Firefight in Panjwai

Some incredible muzzle discipline here, assuming it’s not just Divine Favor (watch it at about the 11 second mark). Excellent NCO work – perhaps. Bad NCO work – perhaps. Certainly a good exemplar of how auditory exclusion and other stress reaction can kick in. Above all though, great example of the need for maintaining mental acuity under stress.

Note: This was not posted to second guess anyone or open up a conversation about how evil space aliens were contacted by George Bush to destroy the Twin Towers. It’s an attempt to talk tactics, among professionals. Keep it in that lane.

“U.S. Army soldiers from the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), alongside elements of the Afghan National Army, get caught in an ambush. Shot from the perspective of a (U.S. Army) soldier with a helmet camera in Panjwai, Afghanistan.”

About the Author

Kilgore & Call
Richard Kilgore and Jake Call have been writing on and off for for many years now. You can reach them at or follow them on Instagram at @breachbangclear or Tumblr at
  • FormerSFMedic

    Well, looks like my first comment got deleted again. Anyway.

    Thanks for posting another video to discuss tactics David. This is one that I’ve used in the past as an example for students. There are some SERIOUS training scars going on here and so much we can learn from this video. There are a couple guys that got VERY lucky in this one and a couple that weren’t so lucky. Bad tactics and more importantly bad training will come back to bite you in the real world. I can’t wait to talk about this one!

  • Billywhat?

    Looks like someone is incredibly lucky his collegue has not cleaned his gun like he should. (or any other reason for the malfunction)
    Other wise he would be ******** out of an extra hole right now.

    Is this the way a squad should act? no, off course you dont run past your buddies raised gun like a madman on crack.
    But when the bullets start flying and panic sets in, sometimes you say: “Wow, i did that perfectly like in training without even thinking about it”.
    And at other times you think:”wow, that was incredibly stupid, and even after we practiced it a million times in training”.
    I guess it’s human nature and what logically follows from chaos.
    Even the best f**k up sometimes

    • Johnny Quest

      Rifle probably dryer than a popcorn ****.

      • Joshua

        Yep, that would be my guess. Any time I see these videos 90% of the time the BCG is as dry as the area they are at.

        There is also alot of things wrong with what is going on here. There is another video out there from the POV of a SAW gunner and you can see numerous soldiers sticking their M4 over a barricade and unloading 30 rounds in burst not even aiming.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Incredibly BAD muzzle discipline (shooting just past the heads of your teammates?), but then the cameraman was the only one who seemed to be shooting back; the others were apparently hunkered down behind the walls. The cameraman was incredibly fortunate. I would think a halfway competent enemy would have focused their fire on him, since he was the only one who seemed to be firing or showing leadership.

  • mka

    The rackassans have always been great in firefights as have the rest of the 101st.
    They just need Sheppard to help them with their tactics.
    I hope you guys strain the wannab’s and remfs out of these conversations,because in a real firefight the “book” goes out the window.

  • Mike Perry

    What is also disturbing is that most soldiers use the M320 GL detached from the rifle. It may be too awkward to mount and carry. If it is, they need to fix that ASAP.

  • Jarred M

    Well I would have to say this is a story book of what not to do. Although the Soldier with the camera was brave no one else was fireing or trying to figure out where the INS was at that point. Also you need to understand that telling every one 1 min before throwing a frag also tell the enemy you are throwing the frag. The one Soldier fought hard but the ambush was over fairly quickly with only one RTF, this would say the enemy either didn’t expect anyone to shot back or was just trying to get them to go to a sopt where they want them.

  • Daniel

    This is an old video… I was just in Panjwai and the place is no joke. Those guys were probably just happy they still had their legs. The Horn is covered in IEDs and SAF is generally used to get the element to seek cover where IEDs are set. I do agree that the one guy seems to be the only one doing anything. ******* bees.

  • Daniel

    As an aside, Panjwai is also home to the Afghan Record Holder.

