1st Draft

Chapter 14 – Ramadi 1, 4 October 200526 May

Chapter 14 — Ramadi 1

“This mission was not very well planned, organized or executed because we did a large, Brigade minus, conventional sweep in an area of town that was defined as an enemy strong point, but we were just walking through people’s houses.” – Luke Larson

As historians, the authors collected and developed various source materials — interviews, operations orders and reports, unit histories, and pictures, among others. But one of the most remarkable artifacts that the authors encountered in researching the book was a complete draft of a novel titled, Senator’s Son, written by Lt Luke Larson, USMC, who was a platoon commander in Lima Company during the unit’s Ramadi 1 deployment in 2005-2006. As he went about his duties as a platoon commander, Larson was recording his observations in his own diary. The author’s interviewed Larson in 2007 and in 2008, but he never disclosed the significant work of fiction until the Summer of 2008, when he gave us a second draft of the novel, totaling 204 pages, and 103,200 words. Senator’s Son focuses on the Lima Company platoon commanders during the company’s deployments to Ramadi in 2005-2006 (Ramadi 1) and 2007 (Ramadi 2). While the novel is fiction, it is based on actual persons and events, as we established in a series of interviews with Luke Larson. Doug Halepaska expressed some surprise about how complete Larson’s novel is, but then he recalled, “Luke was always really quiet when I was with him in Ramadi in 2007, but you could tell he was always thinking about something.” In constructing our narrative from this point forward, the authors are incorporating parts of Larson’s Senator’s Son, while including references to his interviews to ensure that we cite which real dates, times, places and persons are described in his work of fiction.

Larson was a Platoon Commander in Lima 3 from 2005 to 2006, and then Executive Officer from 2006 to 2008. Describing his work, Larson comments, “I wrote a historical fiction novel based on my unit’s two deployments to Ramadi, and although the novel is fiction, almost all of the scenes are based on factual events that happened to Lima 3/7, Golf 2/7, or units from 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. But 90% of the events are from Lima 3/7 platoon commander perspective.” Larson felt that the phases of the war he fought were primarily a platoon commander’s war.

33 26’04.14″N 43 16’16.55E elev 51m The Snake Pit 1600 Hours Local, 15 Sept 2005

Larson’s novel focuses on several key characters, one of them based on his friend and Infantry Officers Class (IOC) classmate, Matt Hendricks, who commanded one of Lima’s Rifle Platoons along side Larson. Larson commanded Lima 3, which he took over from Brad Watson, who moved up to be the Lima Company Executive Officer, or second in command. Link moved up from commanding one of the squads in Lima 3 to become the Lima 3 Platoon Sergeant. In those first weeks in Ramadi, the Lima Lieutenant-Platoon Commanders like Matt Hendricks were getting their units oriented to the new surroundings at Ramadi. IEDs were the biggest threat, and the first few scenes in Larson’s novel portray Hendricks as stressed by this anonymous, but constant source of possible loss of life and limb. The following passage, which shows Hendricks driving one of the Ramadi streets back to the base, gives some sense of the physical burdens of operating in this environment: “Sweat poured down Matt Hendricks’ forehead. He squinted trying to see through his protective glasses. The lenses fogged up from the heat of his sweat. He took off the glasses and wiped them with a handkerchief he kept tucked in his gear. Why do I have to wear these damn glasses? His helmet pressed down on his head trapping the heat. Inside the humvee the temperature hovered around 120 degrees and inside Matt’s gear it baked even hotter. He tilted the helmet up and put his glasses back on.”

In early September, the Marines were counting the first 30 days when a new battalion took the majority of its casualties. For readers of Gladwell’s book, Blink, the reasons for this trend will not be surprising. In Blink, Gladwell describes the difference in policing effectiveness between inexperienced and veteran officers — between, for example, the 4 officers who shot Amadou Diallo with 41 bullets, and more veteran officers who may have waited the extra 1 or 1.5 seconds to avoid killing a man. For many of the same reasons, a sophisticated client may interview a money manager to determine the trader’s level of familiarity with the products he is using. The Lima Marines were simply going through a learning curve in mastering the details of the terrain in which they operated.

Larson’s narrative continues on the same date in mid-September: “The latest explosion brought Matt’s total near miss count to fifteen. The earlier explosions inflicted severe damage his vehicles, but his unit had yet to take a serious casualty. He prayed for his unit’s safety.”

