Veterans Tell Us What The Movies Don't Get About Combat

Veterans Tell Us What The Movies Don't Get About Combat


Forget what the movies told you about combat veterans.

Turns out they're wrong.

VETERAN (12/12)

Shoot man, where do I begin?

You cannot hear each other during an intense firefight. In movies, they yell at each other while bullets are flying and explosions are happening. No. In firefights, all you hear is a buckle and then a relentless pinging sound. Sign language and prior training is fundamental.

Confirmed kills are not a thing unless you're an elite operative (Special Forces, Navy SEALs, etc). I was a conventional artillery soldier and we used confirmed kills for the sake of filling out battle damage assessment forms after fights, but it's not like in the movies where you shoot someone and yell "KILL CONFIRMED TANGO DOWN!" There's no record of your kill count.

Grenades in movies tend to take a while to explode. From the time you pull the pin, you've got about 3 seconds until it explodes. Because of this, you absolutely should NOT volley a grenade like they do in the movies. You should aim to aggressively beam it to get it as close as possible to the enemy. I can't remember the numbers off the top of my head, but an M68 fragmentation grenade has a kill radius of 5 meters and a blast radius of 15 meters. I'm really not sure about those numbers, but they should be close.

Bullets. Omfg. Guns in movies seem to have endless rounds in their magazines. For the US military, the standard rifle is the M4 Carbine and the M16A2. Each standard magazine holds 30 rounds and you are given 7 of them, so you only have 210 rounds on your kit. You can pack more if you get a bandoleer or something, but standard is 7 mags.

Speaking of bullets, automatic fire. Automatic fire on a rifle is worthless. Not only can it compromise accuracy with its rapid recoil, but remember that I said that each M16A2/M4 magazine holds 30 rounds. You know how long a magazine lasts in an automatic M4 if you hold the trigger down? About 5 seconds. Also, you're not supposed to hold the trigger down with any kind of automatic weapon (except for the VERY rare cases where you just really need to lay down suppressive fire that badly). Automatic weapons are supposed to be fired in short bursts. Prolonged rapid fire is not only inaccurate, but it'll overheat the weapon, risking damage. Barrels on automatic weapons are supposed to be changed out every few hundred rounds for just this reason.


VETERAN (11/12)

This is what haunts me the most, honestly [kill count]. The not knowing. I get very stressed when someone asks me "Did you ever kill anyone when you were in the Army?" This has happened to me a few times, usually from teenagers who don't really know any better, but it's such an awful thing to ask, because I'm not really sure.

I've been in combat, our convoy took fire, and we reacted to contact. I shot at people, and sometimes when you're firing at someone, you see them go down... as a soldier, you sort of get a feel for how long a bullet from your rifle takes to reach its point of impact at different distances. On the range, you'll sometimes have a green, plastic target shaped like a man that will flop down backwards when you hit it. You sort of develop a gut instinct for how long it takes from trigger pull to the target getting knocked back.

So, when you're in combat, and you're firing at an enemy, it's, you know, chaotic, you're hearing rounds fly over your head and smack into things behind you, you're afraid, your buddies are firing at the same enemies, it's hard to tell sometimes who did what to who, especially when thinking back afterwards, at the AAR, or later in life.

So, when someone asks me, "Did you ever kill anyone?" it forces me to think back to all those moments of uncertainty. Did I? I'm not sure, I don't know. That instinct tells you that you almost certainly were the one who hit the enemy, but who knows if they died? Maybe it wasn't a fatal wound, maybe they got medical treatment, maybe they lived, maybe they died. It's not something I like to think about.


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