  • RogerRabbit

    I thought I read somewhere that the shooter was a SEAL? I think it was based on his equipment. Including the fact that someone noticed he was wearing Crye pants? Don’t have any verification other than whats in the vid and what people are saying online. Could explain why he’s got big balls and good muzzle discipline… and why he’s the only one taking the fight to them(no disrespect to the other troopers).

    • INF

      This guy is decidedly NOT a SEAL….

  • INF

    i dont like to reiterate what other have said but this is a great learning video. i’ve been in those situations where you wanna hit the deck and get cover but please, regain your composure and return fire. that’s the biggest bummer of this video is that NOBODY but the camera man fires back. this could have been a really bad day for these soldiers.


    If you watch this video then more recent firefight videos you see that improvements have been made to the M4 ( soon to be M4A1) service rifle. In more recent firefight videos i have seen an M4 jam once while all others work flawlessly.But to the video, Everyone I have ever met and talked with about the US army has brought up the subject of bad fire discipliine. That may very well be the case for most soldiers, but luckily for the soldier who temperarily lost his ******* mind there is at least one US Army Infantryman that has exceptional fire discipline.

  • Tom

    The worst loss of situational awareness, muzzle awareness, and in general **** poor soldiering skills. First, he misses shooting a fellow soldier by about a millimeter, second, he continues to fire right over the soliders taking cover. Third he leaves cover and his primary weapon to fire his 40mm. All in all an epic fail and should be used as a perfect example of what not to do.

  • Not second-guessing those who are hunkered down, but can anyone sort out a reason there’s just one guy engaging? Again, there could be a lot going on we don’t see from the one perspective, but it certainly seems odd that just one soldier is trying to give the bad guys some good news.

    • John

      Simply put? Cowardice and lack of proper training in battle drills. There is ZERO momentum and ZERO aggression. For those of you that say the book goes out the window, you guys are all retards. Battle drills exist for a purpose, and although you might not execute them perfectly every time, the guideline of speed, security, and violence of action should ALWAYS be adhered too. Maybe the video is deceiving, but it seems like the enemy only has one machine gun. Instead of taking the fight to the enemy they hid and ran and then hid some more. I would honestly be embarrassed of this video if I were in it. CIB’s shouldn’t be awarded for breaking contact.

      • FormerSFMedic

        John, you make some good points. I don’t think I would have said it like you did but yes, the book doesn’t go out the window. The only thing you have is the book. Without a solution, you only have chaos and indecision. That is why training and practice are so important. The only thing that you will execute in a fight is those skills and tactics that you have mastered. This becomes increasingly more difficult when you incorporate a “team” atmosphere. Multiple individuals with different levels of skill combined with inefficient training simply give you an improper response to the threat. Training and practice are paramount!

        The other point you made was breaking contact. These guys didn’t even break contact. They simply stepped back and waited for direction which they never got. The shooter did an amazingly poor job at communicating. He was shooting wildly without any regard for his teammates and to what end? To step back 25m and figure it out? Oh, and then run back for dropped gear?!?! The response of the shooter was a classic example of someone that didn’t have the training and didn’t know what to do.

        The bottom line is training. No one seems to have it in this video. This is one of the biggest problems with the Army’s “no one is an individual”. Team members have to work as a team by contributing to the team. Contributing how? By being your own individual and problem solving and then passing information to the rest of the team. The shooter had the right idea but he went off without his team. He also lost it. His inability to stay calm was another indicator of poor training.

  • FormerSFMedic

    He is absolutely NOT a SEAL. Yes he has Crye pants. Which brings us to another question. What was he doing with Crye pants? Did his teammates have them? Didn’t appear so. That tells me that the shooter probably bought his own “high speed” pants. I’ll let others draw their own conclusions.

    Also, cameras are starting to get a bad reputation. I have consistently heard of guys with cameras make unnecessary risks in combat. It seems some of these guys want to take home a good war video to show their buddies. Not good.

    • John

      I’m in the big Army and we got crye pants when we deployed for OEF XII

    • Justin

      I know a few big Army guys that got issued Crye pants.