Much of Larson’s novel is set in the Lieutenant’s Room on the Marine Snake Pit base. The three platoon commander’s — Larson, commanding Lima 3; Matt Hendricks; and Walt Larisy — debate the most pressing issues that they face on a day to day basis. In mid-September, the issue is the first 30 days and simply survival. The Lieutenants consider their odds with clinical precision, that sounds morbid:

“Walt thinks if he gets hit with a fuel enhanced IED he won’t go into shock before he burns alive. I disagree,” explained Larson, “I think you would.”
As he finished the sentence explosions rattled in the distance, shaking the small room.
“We’ve only been here 25 days,” said Larson, “A unit normally takes half their casualties within the first 30 days…”
Matt shook his head. Eleven soldiers burned alive.

I interviewed Luke Larson for this book, and he set the stage for most of his chapters. I could not help but reflect that this may be like interviewing James Webb shortly after he returned from Vietnam in the early 1970s, while his novel, Fields of Fire was still in early draft stage (the novel went through 6 drafts). In fact, Senator’s Son is a novel which makes a few nods towards Webb, both thematically and factually, as we will see. One of the frameworks for analyzing the last two deployments of Lima 3/7 will be to compare the major themes of Fields of Fire with those of Senator’s Son, an analysis that I will work through in coming chapters. But, regarding the events of September and October, 2005, Larson had the following to say: “The key date in this chapter is October 4. That’s when we conducted a mission called Operation Bowie. The scene starts out in a room a few days prior. I know we [the platoon commanders] had this conversation. It is roughly two weeks before the Iraqi national referendum to ratify their first constitution which is a major benchmark in their history. A few days prior to that, all of the Lieutenants are sitting in their room on Snake Pit. We had been in Ramadi for roughly thirty days. On October 4, we had been their for 25 days. Historically, a unit takes fifty percent of its casualties in the first 30 days because they are new to the ground and they are learning how the enemy’s TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures] are, and it is easiest for the enemy to exploit a green unit. We had been there roughly 25 days, and we had taken one casualty, but we had not had a KIA. We had been in contact, we had been shot at, we had been hit by IEDs, we had taken RPGs, but we had yet to take a major casualty — a killed in action.”

“The Snake Pit was a compound,” said Luke Larson as he zoomed into the Google maps detail of the area on the video of his interview (Larson 2), “that was an old Iraqi Army compound. In 2005, the Marine Corps had bases. This was the Snake Pit. This was Camp Ramadi,” continued Larson, pointing to the Northwestern tip of Ramadi. “This was Hurricane Point. This was Blue Diamond. All of the US Bases were outside of what we called Ramadi proper. We had bases [in Ramadi] — OP VA and The Gov Center, but these bases were secured bases. So, they weren’t living with the people, it was like living in a castle in the middle of town. 95% of the [U.S.] military forces lived outside of the city.”

Larson’s novel portrays Captain Quinn as questioning the mission that he had been assigned. “It is pointless to go down there with all of this ass [heavy armor] if we do not intend to leave stay behind elements and hold the ground. His gut told him something might happen on this mission. He voiced his objection to higher but was told the mission must be done.”

“On October 4,” says Larson, “we were to conduct a mission to go down south and do a clearing operation in Southern Ramadi in the village of Humera. The Marine battalion in Ramadi [and two Army battalions] fell under a Army reserve Brigade. The Army Brigade’s plan was to conduct a Brigade minus [meaning it detached elements] mission to sweep through half of the Southern [city of Ramadi]. We didn’t live in the city, so we would go out and conduct an operation, and then we would return to our bases. We would never stay out in the city.”

Larson’s book shows Captain Quinn giving the operations order, which is one of the protocols designed to maximize the culture of success in combat. Just as the KIPP program outlined by Gladwell in Outliers seeks to turn poor kids into high-performing academic achievers through a series of instructional protocols, the format for an operations order seeks to make any group of Marines into a well-orchestrated, cohesive unit. The acronym for the operations order is SMEAC, or Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration, and Command & Control. Here is Captain Quinn giving the OpOrder for Operation Bowie:

