...,1st Draft

Chapter 19 – How I Broke My Rifle Company20 Apr

“What I had realized in my short period of time in Ramadi, before I had to go to the COIN Academy, is that the task organization that we were thinking about doesn’t work. I saw the task organization instantly in my head.” – Captain Marcus Mainz

Marcus Mainz made a decision at the outset of his company’s deployment into Ramadi in 2007 that was similar to that of Paul Van Riper, also a company commander in 3/7, albeit over 3 decades earlier. The decision was similar in the sense of what best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell labels, “Blink.” What Gladwell calls, Blink, is another way of talking about what the military calls, “recognitional decision-making,” or coup d’oeil. As T.E. Lawrence had noted, “nine-tenths of tactics were certain enough to be teachable in schools; but the irrational tenth was like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and in it lay the test of generals. It could be ensured only by instinct, sharpened by thought practicing the stroke until at the crisis it came naturally, a reflex.” Gladwell devotes a chapter of Blink to Van Riper, who commanded Mike Company, 3/7, in Vietnam, and then the Red Forces in an Operation Millenium Challenge. In both command capacities, Van Riper makes rapid, instinctive decisions, informed by long study of miltary history; and in both, Van Riper exercises control very loosely, leaving his subordinates to fend for themselves for long periods. In both regards, Marcus Mainz was about to emulate Van Riper’s leadership style. First, in his leader’s recon of the terrain in Ramadi, Mainz had made a decision to — in his own words — “break my rifle company,” that is to implement the highly decentralized template for company operations which he and some of his key leaders like Mujica-Parodi had been contemplating. But, this was not a spontaneous decision made without long consideration — rather, the decision flowed naturally from the study of advanced counterinsurgency warfare that Mainz had undertaken in Lind’s Quantico seminar. Second, Mainz’ decision virtually ensured that he would for long periods in the coming 7 months not know where his Marines are or exactly what they are doing — cardinal sins in the culture of the Marine Corps, which would be rewarded, not punished, by his commanding officer, LtCol Turner. Mainz notes that LtCol Turner was with 1st Marine Division G3 Operations Section in 2004 at Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi, then again in Ramadi in 2005-06 as Commanding Officer, Battalion 3/7, and then again for a third tour in 2007.

Mainz’ decision about how to “break his rifle company,” as he put it actually flowed from two decisions, one taken before he event left the United States, and the second taken before the majority of his Unit arrived in Iraq. First, Mainz made a decision to take an advanced party that was not at all normal. Says Mainz, “It’s usually the XO [Executive Officer], the Gunny, the Armorer. When we went, I said, ‘Oh, hell no. I want to go. The XO [Luke Larson] should go. I need Sergeant Mejia to go. I need Sergeant Bellmont to go. I need the Gunny to go. I need decision-makers, I don’t need monkeys.” Mainz explains his choice of advanced party as follows: “I needed Mejia’s eyes on everything, to give me the Sergeant’s level view of what was safe and what wasn’t safe. I wanted Bellmont to start diving into the intel.”

“So, we go there,” continues Captain Mainz, “we get out there the first night, and then I had to leave the very next day to go to the COIN [Counterinsurgency] Academy, which they made every unit commander rotating into Iraq go to. What I had realized in my short period of time in Ramadi, before I had to go to the COIN Academy, is that the task organization that we were thinking about doesn’t work. I saw the task organization instantly in my head.”


In listening to Mainz’ video taped interview (Mainz 4), you can see the light bulb go off, as Company Commander Marcus Mainz surveys the situation and instantly recognizes that he needs to make critical adjustments to his plan. The result of Mainz’ long study of Counterinsurgency at Quantico with Van Riper and the other long-service Marine leaders and theorists like Lind came into play in that half day in Ramadi, before he went to the obligatory 5-Day COIN academy.