  • FormerSFMedic

    Only by the grace of God (a weapon malfunction) did this guy not kill his teammate. If I found out one of my teammates was shooting OVER MY HEAD without letting me know and flagging me with a 40mm I would have his tail after the fight. Seriously, he wouldn’t have stayed on the team for long! If I saw a guy set his weapon down and run 15m away from it he wouldn’t hear the last of it for the rest of the deployment! Bad things happening here and these guys aren’t the only ones to blame. The Army has a responsibility to train it’s people for combat. Lord knows there are dozens of experienced Warfighters that could take their knowledge and revamp the whole training curriculum. But, the Army doesn’t have a clue.

    • Daniel

      I was a part of the 101st at the start of the Iraq/Afghan wars. This looks to me like ten years have eroded the training and prep that we did back then.

    • WLCE

      “But, the Army doesn’t have a clue.”

      It doesn’t and that is the reason why the Army needs to shift away from garrison style bureaucracy to training like they fight. Of course, with the wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army will become more garrison-like. Talk about the wrong answer.

      Seeing this video made me facepalm and wonder ***!? jesus christ, at least make a decision and shoot back at the ********.

  • John

    I prefer to have it detached and slung with a single point and holstered to my kit via a bit of velcro. I feel like I make more accurate shots, it doesn’t weigh down my rifle, and I can get to it almost just as fast. Either way, the most important thing is that you practice with it. I disagree with not carrying a round in there, although that probably wasn’t up to him.

    • Chris

      John, I have to agree… It’s just easier in every way to use it detached. Yes, it’s no longer a single package… but I feel the pro’s outweigh the cons… personal kit choice.

  • Lance

    I agree on no this but another video with some people on that see some Vietnam era mistakes like Joshua said shooting blindly over a barricade is not the best way to preserve ammo.

  • Lance

    Also commented on this other video. Just wanted to say Armytimes had a weird article saying USMC sniper say .50 cal doesnt have the killing power they want. What do you make of that??

  • Johnny Quest

    The old rice paddy squat eh?

  • leftoftheboom

    I agree on the other comments.

    What struck me was the conversations in the background, the mulitiple firing of 40mm to little effect, the complete lack of concern by those behind cover, and the absolute idiotic run to pick up the left behind frag.

    No one sounded paniced but they also did not sound focused on what was going on. The firing of the 40mm seemed like a. he got to shoot b. he was lightening his load c. Hey look at all the superstar stuff I can do. The guy on the right of the camerman on the bridge looked like he was napping. And while I know it is not a good idea to leave usable ordinance behind, risking your life is stupid.

    They probably face the same hit and run tactics all the time and have gotten in the bad habit of a very disjointed response. Those not in danger just sit it out because they know the superstars are going to jump up and shoot the daylights out of everything. I bet if you checked after every action you would find that over half the men would have almost full loads while the superstars were down to less than 50 percent. Murphy’s Law, if you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will be given more than your fair of objectives to take. The rest of the squad lets the superstars handle the fight because they are going to jump up and do it anyway.

    There is a whole lot of apathy in that video.

    • Daniel

      If you go outside the wire in Panjwai you will be in a fire fight. At least one. Probably multiple. This is beside the IEDS. Guys went like 800 meters and found over 30 IEDS. Took all day while taking sporadic fire. Single, Double, and Triple are an almost daily occurance. The guys probably just don’t care anymore.

      • Daniel

        “Single, Double, and Triple” should have amputees on it.

        • leftoftheboom

          I have not heard of this place but I have heard of others like it. And the ones I know about, apathy was a real problem. The troops get fatalistic. I am going to flop “there” and I don’t care if it blows up. They would take stupid chances because they stopped caring. You can only take so much stress before you have to let something give.

          I don’t know how you fix that once its stuck. If they don’t care, you cannot make them. Training is not going to cut it because you would have to live their lives with them and prove to them in a worthwhile fashion that reacting properly is the right thing to do. And they already learned it doesn’t matter. You would have to start right and stay that way. Or join their patrols and stay with them because they will ignore you as soon as they are out of your sight. And then you would be really unpopular.