“Orientation− we have been here thirty days. Although we have experienced a significant amount of contact, Lima Company has not had a Marine killed or seriously injured. We are still on the steep side of the learning curve.”
Situation− we are a few weeks from the elections for the national referendum of Iraq. This is big news for the country. Currently the Sunnis are holding out from participating in any of the political processes. We have reports that indicate the Sunni Sheiks realize if they do not get involved in the political process in Iraq, they will miss having any say in the government. This may be a huge tipping point for Ramadi and all of Iraq. To disrupt attacks during the referendum, we are going into the worst part of the city. We have reports that all of the dirt roads are rigged to blow with fuel enhanced IEDS. These areas have been declared black− no travel allowed off paved roads, dirt roads are a no go.
Mission− Lima Company conducts a sweeping mission in southern Ramadi in order to clear out enemy strongholds and disrupt any enemy attacks that may be in preparation phases for the elections.
Execution− Lima Mobile, Matt, you will take your vehicles and send in a lead element as a screen. Luke, you will conduct the dismounted portion of the sweep to phase line purple. Matt, remember your main goal will be to satellite around the dismounts providing a mounted screening element. The guiding feature will be big power lines. If you get into trouble go to the power lines – they all lead to a paved road.
Admin and Logistics− Gunny, ensure everyone has plenty of chow and water. Also, have an ammunition resupply plan to push ammo to the dismounts from the trucks if needed.
Command and Signal− I, the company commander, will be with Lima mobile two. Brad, the executive officer, will roll with Matt in Lima mobile one.
Any questions?”

Commenting on the Operations Order in our interview, Luke Larson reflects, “This is very much like something that you would see in a training exercise like Mojave Viper [the larger scale exercise held by deploying Marine units at 29 Palms]. We had large unit, sweeping movements in a movement to contact action against a fixed, conventional enemy. We conducted this manuever in Southern Ramadi. They called this an enemy strong point. But the enemy was living amongst the people. It’s not like they had bunkers. We had an enormous coalition force movement go through here, basically against people’s homes.”

“We had pretty good feeling that it didn’t make sense to go down there and not leave anybody,” recalls Larson.

Regarding the overall area of operations, Larson noted, “Ramadi is the provincial capital of Al Anbar province. There are roughly 300,000 to 400,000 people living here. It is a dense urban grid.” He notes a series of check points on the route from the Marine bases, Snake Pit and Hurricane Point. Checkpoint 342 is one road intersection. Checkpoint 295 is another intersection. “IED Elbow” is another road intersection, prone to IED ambushes. “It’s important to note that everything South of [Checkpoint 295] was designated as a black area, which means we knew all of these roads had IEDs laid in them.” Lima Company’s zone would be in that black area for the coming Operation Bowie.

“Checkpoint 295 is the major intersection in the city. It has high traffic flow. This road, Route Michigan, is ‘Main Street’ in Arabic, and it runs all the way from Ramadi to Fallujah and into Baghdad. North of the city is a super free way called Route Mobile [by the Marines]. But Route Michigan is like a main street, running through a major town like Chicago. We didn’t have complete overwatch of Checkpoint 295, so IEDs would blow up there pretty frequently. When an IED blows up on a paved road it is less dangerous than if it blows up on a dirt road [because] if it blows up on a paved road, the overpressure is usually going out, whereas if it blows up on a dirt road, the pressure goes up. So, if you were driving in a Humvee, the IED [on a paved road] would hit the side of the vehicle, which is where we had most of our armor, but if it hit the bottom of the vehicle, it would literally pick the vehicle up and throw it just like a catastrophic car wreck. If it hit the side, it may do some damage to the armor, but it would not tip it over.”

“IED Elbow was named by prior units because every time they went down that road, they were hit by an IED. We didn’t have any overwatch on these roads.”

“Checkpoint 342 was another historically bad checkpoint… At these turns in the roads,” continues Larson, pointing to specific locations on the videotaped interview (Larson 3), “it gives the enemy a good vantage because it gives them a long axis [for firing weapons]. On the middle of the road, they are limited. But at a corner or intersection, there are multiple places where they could hit you, and you don’t know what direction they are coming from. The intersections and long axis of roads were very dangerous to us.”

E 43 16 5.88 N 33 26 6.36, Elev 54m, Lima Command Post
0330 Hours Local, 4 Oct 2005

Matt Hendricks had all of his vehicles turn over at the same moment, a technique to prevent the enemy from knowing exactly how many vehicles would come out in the convoy. Hendricks went over the coordinating instructions from Captain Quinn’s order again. Driving down South from the base, Hendricks hummers ran into an Army tank unit. Brad Watson, now the Company Executive Officer and second in command of the Company, had to coordinate the passage of Hendricks’ hummers past the Army tank unit so that Hendricks could make it to the assigned location to support Larson’s dismounted movement with Lima 3. Lima 3, with Larson as the Platoon Commander and Link as the Platoon Sergeant, dismounted and started their movement from the assigned phase line.