“I got to the COIN Academy [which was the first week in April, 2007],” continues Mainz, “and I started writing out philosophies. Like what I needed to have happen. I need to get a hold of the guys back in the states.” One of the values of those 5 days at the COIN Academy is that “it separated me from the unit, and I had to just think about it. And that was good. It was a really, really good thing. So, I got separated from the unit, and thinking I need X to look like Y, and Luke and Gunny were doing that on their end [in Ramadi] also. I called back to the United States, and told [the rest of Lima Company, including Lieutenant Mujica-Parodi], ‘Things have changed, I want every officer on the first flight. And I want Sergeant Humphrey to put on Lieutenant bars and I want him over here. That’s when I started metering out, who was going where and when.”

“When I got [to Ramadi], 1/6 owned 17th Street, Sabatash, as their primary place for their entire company. Then, they would have one platoon rotate to an OP [Observation Post] Racetrack, which had all Marines in it, just overlooking a road; Then, another location, which they called OP Firecracker, where they would rotate a squad over there every time for a couple of hours, and that had a hundred [Iraqi] police in it. They originally coined the term, ‘Augmentation Team,’ but it had a different meaning — it was just one [Marine] Lieutenant who was over there helping out with the Iraqi Police. I didn’t like the rotation [that 1/6] was doing; I didn’t think that rotation was building the cohesion that I really wanted. So, I knew I was putting a squad over in OP Firecracker right away; and I knew I was going to change it’s name instantly to whatever the name of the police called it, and they called it, Jumayah. So, instantly, whatever we did, we would change it to whatever the Iraqi name was.”

“And so, I knew that I needed to put somebody in there,” continues Mainz. “And I wanted to put my number one guy who could make it happen, and that was Humphrey. So, I had him promoted to a Lieutenant.”

One of the ideas in Gladwell’s third best seller, Outliers, is “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes” which hinges on the Power Distance Index (PDI), which is concerned with attitudes towards hierarchy. In low PDI cultures, “power is something of which power holders are almost ashamed and they will try to underplay.” In the chapter, Gladwell surveys the case that high PDI crew members from certain ethnic backgrounds may have partially caused otherwise avoidable plane crashes because they deferred to a tired captain or were not forthright enough with low PDI (New York) Air Traffic Controllers.

Mainz’ use of Humphrey was a classic manifestation of the low PDI culture of the Marine Corps, at least in the field in an operational environment. In Lima Company, there was a title for this thinking, “Rank is Nothing, Talent is Everything.”

Mainz continues, “I needed somebody good at 17th Street, which had a hundred IPs [Iraqi Police], and one hundred Iraqi Army, so I wanted Mujica there, running that show. So, I called back to the United States, and told Mujica and Humphrey to look at those locations on the map. I also ordered them to re-organize. Each platoon had a squad of mobile [to operate in hummers]. But, I knew that wasn’t going to work for me because I needed them broken down into just squads.”

“So when I came back from the COIN Academy to Ramadi, everyone had their piece worked out. Gunny Hatch had logistics. Sergeant Bellmont is briefing me about how Intel is going to work. Sergeant Mejia has the watch rotation worked out. I knew I was going to move into another police station, called Azziziyah. Azziziyah was in the center of the city, right where the market place was. The cops had just occupied it one day, just took it over, and they were out there by themselves. So, I knew that had to be occupied,” concludes Mainz.

“Under my initial model,” continues Mainz, “it was going to be Corporal Worth going out there. Because under my initial model [for a combined action unit], Lieutenant Mujica’s unit would split off and do those things. After watching how complex it was to run an Augmentation Team, it was obvious that Sergeant Humphrey was ready for the job. That’s why he got the first augmentation team on his own. He was ready, and he was good. But, I didn’t know if Sergeant Worth was. And I was really nervous about Azzizziyah. Azzizziyah, their leader was a really shady, shady character. The IPs were just shady altogether, and alot of the people of Ramadi didn’t like them. So there was some nervousness there.”

