...,1st Draft

Chapter 13 – Training for Ramadi 101 Feb

Chapter 13 — Training for Ramadi 1
 
33 48’04.60″N 42 25’53.80″E elev 168m  Al Asad Logistics Hub, Iraq
1500 Hours Local 19 Sept 2004
 
The training for the Ramadi 2005-06 (“Ramadi 1” in Lima 3/7’s history) began on the last day of the Husaybah deployment in 2004, when Captain Rory Quinn took command of the company from Captain Neal.
 
LtCol Lopez made the decision to put Captain Quinn in command, in part because Captain Neal was overdue for a change of station to a “b-billet” or non-Fleet Marine Force tour of duty. However, the decision by LtCol Lopez also reflected his willingness to do the unorthodox. LtCol Lopez was not one to stand on tradition. He had conducted promotion ceremonies on the back of Harley Davidson motorcycles, which was a common cultural bond that unified Enlisted and Officer ranks alike.  Tradition would have dictated that he wait to replace Captain Neal until after returning to the United States, possibly allowing a wife or family member of the new Commanding Officer to witness the ceremony. But Lopez needed to move Captain Neal on to another tour, and — more importantly — he wanted to give the incoming Lima Commanding Officer as much time as possible, and as much credibility as possible, in front of his Marines. LtCol Lopez decision to put Captain Quinn in command gave him instant credibility with the Marines because they saw that he was in Iraq with them.
 
In the hanger, Lima 3/7 went through a rite of passage — a change of command.  The Marines of Lima 3/7 stood at attention in the logistics hub, on their last day in Iraq, arrayed in 4 platoons. Captain Neal took the guidon from First Sergeant Calderon, pivoted and handed the emblem of the unit to his replacement, Captain Rory Quinn, who had joined the 3/7 S-3 Shop midway through the deployment to Al Qaim. 
 
“Col Lopez didn’t give a hoot about anything unless he thought about it and agreed with it,” recalled Captain Quinn in 2008. “He wanted me to take command in Iraq… got me credibility with the Marines. By the time my peers took command [of their rifle companies], it was November 17, two months later, so it had practical benefits.” 
 
“The principle I am getting at,” went on Rory Quinn recalling the change of command, “is question all assumptions. That sounds [like] bad discipline or counter cultural or whatever. I think you need to be counter-cultural if your culture is 3d Generation. Some assumptions you are going to question and find them valid. But other assumptions, like change of command on certain days, is not valid.” The authors had asked Major Quinn to identify the best topics that illustrated the shift from 3d to 4th Generation Warfare.
 
34 13’59.94″ N 116 03’20.01″ W elev 561 Lima Company Offices, 29 Palms, CA
1500 Hours 13 July 2005
 
The Lima Marines had just come back from a month of “max leave” after the Husaybah deployment and went to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball on 10 November 2005. Captain Quinn knew that he had what the Marines call a “leadership challenge” on his hands. Captain Quinn’s response to this challenge was to consciously address the “counterculture” and bitterness among the Marines in the wake of bad tactics by labeling the company, “Luscious Lima.” The Marines knew that the tactics that they had been using in Qaim were screwed up. They had been walking down streets on “IED sweeps,” which — in practical terms — meant that they were walking patrols to trigger IEDs. 
 
“I could sense, leaving Husaybah leaving the Al Qaim deployment, that the Marines were very, very bitter. They were bitter because they were practicing tactics that they didn’t believe in, and they knew to be stupid, but none of us at that time could put our hands on what the right tactic was,” recalls Rory Quinn. “A quick example is, the counterinsurgency doctrine talks about the necessity to get out in town and maintain coverage in town. So, we would, literally, from the regiment — I can say this because I was in the operations shop — we would be required to report, graphically, how many hours per day we had achieved patrols. The goal was at any point, I should be able to look at a timeline on top, and as I go down the timeline I should see multiple bars, meaning at any hour of the day, I had multiple patrols out in town. Practically what that turned into was Marines just walked around until IEDs blew up, and that was called an ‘IED Sweep.’ Now, clearly, that’s not what LtCol Lopez ordered, but there is a great challenge between what you say and how it plays out. And LtCol Lopez was always out the gate [our in town, in operations with his Marines]. Well you need to be because you need to see how that plays out.”
 
“So, despite [LtCol Lopez’] talents, despite our flexibility, Al Qaim was just a tough deployment, the Sunnis ‘just had to fight.’ And we were on the beginning of the bow-wave, and relatively little of Mainz’ [2007 Augmentation Team/ Joint Security Station/ Distributed Operations] tactics would have worked then.”
 
