How Iraq and Afghanistan Changed the US Military
The 10 year war in Iraq and Afghanistan proved to be a totally different kind of war and environment that the US Military had not been ready for. This is nothing new, in the 1960s, the US military ventured into Vietnam under the heady premise that Communism would die there in the jungles fought by US tactics that were conventional tactics left over from Korea. Then, after 10 years, the US military was tarnished yet it taught them new tactics, new strategy to fight a counter insurgency guerrilla style war. New weapon systems were tried and modified as the equipment was in real combat for months. So, while America lost the war, it was beneficial in numerous ways.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is no different. This time, the lessons learned in Vietnam, were of great use yet they had to tweaked to that environment. Terrorists and guerrillas share much in common from their tactics and weapons. They no doubt studied the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong textbooks on the Art of War. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars created several new high-tech weapons for the grunts on the ground to combat the IED's of the enemy, a modern version of the old booby trap with claymore mines and trip wires commonly found in Vietnam (these were equally destructive).
Of these new weapons, the MQ-9 Reaper drone is the greatest new weapon. Flying so high, one can not see it yet it sees everything and the controller can send one of its two missiles to kill you. For the grunts on the ground, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected(MRAP) vehicles were introduced into the urban environments for the tune of $45 Billion dollars. Troops also have IED jammers to disrupt the radio signals that ignite the roadside bomb using old cell phones. Some vehicles have remote controlled armor turrets that are controlled from the heavily armored carrier (back in the old days, a gunner had to also sit in the turret to aim and fire). Even the tires that many carriers are riding on are new- even with the tire totally out of air, the vehicle can continue moving up to 30 mph even when two tires are blown. The individual soldier also has electronic gear to help them. Many soldiers are issued gunshot detectors that tracks direction of incoming fire and range within a second of a muzzle blast. Soldiers can have a good idea what is lying behind a solid wall with wall sensor devices that can detect moving and stationary objects, night vision has been greatly improved also, mounted to the helmet it can easily see objects in fog, mist, jungle and at night. Even the helmets are high tech. If a soldier is hit there, sensors collect and analyse data for medical personnel to know what injury may had occurred. Soldiers where body armor and their uniforms are flame resistant to protect them from 3rd degree burns. Finally, the Army had redesigned the M16 rifle. Troops in the current war get the M4 carbine, which is much lighter and easier to fire quickly. It is also more reliable after intense firefights.
When the US went into Iraq, the military had planned to use conventional tactics to fight it, but by 2003, it was realized that this war was not remotely conventional and the Army, once again, tweaked their tactics based upon the lower level officers recommendations. It was a good thing the General's listened.