US Army soldier in Hawaiian shirt fires mortar in Afghanistan

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Video of a soldier firing a 120mm mortar in Afghanistan on a shooting mission may have inadvertently captured one of the most fashionable special operators on the battlefield.

The Instagram page for High Angle Hell, an account that often shares photos and videos of Marines and soldiers in the infantry mortar community, recently posted a video of soldiers dropping 120mm high explosive and white phosphorus shells. during a shooting mission at an unknown target. And a soldier decided to wear a Hawaiian shirt for the occasion.

“2-505TH Mortars In MSS Jones 2019-2020 letting the GB do some rounds,” the caption reads, suggesting the footage shows infantry mortars with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment allowing the Green Berets to drop cartridges at the Jones Mission Support Site in eastern Afghanistan. Army officials did not respond to questions from Task & Purpose asking for confirmation of the unit seen in the video.

“I had no idea the military has laid back Fridays,” one person wrote in the comments of the post, where several were impressed with the shooter’s fashion choice. “That makes a [command sergeant major] with a twitch of the eyes from the flat top, ”said another.

Named after Army Special Forces Captain Jason Benjamin Jones who was killed in 2014, MSS Jones was an austere special forces outpost in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border. The Green Berets and conventional infantry have kept pressure on ISIS militants in the region for years, but have recognized the difficulty of operating in such hard and rugged terrain. “They’re still going to hold these mountains,” a special forces team leader told The New York Times in 2019.

Still, the 37-second video shows the efforts of a mortar section consisting of two 120mm cannons capable of hitting targets nearly 4.5 miles away. Gun 1 in the background appears to be piloted by regular army mortars, but Gun 2 features a crew of four soldiers wearing a mishmash of civilian and military clothing; a bearded soldier wears tiger striped camouflage pants popular with Vietnamese era Green Berets as he releases bullets while the shirtless Hawaiian shooter can be seen wearing standard operational camouflage pattern pants.

“Just a bunch of barrel-chested freedom fighters throwing love on another grid,” wrote another commentator.

In this photo taken on July 7, 2018, the U.S. NATO military and Afghan commandos are images of a checkpoint while on patrol against ISIS militants in the Deh Bala district, in the eastern province of Nangarhar province. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP via Getty Images)

The soldiers seem very experienced with the 120mm mortar despite their unconventional outfit. Once each round is dropped, the shooter quickly adjusts the pistol over the target, and at least one soldier holds a round in one hand before dropping it into the barrel, an impressive feat considering they weigh around 31 pounds each.

The mortar section fires what mortars call a “shake and cook” mission that sends high explosive and white phosphorus shells at a single target. Such tactics have sparked controversy in the past after several Marines published an article in 2004 detailing how they used white phosphorus to drive off insurgents before firing high explosive shells in the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. White phosphorus is considered an incendiary weapon under international law and some argue that its use violates a ban on the use of chemical weapons.

Nonetheless, as the Army’s Tactical Mortar Handbook explains, white phosphorus and red phosphorus shells create smoke that can help mask and mark targets or cause casualties. But generally, high explosive shells kill more people, he says.

“However, the bursting of a smoke shell causes a significant psychological effect, especially when used against exposed troops,” the manual says. “A few smoke rounds mixed with an HE round fire mission can increase the suppressive effect of the fire.”

“Although there has been confusion among the leaders, it is not a violation of [the Law of Land Warfare] to use white phosphorus ammunition against an enemy as long as all normal considerations for the use of lethal military force are met, ”the manual adds. “White phosphorus shells, or any other mortar shell, are not used in a way that causes unnecessary pain and suffering against the wrong targets or in the wrong circumstances. “

There has been no shortage of occasions when US troops have been spotted in different outfits than battlefield fatigues. In 2009, an Army specialist from 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment was photographed during a firefight in Afghanistan wearing pink underpants emblazoned with “I love NY” after being awakened by Taliban fire. “Every second counts,” the soldier later told a reporter.

silky in Afghanistan
U.S. Marines from 2nd MEB, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines fire mortars at Taliban positions from inside their base in Now Zad, Helmand province of Afghanistan, Monday June 22, 2009. (AP Photo / David Guttenfelder )

And the Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment were seen that same year wearing the Corps’ infamous low cut “silkie” shorts while firing 81mm mortar shells at Taliban positions.

It’s no surprise that the video is popular with the military, especially considering the look of a soldier in “camo” more commonly found at a Waikiki dive bar. Short clips like these, often posted on social media by troops who were there, offer a raw glimpse into war and combat that looks far different from the heavily filtered version offered by the Pentagon. Even better, this incident may have demonstrated to the military that beards and illegal clothing do not, in fact, decrease lethality.

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