As the authors listened to Rory Quinn say, the Sunnis “just had to fight,” they were impressed by the high degree of objectivity, detachment, and professionalism that this statement indicates. Under the heading of “just having to fight,” Rory Quinn would have witnessed a number of deaths and traumatic injuries of his Lima Marines in the previous Husaybah deployment, as well as in the upcoming Ramadi 1 Deployment.
 
Captain Quinn responded to the enduring bitterness of the 2004 Al Qaim deployment by promoting a certain counter culture, embodied best by the company’s new self-styled title, “Luscious Lima.” On the flight back, and in the weeks that followed back at 29 Palms, Captain Quinn asked his leadership to come up with ways to address the bitterness that lingered because of the deaths and injuries of so many Lima Marines.
 
“Coming off the deployment, that is hard to deal with,” Quinn went on. “So, the Marines are really bitter. There have been a lot of Marines hurt, killed, basically for no good reason in the Marines’ opinion. The situation hadn’t changed. They don’t understand that we’re only a third of the way through the fight period when the ‘virgin opportunity’ [to conduct greater civil military operations tactics in a more permissive environment] will present itself again. I realized that I needed to do something to show that I wasn’t just a robotic thinker. So, ‘Lightinng Lima,’ [which the Company had used when the authors served in the company], ‘Lucky Lima’ — what name are you going to use for your company? Well, I challenged guys to think of a different one.”
 
Quinn remembers, “And Gunnery Sergeant Carpenter [the 1st Platoon Commander during the Husaybah deployment] came up with ‘Luscious’ and he said it as a joke thinking that no one would ever take him up on it.” Gunnery Sergeant Carpenter had vehemently criticized higher echelons in his after action report, stating that no unit “since Valley Forge” had been more under equipped than Lima 3/7 going back into the Al Qaim deployment due to the lack of SMAW thermobaric rockets and grenades — “orbs of destruction” he called them. But, it was Gunny Carpenter, who commanded 1st Platoon, who coined the term, “Luscious Lima” and associated it with the Rolling Stone lips.
 
“There would have to be some masculine aspect to it because ‘Luscious’ is too feminine,” recalls Quinn. “But if we could do this, it would be totally counter cultural. I said to the Marines, ‘I will not send you on an IED sweep, but I may need you to go clear a particular area one time if a VIP is coming through. We were close. And then, we tried to think, ‘what could we use to represent it?’ We needed something masculine. Then Gunny Carp comes up with the Rolling Stone lips, which even though they are lips, it’s the Rolling Stones, that’s kind of ass, there are things that can appeal to a man… Beast of Burden. We went with it.”
 
Now there’s a image that can be both counter cultural and masculine, decided Rory Quinn. If its good enough for Mick Jagger, then it is good enough for a 19 year old Marine Lance Corporal. Not only did Captain Quinn embrace the image, as the Commanding Officer, but he had the image drawn on the walls in the Lima Company spaces in spray paint in the irreverent “tagger” style of spray-paint wielding, street artists. “I had one of my Marines tag it,” recalls Quinn. “That’s not really going to sit well in the Battalion. I told Colonel Lopez what I was doing. I don’t think he really dug it, but he didn’t negate it. I know some people didn’t like it, Sergeant Major [the senior enlisted Marine in the Battalion.]”
 
Rather than fight the resentment brewing among the Qaim veterans in his company, Rory Quinn had the genius to embrace their counter cultural dissatisfaction. “I will not an IED sweep,” was the deeper message that Captain Quinn sought to convey. He had to show that he was not a linear thinker. 
 
For his part, Gunny Vegh — a school trained Scout Sniper, who had had much more input into the operations of the Company than his billet would dictate — also embraced the moniker, Luscious Lima. When Janar Wasito interviewed Gunny Vegh in 2005, the Gunny explained that the concept of Luscious Lima grew out of Captain Gannon’s dry sense of humor. Gannon would joke around about red licorice sticks being “crack,” as in the cocaine-derivative drug. Vegh recalled Gannon offering senior officers, like LtCol Lopez some red licorice during a briefing in early 2004, asking, “Hey sir, do you want some crack?” “You had to know Captain Gannon. For him, that was a funny,” said Vegh. For Vegh, Luscious Lima stood for the idea that under the stress of combat, it was important — even imperative — to keep a sense of humor, to not take oneself too seriously, and that one would even tend to make better decisions if one kept a sense of humor. Luscious Lima was a good fit with Vegh’s personality. Quinn remembers, “That’s right up Gunny Vegh’s alley. Gunny Vegh runs in sandals because, ‘if it’s good enough for the Lord, it’s good enough for me.’ On Battalion runs, one of the worst ass chewings I ever got from LtCol Lopez was… I guess Vegh had done this historically, [but] from my perspective, this was the first time I had ever seen this. But Colonel Lopez had addressed this in months past. And when Gunny Vegh went running in Teva sandals, man Colonel Lopez chewed his ass and then chewed my ass for poor discipline and lack of uniformity. On a Battalion run[the uniform was] green [shirt] on green [shorts] with PT [running] shoes.”
 