Mainz language, in less than a second, switches to that of a portfolio manager — indeed, the language of a leveraged, derivatives portfolio manager: “My risk-gain assessment of putting 10 guys out there on an augmentation team was not in very recent history had anyone tried to assault a Marine firm base [like Snake Pit in the first Ramadi deployment, or Camp Husaybah in the Husaybah tour]. With the way the enemy was broken right now, it was impossible for him to — not impossible, but improbable — for him to mount an attack on a firm base. So, I had very little problem putting 10 Marines out there to hold off an assault. If anything, the enemy would shoot and run, or put an VBIED [vehicle borne IED], so my biggest worry was the VBIED. Once a building had VBIED protection, I was good with it. I had to get VBIED protection for Azzizziyah. Otherwise, Lieutenant Falk could take his Augmentation Team over there, brown bag it a little, stay a little late, then we got VBIED protection up by putting barriers there, then, he could stay out there all night.”

In writing this book, I did much of the work while doing my “day job” — that is running a derivatives portfolio for clients. I recognize, therefore, in Mainz’ risk-reward description, the same process of continuous adjustment that a derivatives trader must do. Specifically, running these A-Team/ Combined Action Companies pose the same challenges as running a specific type of derivatives position, a collar. In a collar, a derivatives trader buys an underlying instrument, like a stock index, sells a call option, and then buys a put option. The academic research shows that this can lower the volatility — or risk — of the underlying instrument by 66%, roughly. So too, the academic material on counterinsurgency shows that a Combined Action Platoon can lower the risk in a counterinsurgency environment. But, in practice, there are continuous adjustments that need to be made. Mainz, above, shows one of those adjustments in practice: He will not let one of his Lieutenant-Platoon Commanders stay at the Iraqi Police Station overnight until the site is proofed against VBIED attacks by adequate barriers. The barriers are one of many police procedures, outlined in detail by Gladwell in his chapter, “Seven Seconds in the Bronx” in Blink, that allow a cop to de-escalate the situation. For Mainz, as a derivatives portfolio manager, he will not put on the full position until he has the VBIED protection in place. The VBIED protection is like the put option that allows a derivatives trader to go long the stock index and sell the call option. With the VBIED protection or the put option, the counterinsurgency commander or derivatives trader can put on the entire position, knowing that his risk is strictly limited within known parameters. He may have to adjust the position every week, but that’s why they call it work.

Regarding the decision to frock Sergeant Humphrey to the rank of Lieutenant for the duration of the deployment, Mainz says that the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Turner, and the Battalion Sergeant Major, were fully in support of the decision. There was, however, some friction within Lima Company from some of the senior Staff Non Commissioned Officers. Mainz recounts the argument, saying, “Chesty Puller was a Sergeant when he went into Nicaragua, was promoted to Captain, not by the Marine Corps, but we pinned Captain on him, and he fought as a Captain for them. He came back, and put his Sergeant chevrons back on. This is our history, we have been doing this in counterinsurgency.”

Larson recounts the tension within the company leadership in his book, Senator’s Son, in the following fictionalized scene, which was a combination of different real conversations.

“What about [Brown]?” asked Captain [Mainz], “Could he be our fifth Lieutenant?”

“Sir, he’s good. I mean tactically he is better than most Lieutenants, but I don’t know if he really gets the COIN piece working with the Iraqi people,” replied [Larson], “What about [Humphrey]? [Mujica] actually recommended it sir. I guess [Humphrey]’s dad was a Colonel. I think he’s got like three years of school. He is always open minded and did a great job with the Iraqi Army.”

“[Humphrey]’s perfect,” said Captain [Mainz], “I want to frock him to Lieutenant and put him at Jumuyah Police Station with [Brown] as his second in command.”

“You can’t frock him to Lieutenant,” interrupted First Sergeant.

The only reason First Sergeant was involved in solving the theorem was because he had the knowledge of the numbers of how many people were in the company. Captain [Mainz] realized long ago that his senior enlisted advisor was more worried about his career than anything going on in Ar Ramadi.