          And with that many IEDs, *****, sometimes the shtsandwich is all there is to eat so you might as well enjoy.

  • leftoftheboom

    I got to say I don’t see cowardice. Lots of I don’t give a flying fornication but not cowardice. They weren’t panicing. They just did not care. Not a better response of course.

  • SkiDog

    I agree w/ the training scars comment. Muzzle discipline is never stressed till you do live fire (which is painfully infrequent) and then the rules are so stringent much of the reality is squeezed out of it. Its a tough balance. I also share the concerns about some of the behaviors demonstrated via helmetcam on late.

    As for the behavior of some of the guys on the video. Battle drills do say to react in a specific way to near/far ambush, sniper, etc. per METTC. I think sharing this and other videos and professional discussion regarding them are a good thing; we all have opportunities and everyone reverts to their training; rarely rising “to the occasion.”

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Daniel

    A grenadiers primary weapon is his tube. That is why he has it.

  • j m

    Hindsight is a *****.

  • North Ash

    Vietnam: dum de dum de dum wandering down a jungle trail then walking into an ambush. The ‘Ghan dum de dum de dum wandering down a bloody road then getting ambushed. Then of course everyone hitting the deck and staying down not looking to see where the banging is coming from and not shooting back. At least in Vietnam everyone opened up and destroyed the jungle and a couple of monkeys in the trees. Those monkeys never shoit back again.

    I wonder if these guys had ever heard about standard counter anbush tactics?

    • Daniel

      Everyone in the army has heard of them. The problem is ROE and the “civilians” in the area. If you do go off the trail to get to the enemy you will lose your leg/s at the least. Panjwai is a different animal.

      • nbg2d

        It’s the problem with the IED fight. Normal tactics don’t take into account, doing it over and over and over. When you are in an area that is so full of IED’s for real, and indicators all over the place, guys just give up on the book. And unless you have been there, you don’t know how futile following the book can be.

        I can’t blame them. The only safe ground is the one they are standing on because it has not gone off yet. You might get shot but if you seek cover, you might get blown up. No win situation but to take it from where you are.

        I pray for them and the ones in similar situations.

    • nbg2d

      Standard “Assault through” tactics do not work against IEDs. The small arms fire is intended to suck you into a prepared IED kill zone. New units were always racking up casualties becuase they responded to the shots and forgot where they were.

      The IED fight has a book or two, the problem is you can see indicators everywhere. These guys have a response that keeps most of them safe. I am not going to argue with them until I walk the ground with them.

  • augestwest

    As far as what I watched they were not spread out correctly for a patrol. I could be wrong. one of the factors I saw was the weapon he was using looked like it kept jamming. I do not like AR platforms and never have.
    Also did anyone hear them call for air support? maybe it’s not routine any longer in a firefight but if you cannot see the enemy and they can see you, You need a HELO. This is just my opinion and I will support any inaccuracies I have mentioned.
    In any case, God bless em. OH. I wouldn’t be caught around any of the afghan army on or near my squad that’s for damn sure. You don’t know if they’r going to turn their weapons on you or not.

  • Pat

    Regarding the troops not firing back, I’ve heard that in WW2, many in battle actually never fired their weapons. Unfortunately I don’t recall the statistics. Yes, the main shooter was firing a little too close to his patrol mates. But realize that a helmet mounted camera with all the head bobbing going on is not giving a best perspective of how close or far away the muzzle really is. Still!

  • straps

    Detached. Better accuracy. Better rate of fire.

    Downside is that the habit is to set your Primary down, as seen in the video.

    Units that want their guys to be effective with the GL (attached or detached–give PLs and PSGs a voice in this), need to train their guys better in employing them in realistic applications–not TRADOC-compartmentalized training. Ask a Range Complex guy if he has a facility where you can shoot an M4 and an M320 together and he’ll pretty much vapor lock…

  • Glenno

    Some very interesting analysis going on here. I suspect that some are Monday morning quarterbacking from their armchairs. I agree with the concerns about shooting over the heads of your buddies without warning them, but equally I acknowledge that the head cam may distort realities. I note that there are others with head cams and it is this which leads me to my contribution. What use has the Army made of the various outputs of the head cams that were present that day? While what we see on this page has a certain ‘entertainment’ value, to me it’s true value should be to the Army and to those who were present on the day. Yet we know nothing of how it has been used to inform and improve training and performance in the field. Can anyone cast any light on what the Army has to say about what is recorded of this firefight?