But, Captain Quinn let it pass. Gunny Vegh could be both a disciplinarian and countercultural at the same time. “Gunny could be very disciplinarian — let’s call that 3d Generation — but he also had a significant component of his personality where he could view things in a different light. And so, he started to dig the Luscious Lima thing. We would start to play football on Fridays, [or do Fartlek runs] or do things that were not just running. It created a sense in the company that we didn’t have to do anything. We thought about everything. We picked what we wanted to do, because it’s militarily efficient. We’re not actually Rolling Stones, right, but in a Rolling Stones sort of way, we would be very military efficient and proficient. That was the best of both worlds for us.”
 
For Captain Quinn, the manifestations of a counter culture — Luscious Lima, one of his senior enlisted leaders sometimes running in sandals in solidarity with Jesus Christ — were welcome elements of a necessary tension with the established Marine Corps superstructure of rigid discipline. In a sense, Quinn saw these as part of the imperative of leadership in the 4th Generation of Warfare. Notably, Rory Quinn’s story about the origins of “Luscious Lima” came up in response to an open ended question from the authors: “We are looking for evidence that the Marine Corps and Lima 3/7 made the transition from 3d Generation to 4th Generation Warfare. What topics would you pick to illustrate this transition?” After an hour-long interview discussing the elements of 3d Generation Warfare that apply to the 4th Generation, we were winding down and talking informally. Rory Quinn started to recall the origins of “Luscious Lima” and discussed how the transition from 3d to 4th Generation requires a certain “counterculture.” We turned our camera back on as Rory Quinn traced back through the origins of Luscious Lima.
 
Luscious Lima was an image that the authors had noted when they interviewed Gunny Sandor Vegh in 2005 between the Husaybah and Ramadi 1 deployments. Gunny Vegh kept stressing the importance of Luscious Lima, not as a sign of disrespect for higher authority, but rather as a symbol that stood for something bigger than itself — the ability to maintain a sense of humor in the middle of enormous stress, a quality that Vegh admired in Captain Gannon.
 
Moreover, Quinn sought other ways to break down the walls between officer and enlisted. Towards this end, Quinn would take off his blouse as much as possible. “Let me take a leap. Here’s a concept. Don’t take yourself too seriously, especially if you are a Captain. The Marines perceive you as completely different from them, until you start to break down walls. This is a big imperative of leadership, especially in the 4th Generation because we break down these walls, you show some humor, you go out and do the runs with the Marines, you do the combat endurance test with them, you do the Fartlek course with them. I would take my blouse off a lot so that the rank wasn’t on my collar because I wanted the Marines to see me as a man, not as a Captain. That fit with the Luscious Lima thing… You can’t go too far…”
 
 
Quinn went on: “But what I can trace forward, to Ramadi 2 [Lima’s 2007 Ramadi deployment] the ‘Ghost Post’ [which Sergeant Mejia put in place] was an unconventional tactic. Well, that derived from Luscious — being able to question assumptions, and come up with your own ways of thinking lead Mejia to come up with that tactic. Well, when we fast forward to Ramadi 2, we’re talking about victory. In Ramadi 2 as we are winning, as the Battalion XO, I am going to people’s houses, important people who we knew from Ramadi 1. I was having tea with them in their house while the Marines are posting security outside. In that scenario, you have to be perceived as a Rifleman to the Marines. I mean, you are never a Rifleman [which is normally the rank of Private First Class or Lance Corporal] because you are a Major. If it made them nervous to be around me, it would be disasterous. Because what we are doing is already different enough. [The Marines] have to post security, but not so close that it makes the tea environment anti social. So, they already have a difficult enough challenge. If now, when I say to them, ‘just go a little further outside, don’t look in here,’ [the Marine] can probably figure, ‘Oh, [Major Quinn] is intimidating enough.’ If I have always been a Major to him, if I have always been a commander, it has costs that make it hard to win the counter insurgency battle.”
 