“First Sergeant would you say Chesty Puller pretty much embodies everything about the Marine Corps,” asked Captain [Mainz].

“Yes sir Chesty is the Marine Corps,” answered First Sergeant.

“Well did you know that when Chesty was a Sergeant in Nicaragua he was frocked to Captain in order to become a CAP platoon commander?”

“No I didn’t know that but you can’t frock a Sergeant to Lieutenant. I’ll go to the Sergeant Major.”

“First Sergeant you go to the Sergeant Major I go to the Battalion Commander. Really who do you think is going to win that?” asked Captain [Mainz].

First Sergeant looked at Captain [Mainz] knowing he could not win the argument.

On one of the white boards [Larson] wrote ‘Rank is Nothing Talent is Everything’ from David Killcullen’s Twenty-Eight Articles Essay.

“I’m not doing this just for the hell of it. It is important that the Lieutenant Colonel Iraqi Police Chief at Jumuyah thinks he is getting an officer. In the Marine Corps the good guys know rank is far less important than talent but the Iraqis don’t think this way. If you aren’t an officer you aren’t shit to them so in order to make the relationship work we need an officer there.”

“Alright but I’m not calling him sir,” said First Sergeant.

“Fair enough,” replied Captain [Mainz] in a stern tone, “But you will call him Mulasim and if you undermine him I swear to God I will fuck over that career you are so God Damn interested in and First Sergeant that’s not a threat.”

In addition to Kilcullen’s book, Twenty-Eight Articles; Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency, Larson also cites two other particularly important counterinsurgency manuals that the Lima Marines used in developing their operational plan. The second book was General Petraus’ new counterinsurgency manual. The third book was a historical book, First to Fight, by Lieutenant General Victor Krulak. Krulak’s book was really a survey of the most crucial historical episodes in making the modern Marine Corps with its current missions. Krulak had served as the top Marine in the Pacific during the beginning of the Vietnam war, during which period he advocated for the combined action platoon (CAP) program on a wider scale (as is recounted in Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie). Though Krulak’s memorandum and request were denied, the CAP program was deployed to some degree, and a Captain Bing West, USMC, captured one such squad from 1/7 in his book, The Village. Larson highlighted the following passage from Krulak’s First to Fight regarding the CAP program:

Officers and those who had an interest in Marine Corps history knew the Combined Action idea had been applied with success before- in Haiti (1915-34), in Nicaragua (1926-33) and, probably most effectively, in Santo Domingo (1916-22). There the Marines organized, trained, and directed a new national police force, the Guardia National, later to become the Policia National. Formal training schools imbued the Policia Rank and file with a sense of discipline. Under Marine leadership, the Policia exercised their new knowledge of weapons and tactics in hundreds of antiguerrilla patrols.

But even more important, the Marines got to the heart of the security in the Dominican villages by organizing, equipping and training…residents who were willing to defend their own home and families. Led by a Marine Officer and including ten to fifteen Dominicans and two or three Marine enlisted men, these mixed groups successfully brought a measure of peace to their small communities. In Vietnam, half a century later, similar combined formations again validated the concept, proving their effectiveness far exceeded what might have been expected from their small numbers.