    • leftoftheboom

      This firefight no, but I can tell you that any footage made available whether directly or open source is used for TTP’s by the Counter IED specialists for disemination. I have pulled open source video’s and used them myself during training.

  • pc_load_letter

    No military service here so from an uneducated guess, wouldn’t you want to flank (make your way around the attackers) and attack the ambush?

    • leftoftheboom

      That is the nature of the issue. The response to ambush vs. the response to ambush in the IED environment. It’s kind of like playing russian roulette with a semi-auto. Your gonna lose unless the round missfires.

  • guest

    Fire without movement is a waste of ammo

  • crackedlenses

    If it’s durned if you do and durned if you don’t, it’s harder to blame anyone for doing or not doing. It was going to be bad either way…..

  • Gerry

    They may be referring to penetration of house walls, typically 4 inches thick or so. The new RDX .50 cal. will penetrate 4-5 inches of concrete and still kill. Have seen the videos.

  • Gerry

    The idea that many soldiers didn’t fire their weapons in WWII was advanced by S.L.A.Marshall some years back. Totally exposed years ago.

  • Gerry

    The best and most germane comment here, and it was made by a civilian. Be ashamed, fellas.Flanking should’ve been the first thing they did. That squad leader was just lucky as **** his little brown brothers hadn’t planted any mines where they flopped down. Also, three minutes with a weaponeer will show you what happens to point of impact at distance of even a 3-round burst. Full auto was meant for close-in fighting, and nothing else. That’s why they referred to auto. weapons back in the day as trench brooms. Keep it on semi,guys. You’ll kill a lot more bad guys. Not to mention avoiding running out of ammo.Been there, 2nd Inf. Div. and 10th Mountain.

  • Gerry

    Having been around from ’66 to ’05 off and on, I can answer that- Zero. The Army has. or had(don’t know), something called the Center for Lessons Learned. A cruel joke.Also, has anyone reading this ever seen the military pay attention to AARs? There’s your answer. The Army has an abysmal record of remembering the past. No unit memory at all.

  • WLCE

    “Note: This was not posted to second guess anyone or open up a conversation about how evil space aliens were contacted by George Bush to destroy the Twin Towers.”

    Look, i get that this is about tactics, but dont make a poor attempt to discredit legitimate criticism where it is needed. that was a poorly orchestrated cheap shot.

    • crackedlenses

      Cheap? Would you have preferred he insulted birthers instead of truthers?…….

      • WLCE

        no (nice try though). I would prefer nobody be mocked.

    • That was meant to be snarky, WLCE, because of our previous issue with ridiculous off-topic posts in a previous post about tactics. I’m not sure how it’s a poorly orchestrated cheap shot, unless aliens and George Bush have something to do with this particular thread. That was meant specifically for the people that want to take a discussion about tactics and turn it into a metapolitical issue. That, and that alone, was the target of the tone. If you mean legitimate criticism about anything else beyond this specific video, then such was not my intended target and should not be perceived as such. If it came across that way then I apologize. (Remember what happened with “Firefight in a Mud Hut”? That was what I was talking about.) Next time I’ll try to remember to use something that can’t be misconstrued.

      • WLCE

        ah…snarky. ill take snarky.

        I agree that the mud hut issue was the wrong place at the wrong time, but it would have been as simple as saying “no politics”, instead of a comment that can be miscommunicated as a insult to members of the truth movement.

        “Next time I’ll try to remember to use something that can’t be misconstrued.”

        good idea (not to sound too snarky). A lot of us that are veterans can separate the ******** from the reality.

  • thebronze

    Holy ****. He nearly killed three of his own guys. Piss-poor.

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