In setting the overall situation in his videotaped interview (Larson 3), Larson notes, “There are other things going on in the city. There are army units over here [South West of the river on the edge of Ramadi]. There are tanks and Bradleys [armored fighting vehicles] in the city, along the road. There is an India [3/7] platoon down South [of Lima 3/7]. But I am just going to zoom into what was going on with Lima Company, which is just a square kilometer.”

“As we came down that morning, my platoon got dropped off at this East-West running road,” recalls Larson. “There’s a mosque in here.” Larson zooms in on the Google map during the videotaped interview (Larson 3). “We were going to patrol down here to this railroad track, that was our limit of advance. Meanwhile, the other Lima Mobile section [Hendrick’s platoon] was going to screen around us while we were going through. During this mission, we were to enter into every single house in this area — close to 200 homes. Our plan of action was to have a squad in over watch, while the other two squads searched. So, you would constantly have a squad in over watch.”

Almost immediately after being dropped off, however, Lima 3 was told to “go firm” — that is, to stop moving. “I remember explosions going off all over the city,” recalls Larson. “You might have seen one or two [before], but on that day, there were probably no less than 15 explosions that went off in the city at roughly 7 in the morning when I was sitting on this rooftop. There were plumes of smoke going up around the city,” explains Larson as he shows the general area in the videotaped interview (Larson 3). “I am crouched down on this rooftop, so I feel protected because I am behind a wall, but I saw these bombs going off around the city. It was very surreal, it was almost like a movie. I was like ‘wow, I can’t believe this is happening.’ At the same time, it was very intense, very exciting.”

In his novel, Larson portrays his own emotions while he is leading Lima 3 on that movement: “Being in town when contact occurred excited the lieutenant. Luke enjoyed the adrenaline rush. The high stakes created a feeling a million times more intense than any sports competition. Knowing someone prowled trying to hunt him while he hunted them created a dangerous romantic feeling foreign to him. He remembered going through training as a black and white memory… This was different. The explosions were real. The thought of a catastrophic event and the consequences of life threatening situations wrapped around the lieutenant’s mind. The pressure weighing on him may have caused others to fall apart, but it caused Larson to focus. His senses were more aware. His actions were more clear and forceful. This was intense. This was in color. This is fun like a game.”

The feeling of fun for Lt Larson ended abruptly when an explosion erupted where his friend, Matt Hendricks’ platoon should be. “One of these plumes of smoke is closer than the rest,” recalled Larson in his videotaped interview. “I heard an explosion that is louder than the rest, and it is somewhere down in this area,” Larson points to the dirt road where he expects Matt Hendricks’ platoon to be on the videotaped interview (Larson 3). “I remember thinking, ‘Fuck, that’s where the Mobile Section should be.'”

“This is a guy that I had gone through OCS [Officer Candidate School], TBS [The Basic School], and IOC [Infantry Officer’s Course] with. So, I’d known Matt for close to five years… I know him, I know his fiance. He knows my wife.”

The distance between Larson’s location and the IEDs that hit Hendricks was “probably between 300 and 500 meters.”

“I knew that they were flanking us on one side,” recalls Larson. “Then the IED hit one of our units. This is no longer fun, this is a bad day.”

E 43 18 18.9 N 33 24 27.9 Elev 53m Lima Mobile One
0900 Hours Local, 27 Sept 2005

Lima Mobile One — the designation for First Platoon, commanded by Matt Hendricks, and with Lt Watson’s vehicle attached — was navigating the roads South of Lima 3 to set up a screen for the dismounted platoon lead by Larson.

Larson recalls, “This shit creek has powerlines running next to it. The unit pulling down [Hendricks] got disoriented, and pulled off the paved road onto the dirt road.”

One IED exploded, but did not injure any Marines. A second IED exploded, then, hitting Hendricks’ vehicle directly. Larson describes the moment in his novel as follows:

SIGHT. His eyes widened as he lay pinned underneath the mangled humvee.
BLACK. Darkness. Smoke. Dust. Confusion. The smoke and dust were too thick to see anything.
Everyone gasped for air. They were disorientated. Upside down, Matt tried to regain the rest his senses.
SMELL. He smelled diesel.
SOUND. The pinging sound in his ears put him in a relative coma state. The intense high pitch sound faded to a low ring and he began to hear something that grabbed him with horror.
Drip, splash … Drip, splash … Drip, Splash…

Hendricks, in shock, and not realizing that the blast had taken a chunk of his leg, tried to pull Bedard from the vehicle.