For a civilian audience — particularly one that spends time reading the New York Time Review of Books — the essential ideas that characterize Mainz’, Larson, and the rest of Lima Company during the upcoming deployment can be found in Gladwell’s Blink, particularly the two chapters, “Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity” and “Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Art of Mind Reading.” The first chapter is about decision-making by Paul Van Riper, first as a platoon commander in Vietnam, and then as a Red Cell commander standing in for a Saddam Hussein like dictator in an an massive exercise fought in August 2002. Van Riper’s style as a leader is conducive to creating a “structure for spontaneity” in which fast, correct decisions beat a bigger opponent. So too, the decision to re-organize Lima Company was certainly that of Marcus Mainz, who was the Company Commander; but it was also the decision of Luke Larson, who supported and effected the decision as the second in command; and it was the decision of Mauro Mujica-Parodi, who drove his platoon to find the best talent for the CAP mission when it came; and it was the decision of Brandon Humphrey, who seized on counter insurgency doctrine to a degree that he proposed the CAP mission for his squad months before Captain Mainz realized it was the right organization for the situation on the ground. The second chapter is about police use of force, with the killing of Amadou Diallo as a starting point of reference for an exploration of good policing techniques that could de-escalate any situation to the point where the use of violence is reduced to an absolute minimum. In effect, in a CAP-platoon with US Marine Augmentation Teams and Iraqi Police, the Marines become the super-cops, and the measure of their success is not how many enemy they kill, but rather how few times they actually have to resort to violence. Thus, Captain Mainz’ focus on barriers to prevent a confrontation or risk at one of the Joint Security Stations is identical to the discussion of the use of cover in that Chapter in Gladwell’s book. Cover allows a cop not to shoot, among many other techniques that are designed to prevent killing, as this has a negative overall impact on effective policing.


2.58 Klicks. The distance between Hurricane Point, the headquarters of Lima Company during the 2005-06 Ramadi 1 deployment and JSS Sabatash, the headquarters of Lima Company during the 2007 Ramadi 2 deployment is 2580 meters. But the distance between the two company headquarters was the difference betweeen a 3d Generation Warfare mindset struggling to adapt to an insurgency and a 4th Generation Warfare mindset which used distributed operations to exploit the success of Battalion 1/6 in following in trace of the Sunni Awakening. In Ramadi 1, Lima was stationed at Hurricane Point — just as it had been at Camp Gannon — only traveling into the ville, Ramadi, by exception for 3d Generation Warfare inspired operations, like the ill-fated Operation Bowie, or ambush patrols. By contrast, in Ramadi 2, Lima was stationed in 7 JSS (Joint Security Stations) or IP (Iraqi Police) stations with names taken from the native Arabic language: JSS Sabatash, JSS Sharika, IP Warar, IP Jumuyah, IP Azzizziyah, IP Qatana, IP Thaylet.

Each of these JSS or IP was a distributed operations, 4th Generation Warfare, combined action company comprised of about 7 to 60 Marines, and at least 100 Iraqi Police. IP Warar and JSS Sharika were 2.63 Klicks apart, representing the furthest dispersion of the distributed points where Lima was stationed. In the middle, JSS Sabatash included the Lima headquarters, where Sergeant Bellmont — an E-5 — would function in the role equivalent to a Battalion Intelligence Chief if not an Officer, a role normally filled by a Marine several grades higher. From JSS Sabatash, 1stLt Larson and Sergeant Mejia would conduct a weekly tour of the 7 JSS or IP stations. Sergeant Mejia would function in a role equivalent to a Battalion Gunner, again, a billet normally filled by a Marine several grades higher.

Ramadi 2, with its distributed operational footprint of 7 JSS or IP stations, would be remembered by Lima veterans as the Lieutenant’s Small War — because it was the Lieutenants who commanded the distributed A-Teams (Augmentation Teams) that lived, ate, and slept with their Iraqi counterparts. These Lieutenants included two NCOs who pinned their bars on somewhere between arriving in the Middle East and arriving in Ramadi, men like Sergeant Humphrey, who had been an intellectual leader in accepting Mauro Mujica-Parodi’s challenge to internalize counterinsurgency doctrine, and in so doing, created an internal tipping point within the Context of the 150 or so Marines of Lima Company. It was one thing to put Distributed Operations into a Marine Corps Gazette article; it was another thing to have NCOs and Junior Officers study the implementation of those ideas, and then hire and fire the right Marines at the A-Team level to implement those ideas. At the top of this organized yet chaotic pyramid stood Captain Mainz, who articulated his intent in a psychologist’s needs pyramid writ large to stand for the entire population, and 5 Logical Lines of Operations. Mainz, was, in turn, backed by Lieutenant Colonel Turner, who not only accepted, but congratulated Mainz when he reported that he was not exactly sure where all of his Marines were at the moment. Turner had created a command climate that was anathema to the traditional organizational ethos of the Marine Corps, which stressed the accountability and order of 2nd Generation Warfare but appropriate for the 4th Generation Small War that his battalion was fighting.