But, at the same time, Quinn had to maintain enough social distance and authority as a commander, so that in a fire fight, he could command instant obedience to orders from his Marines. “But of the two skills,” summarizes Quinn, “that one [getting instant obedience to orders] comes easier. [Marines] leave boot camp with that understanding. There is a degree of breaking down barriers that is more important in the socially centric, network centric [writing] of Hammes [Quinn referring to Thomas Hammes’ publications on 4th Generation Warfare, which includes discussions of network centric warfare] nature of 4th Generation War, that something like ‘Luscious Lima’ or ‘Eco Challenge Echo [referring to Company E]’ or ‘Hiking Hotel Company [referring to Company H’ as in mountain hiking. All those things are military enough, but I call it civilian enough. Be a member of the United States society, but also a Marine.”
[Out in town], 29 Palms, CA
0300 Hours 13 Aug 2005

As authors, trying to piece together the internal dynamics of a 180-Marine unit, we relied on interviews, and collected data – pictures, documents in electronic form, etc. Sometimes, though, one works to get lucky. One such lucky break came in the form of a novel, based on the actual experiences of one of the Marines, Lt Luke Larson. Larson was described by Doug Halelpaska, who got to know Larson well as an embed in Ramadi, as one of those quiet individuals who always seems to have more going on intellectually than he may show at first on the surface. Just a few months after that second tour in Ramadi in 2007 – and a few weeks after Larson left the Marine Corps – he sent us a draft of his novel, Senator’s Son, which may yet become one of the classic fictional treatments of the Iraq War. It would be like a historian of Delta Company, 1/5, stumbling across James Webb in the early 1970s, and getting a second draft of Fields of Fire – which ultimately went through seven drafts — and perhaps using it as a source document. This introduction, then, applies to several stages in the rest of our book where we will use Larson’s novel as a source document.
Between the Husaybah deployment and the first Ramadi deployment, Lima Company picked up 3 new platoon commanders — 2nd Lieutenants Walt Larisy of Alabama, Matt Hendricks, and Luke Larson. In one of the early passages in his novel, Luke Larson describes the scene as the 3 Lieutenants are about to depart for Ramadi.
The following account is adapted from Luke Larson’s novel, Senator’s Son. The real names of the people are placed in square brackets.
On the morning of their deployment [Matt Hendricks] picked up [Walt Larisey] and drove to [Luke Larson]’s house. [Matt] had become very close friends with the other Lieutenants. He met [Luke Larson] at Officer Candidate School and they had attended The Basic School and Infantry Officer Course together in Quantico, Virginia. Coincidentally they ended up in Lima Company together. The truck’s headlights illuminated the driveway in the dark morning. A heavy wind blew sand and dust.
[Luke]’s wife [Kristen] stood in the driveway with her blonde hair blowing sideways from the weather. [Luke] grabbed his pack and sea bag and threw them in the back of the truck. [Kristen] walked to the door and tapped on the window. [Matt] rolled down the window to hear the wind whistling in the dark.
Her eyes glistened with tears as she looked in at [Walt] and [Matt].
“You boys be safe!” shouted [Kristen] over the sound of the gusts of air.
“And please take care of [Luke]!”
Her lip quivered as she finished her sentence.
“We’ll be all right hun,” replied [Walt].
“[Luke] will be taking care of us,” yelled [Matt].
[Kristen] gave her husband one last hug and kiss. They held each other tight for the final moment as wind blew around them. He whispered something in her ear and jumped in the truck.
[Luke] looked out the window at his young wife waving. As they drove away, she disappeared into the night. The truck remained silent.
“Put some music on,” said [Walt].
[Luke] rummaged through the glove box and found a Celine Dion CD.
“What the fuck is this?”
“I took Amy to go see a Celine Dion concert in Las Vegas last weekend,” said [Matt], wincing in anticipation of the ball busting about to occur.
“We sat front row and it cost me $1500, so I bought the CD.”
“Right,” said [Walt] as he nursed an enormous dip.
“Well we should at least listen to it I guess,” joked [Luke].
[Matt] fully expected one of the other lieutenants to change the CD after the song started. No one did and the song played on. As the music started to build, [Matt] burst out the words-
“I drove all ni—ght, to get to you. Is that all ri–ght I drove all night…”
[Luke] and [Walt] looked at each other and smiled. In no time the truck filled with the volume of the three infantry lieutenants as they busted out Celine Dion at the top of their lungs.
“I drove all ni—ght, to get to you. Is that all ri–ght I drove all night…”

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One Response to “Chapter 13 – Training for Ramadi 1”

  1. James "Daywalker" Loomis

    I just wanted to drop this line and say hey I was that 19 year old lance corporal who tagged up South Bridge ECP! I am actually amazed that such a small thing turned out to be up the chain. Thanks for covering me Major Quinn. Appreciate that sir, and I gotta say, it was a pleasure to tag up the walls of old South Bridge for Lima. Luscious Lima!!!!

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About

This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.

About

This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.