Larson recalls, “Lieutenant Brad Watson was with Lieutenant Hendricks in the hummer when it flipped. Watson pulled Hendricks out, and he cas-evac’ed him to the vehicle. Other corporals came in and got the rest [of the casualties].”

Brad Watson ran to Hendricks’ overturned hummer and pulled the injured Lieutenant from the vehicle. Watson drew his pistol with his left hand and carried Hendricks with his right shoulder. Hospital Corpsman (“Doc” to all Marines and Sailors) Leonicio administered to Hendricks, despite the fact that the corpsman himself was missing a leg, which was left in the wreckage of the hummer.

“Hendricks had a shrapnel would to the back of his leg and his butt,” recalls Larson. “He was bleeding heavily. The corpsman had tied a tourniquet on his own leg, then he tied a tourniquet on [Hendricks] and addressed his wound. The gunner [on top of the vehicle] was basically crushed by the vehicle. They could not get him out until they brought in a crane. The driver, Lance Corporal Andrew Bedard, from Montana, was killed in the wreck, when the vehicle flipped over.”

Leonicio slapped Hendricks to prevent the officer from falling into a coma, which could kill him, and stuffed his own shirt into the wound to stem the massive bleeding. Lima Company secured the area until a recovery vehicle could remove the wrecked hummer as well as recover the body of Lance Corporal Bedard, Lima Company’s first killed in action of the deployment.

Larson goes on to describe the general situation in the area around the IED hit to Hendricks’ hummer. “It’s 130 degrees. They have just been hit by an IED. The entire area is laid with IEDs. There’s a possibility that another IED is going to occur. The Marines came in and under those conditions casevac’ed the casualties.”

“Meanwhile, there are other explosions and contacts going on around the city,” continues Larson, painting the bigger picture while pointing to the Google map in the videotaped interview (Larson 3).

E 43 18 15.3 N33 24 36.36 Elev 51m Lima Three
0915 Hours Local, 27 Sept 2005

Lieutenant Larson contacted Captain Quinn on the radio while he watched medevac helicopters circle, above. Quinn informed Larson about the casualties — one killed in action, three wounded in action — and instructed him to remain in place until further notice. Larson recalls Quinn’s words: “Lima 3, this is Lima 6 [the commanding officer], go firm, we’ve taken a KIA, and we need to casevac the casualty.”

In his novel, Larson notes, “Quinn’s voice sounded unemotional, very logical and precise, as if he ordered an iced latte from Starbucks.”

Gladwell’s book, Blink, makes note of Paul Van Riper’s spare use of the radio when he had one of his platoons in contact while he was a company commander in Vietnam. Blink notes that one of the reasons for this is because the subordinate commander has to be given latitude to develop the situation with minimal interference — sometimes called micromanagement, in the military. As well, lower level unit commander may be engaged and excited, which inhibits rational decision-making. In fact, Gladwell’s book even cites a range of heart rate –115 to 145 beats per minute — where stress improves performance. This will not be the first description of Quinn remaining a cool, detached commander on the radio when one of his subordinate commanders may be in contact and possibly incited to a heart rate level where cognitive processing begins to break down (175 beats per minute or above). (The original source of these ranges quoted in Gladwell’s blink is Grossman, On Killing, which is a book that Marine leaders consult in training as well.)

In his novel, Larson characterizes his own feelings at that moment: “His mind raced. KIA. Killed in Action. All of a sudden, the high-stakes game was no longer fun. Up until that point, nobody had been injured or killed. The near misses were exciting and only stoked the adrenaline rushes. Holy shit, somebody died. This is real. The excitement was replaced by a choking tension.”

About the same moment, Larson recalls, “It is 130 degrees out, and my guys are just stopped in these houses, knowing we just took a casualty. But the Brigade is continuing to sweep [across the river]. Then I hear Corporal Pearson, and he is giving the commands for Lima Mobile [Hendricks’ unit]. When I heard Pearson giving commands for Lima Mobile, my first thought was that Lieutenant Hendricks had been killed because his corporal is giving the call signs over the radio, which normally Lieutenant Hendricks would have done.”