Marcus Mainz’ decision-making process as he deployed his company in Ramadi was most akin to a civilian portfolio manager. The process of developing the augmentation team capability within Lima Company was really like a portfolio manager assigning an analyst to prepare to implement a certain investment strategy in case market conditions dictated that the strategy was favorable. “I believed that success was going to be augmentation teams,” said Mainz. “I knew that what I needed was social power, not military power.” Indeed, best selling author Gladwell includes a comparison of the decision-making characteristics of professional stock market traders and Marines in his chapter on General Van Riper in Blink. “I knew that the greatest strength of the augmentation teams if they worked was going to be social power. That’s what I was going for.” Mainz is describing what a portfolio manager might call reward, but he was also always considering the risk — in his case, the possibility of losing a Marine, or perhaps a whole augmentation team of Marines killed while relatively isolated in the city. “I realized that now was non-kinetic, and now was the time to exploit the opportunity by enhancing the [augmentation team concept].”

Indeed, the comparison between Marine leaders and portfolio managers can be extended on step further. Marine units are like derivatives in the world of finance. A derivative derives its value from another instrument. A call option is a right to buy an underlying — it could be an index, stock, or anything, really — at a certain price, before a certain date. A call option can control an index many times its value. A Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) of 2000 Marines embarked on Navy ships functions like a call option. The MEU can be assigned the task of seizing a particular objective, like a port-airfield. The port-airfield can then be used to offload the supplies for a larger Marine force of 10,000. Marine units regularly use techniques such as supporting arms from aircraft and naval gunfire to enhance their combat power — an idea that is similar to the concept of leverage in finance. Most people will be familiar with the image of a Marine unit in an amphibious landing, such as Inchon or Iwo Jima. These are high risk, high reward operations. Derivative trading and call options are also generally considered high risk, high reward strategies in the financial world. Landing an amphibious force is like buying a call option — it is a move than can result in large gains if timed correctly, but it can also result in a loss of the entire position.

Yet, the very same financial instruments — call options — can be used to lower risk in a portfolio. For example, an option strategy known as a collar involves selling call options on an index, such as the Dow Jones, and then using the income from the sale of the call options to buy put options — the right to sell — on the same index. Some studies show that this will reduce the statistical risk by 66%. The very same Marines, in the very same organizational structures, can be used for a mission that is very different from an amphibious mission. Whereas an landing Marines in an amphibious assault could be compared to buying a call option on a certain objective, deploying Marines into combined action platoons could be compared to putting a collar position on a certain population. Most Americans would not be as familiar with the part of Marine history that includes the Small Wars in Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, and more recently, Vietnam, where the combined action platoons of Marines and native troops or police were employed. But, the use of these mixed units, widely deployed and distributed throughout the population, have a similar objective to the use of the option collar in finance — to greatly reduce volatility. Mainz, as a Marine commander, was just taking a different page out of the history of the Corps.


Humphrey with Col Salah… 2nd to 1st Lt… faked marriage…

internal discipline… 35 Marine plt with moustaches

LtCol Turner walks into Lt Humphrey’s station, and rolls with it. Just like improv in Blink‘ chapter on Van Riper creating a structure for spontaneity.

Ivachenko 5-10 years at immigration… central Asian…
picked for independence…

Mujica… parents immigrants… language…

Humprey’s A-Team details…

IP stations with Marines not vice-versa…

Captain Mainz yells at Lt Humphrey to make Iraqis go to Lt… improv again… structure for spontaneity…

Mainz4.mov [pick up with discussion of Chesty Puller as Captain in Nicaragua]

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


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