehicle commander, and a squad. -RU Artillery has 5-10 crew members. 13/

A seque: in 1994, as a Squadron Commander, I was part of a "Partnership for Peace" delegation to Moscow. The RU's knew I was a tanker, and allowed me to see their newest tank, the T80. I climbed inside...& quickly understood why they recruited only "short" tankers. 14/

It was cramped, tank rounds were visible (ours are behind ballistic doors to protect the crew if the tank is hit), armor on the top & rear was light, and there were blind spots preventing the crew from seeing outside. They thought it was a great tank. Me...not so much. 15/

Now, I share all this to say: RU tanks are matchboxes. -crews have a hard time seeing attacking infantry -there is no reactive armor on top (where Javelins strike) -if hit, they'll burn, with secondary explosions -if hit, the crew will have a tough time getting out. 16/

BMPs/BRDMs/BTRs are actually worse. In Desert Storm, we saw these vehicles after they were hit, and most were destroyed by smaller caliber weapons....and all burned. Their fuel tanks are in the back they burn, fast and hot, and crews can't get out. 17/

Russian Fuel, Ammo, and supply (medical, parts, etc) trucks are all the same design. And from what I saw on exercises, RU troops pack as much as they can in each truck, sometimes mixing cargo. Not good for crew survivability, if the truck is hit. 18/

Now, back to the UKR infantryman with a Javelin versus a RU tank...or BMP...or truck. It's easy to see who has the advantage in a Javelin fight. Especially when the RUs are road-bound, not being able to maneuver due to the UKR weather & "rasputitsa" ( a bog). 19/

Add to all this UKR's ability to block roads and create ambushes. That 40 mile column everyone was hyped about? Vehicles couldn't go forward due to a lack of success by the RU force & it couldn't go back because UKR forces blocked the roads. UKR got around to it.20/

BTW, in that column were medical supplies. And medical trucks with other types of supplies. Losing those put a damper on treating & evacuating the RU wounded. 21/

Summary: In this thread I've not mentioned # of RU casualties. There are many estimates, but I'll just say...I suspect they're higher than any estimates. I've also not mentioned the 5 RU generals reportedly killed...I believe that happened, but not all are confirmed. 22/

I've also not mentioned the UKR casualties, because there's been no release of numbers. I'm sure they're high, but also likely significantly less than the RU #. As UKR soldiers have been taught first aid, Combat Lifesaver techniques & the importance of medical evacuation. 23/

One last thing; Casualties in war are gory. Deaths affect soldiers & units in ways most can't imagine. Combat deaths are ugly. Those killed are mostly 18-24 yr olds who had an entire life in front of them. Their bodies are savaged or burned beyond recognition. 24/

That's why most soldiers who have seen war never want to see it again. And why some professional soldiers do all they can to prevent wars in the future, with an understanding of what is at stake. And why Putin's illegal & criminal war in Ukraine is such an abomination. 25/25

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