“My Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant Link, was in this building furthest to the West with third squad,” Larson points to the South-Western-most of the line of buildings that his three squads were occupying in his video taped interview (Larson 3). “I was with First Squad, here [pointing to the Eastern-most unit], and Second Squad was over here [pointing to the middle unit in his platoon]. I had an Iraqi army platoon with me here.”

“This thirty minutes go by while they do the casevac and bring in a wrecker. We have lost our momentum. Everyone knows we are in these houses,” recalled Larson.

“My platoon sergeant, Sergeant Link, was telling me, ‘Hey sir, we have to move. We are fucking this up if we stay here in the same spot for twenty minutes. The enemy is moving in on us. They know where we are. They are going to exploit our lack of movement. I agreed with him, I knew this.”

Larson was concerned that staying in one place would expose his unit to the enemy, who was certainly observing him from the safety of anonymity that blending in with the population provided. Larson relayed the orders to his squad leaders and warned them against taking revenge on the population. Forty minutes later, Quinn ordered Lima 3 to continue the sweep.

Time slowed down to milliseconds as Larson realized he had made an error in not posting one of his squads to provide over watch. In Blink, Gladwell describes a police officer who can recall precisely the details of four bullets entering the head of a suspect who is threatening his partner — a level of detail which is almost physically impossible. Yet, there are several examples of this in the records of shootings. Larson’s description of that moment of error for a relatively new platoon commander is consistent with this heightened level of sensory awareness in a moment of extreme physical danger:

“The world stopped rotating and in that moment, only Larson was aware of the situation. His body, anticipating something was about to happen, enhanced his para-synthetic nervous system to the point where he processed information at a rate where everything appeared be in slow motion.”

“I remember seeing guys from first squad, second squad, and third squad — and Iraqi Army — all on the road [at the same time],” recalls Larson, pointing to the spot on Google maps in the videotaped interview (Larson 3).

Because of his error, the enemy fires on Larson and several of his Marines, crossing the street at the same time without over watch. Fortunately, none of the Marines are hit, and Larson pops a smoke grenade, and orders his Marines to get to cover.

“We basically were taking fire from across the river, from 100 or 200 meters — very close. We pop smoke as we are crossing the road. We can’t return fire to the East because we have [friendly] units over here. We can’t return fire to the West because we have Army units over here. So, this enormous, Brgiade minus sweep puts us in a dilemma that we can’t return fire against the enemy because there are friendly units all over here.” Geometry of fire problems, then, are a problem in using a 3d Generation Warfare technique against an insurgency.

“It’s not just one problem,” continues Larson with the thought. “It is multiple problems. If we return fire, we cannot pinpoint where the enemy is located in a largely urban area unless we live out there and know the streets. We are probably not going to find the enemy. If we return fire, we are probably hitting civilians, or in this scenario, we are probably hitting other Marines, somewhere.”

“We don’t return fire. We break the ambush by popping smoke. This squad over here,” Larson points to the Western-most unit, “with Sergeant Link [platoon sergeant] and Sergeant Brown [squad leader] returned fire on a house they deemed PID [positive identification of hostile intent] down here [across the river]. Once we got to the roof, we sent the Iraqi Army squad, with First Squad, to sweep out one area. Meanwhile, 2nd Squad was continuing to move to grab our next over watch house. Meanwhile, the Brigade movement is still moving, and I have to hit phase lines.”

“I can define that as one of the mistakes that I made as a platoon commander,” recalls Larson in our videotaped interview (Larson 3). “I attribute it to… probably being overwhelmed. It is 130 degrees. One of my best friends may have been killed. There is all this contact going on. It is the first time that there is a contact where there is a killed in action. And we are still in it. It’s not like you’re back at the base, you’re still in the fight.”

“In that situation, you constantly have to be giving clarification, such as, ‘When we resume the movement, 2nd Squad, you are in over watch.’

From the roof of the house where Lima 3 had taken refuge, Larson surveys the situation. Link, now the Platoon Sergeant, has provided the link for the Lima 3 Marines — the continuity as the platoon commander and the squad leaders changed. Link asks Larson what he wants to do next. Larson describes a moment of hesitation: “You’re asking me what to do? I almost got us all killed. His confidence wavered. The sergeant is good; he can get his squad out of this.” But, Larson issues orders for one squad to provide over watch, while the other squads move.

I asked Larson, “Does this episode illustrate some of the limitations of a 3d Generation Warfare mindset?”

Larson replied, “This mission was not very well planned, organized or executed because we did a large, Brigade minus, conventional sweep in an area of town that was defined as an enemy strong point, but we were just walking through people’s houses.”

“What we failed to do,” continues Larson, “is exploit our actions. We came down and we executed a perfect sweep. But we didn’t leave anybody in the city. When we leave, and go back to our bases, we fuck it up, because the people are stuck with the insurgents who live out there and are intermingled with them. So, there is a lot of bitterness [about] why did we conduct this big mission [to clear the city for the elections, but not leave any stay-behind forces]. Looking back, I would have asked, ‘Are we going to exploit this action?’ and if we are not going to, then it is not worth sending Marines down there. In an insurgency, the amount of troops you need to cover this area is enormous, and if you don’t stay in the area, you don’t influence the area by going down there one time a month. You’d almost be better off not going down there at all. In this scenario, we didn’t have the manpower to exploit actions. That moment was a pivotal moment in understanding that we are not fighting this war the correct way at the operational and tactical level in order to meet our strategic goals.”

“When we swept through, we left, I don’t know what we accomplished. But we had Marines killed and injured. I question the cost-benefit analysis of conducting this mission. I don’t think our operation achieved our objective because it was done in a very 3d Generation, conventional way.”

Mauro Mujica-Parodi, III, grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, where he attended Georgetown Preparatory, a Jesuit College Preparatory. He went on to attended Georgetown University, where he studied Political Economy. Georgetown was the flagship university of the American Jesuit educational endeavor in America. The Jesuits — who had once been called the “Pope’s Marines” for their own expeditionary, missionary character — had been founded by a Spanish nobleman-solider, Ignatius of Loyola, who had picked up a copy of the “Lives of the Saints,” while recuperating from a cannonball injury in the hospital. Mauro’s mother, Barbara Mujica, was a professor at Georgetown who had also authored the novel, Frida, which had been made into a movie starring Selma Hayek. Mujica had tried to enlist in the Marine Corps in high school, but then he also was accepted to the Naval Academy, which would not allow him to serve as an enlisted Marine at the same time. In any case, he went to Georgetown, but still pursued a career in the Marine Corps because of a sense of service to country. Serving his country as a Marine Officer would be one of those things that he could forever point to as something that he did for the nation, even if he later went on to a business career where profit was the primary motive. 
In the first weeks of the Ramadi 1 deployment in September and October 2005, 2nd Lt Mujica was serving as the Headquarters and Service Company Executive Officer — a billet that any infantry officer would detest as a non-infantry, albeit vital, role. The occasion of his assuming command could not have been worse. On 4 October 2005, the catastrophic IED that took 2nd Lt Hendricks legs, and one of Doc Leoncio’s legs during Operation Bowie required that Captain Quinn replace a platoon commander. Mauro Mujica got the call.

Wisely, Captain Quinn did not immediately put 2nd Lt Mujica in charge of First Platoon, which had just lost Lt Hendricks. Rather, Captain Quinn had Lt Mujica shadow him for a period of about 2 weeks, while the Marines got to know Lt Mujica. The Marines had grown attached to Lt Hendricks, who was widely regarded as a good lieutenant. Lt Mujica had to gain their trust and confidence in the middle of a deployment, after they had lost their platoon commander. It was a real challenge.


4 Responses to “Chapter 14 – Ramadi 1, 4 October 2005”

  1. Jason Luedke

    Good reading. Brought back alot memories from that day and things I didn’t even know. This definitly paints a bigger picture on October 4th and the events that surrounded it.

  2. Matt Dragoo

    Hello, I just stumbled across this site today. I am enjoying it so far, and would just like to help out with a correction. Lt Hendricks, and then Lt Mujica were the platoon commanders for Lima WPNS Plt, or Lima 4th. The platoon did have 2 sections though, Lima Mobile 1 and Lima Mobile 2, but it was all part of Lima 4th/Lima WPNS, just different names for the same group of guys.

    I also have about 50 gigs of pictures and videos from this deployment if you would like me to send it off to you.

    Keep up the great work on the book,
    Matt Dragoo

  3. Shawn Seeley

    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remember the 4th of October. I was the gunner under that hummer. What a crap day.

  4. Nathaniel Leoncio

    This is good because I have always wanted to remember some of that day and I don’t remember much at all.

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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.