...,1st Draft

Chapter 16 – 7 December 200529 May

7 December 2005, [Hurricane Point]

On the same date as Pearl Harbor — a date which will live in infamy — Lima Company experienced its own infamous and memorable date, and one which would sew the seeds of doctrinal change within the Rifle Company. Lt Mauro Mujica-Parodi, III, would lead his platoon to relieve a platoon which was hit by an IED ambush, only to see his own Marines killed and maimed by a secondary IED. Over the next year, his own personal outrage at the needless loss of his Marines would push Mujica to drill deeper into the literature of counter insurgency warfare. Malcolm Gladwell, in The Tipping Point, explains “The Power of Context – The Magic Number One Hundred and Fifty”: “Over the years military planners have arrived at a rule of thumb which dictates that functional fighting units cannot be substantially larger than 200 men…. it is as though planners have discovered, by trial and error over the centuries, that it is hard to get more than this number of men sufficiently familiar with each other so that they can work together as a functional unit.” In the context of Lima 3/7 from 2005 to 2007, Mujica and several of his NCOs, like Corporal-then-Lieutenant Humphrey would become leading agents of the adoption of 4th Generation Warfare, advanced counterinsurgency ideas, like distributed operations. But the reason that Mujica and Humphrey would so stridently react in favor of these ideas is that they first had to experience the consequences of operational techniques which would result in sudden, violent death of Marines in their unit.

***

Larson sets the stage for the events of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor: “On December 7, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Hagee, came to visit the Marines in Ramadi. When the General came, the Sergeant Major of our battalion issued an order that all the Marines would wear camouflage utilities. Due to the IED threat, we wore flight suits — the mobile guys [Marines going into town in hummers] wore flight suits that were flame retardant. When the Commandant came to visit, the Sergeant Major said all the Marines are going to wear cammies. The mobile guys, for an administrative purpose, changed out gear that would protect their life, into cammies for — in my opinion — not a worthy reason. I remember the Lieutenants [saying] ‘This is not right.’ But, at the end of the day, they decided, We’re not going to rock the boat. Then, other events occurred on that date, that are cemented in my head as to why we should have said, ‘No, we’re not going to wear cammies. We’re going to do what is best tactically, not administratively.'”

On that day, Lima Mobile One (First Platoon), commanded by Lieutenant Mujica-Parodi would be the quick reaction force, waiting at the Snake Pit base to react to events in town. Lima Mobile Two, commanded by Staff Sergeant Ledford would insert Lieutenant Walt Larisy’s Second Platoon (Lima 2). The three platoon commanders had developed a working relationship and mutual respect over the previous two months. Mujica-Parodi was prone to reading military history and chatting about Japan’s blunder in attacking the United States on December 7, whereas Larisy and Larson were a little more prosaic in their reading habits — though Larson was composing a war novel along the way. Larson characterizes Mujica-Parodi’s thought process about the immediate situation as follows: “The Georgetown economics major [Mujica-Parodi] pondered how the tactical and strategic goals were so convoluted in his current fight. We can’t go into mosques even if we think there are enemy using the mosques as staging areas for IED triggermen or weapons caches. If we did it would enrage the Iraqi people and ultimately hurt us at the strategic level, thought Rogue.” For his part, Larisy grew to respect Mujica-Parodi because the new platoon commander drilled his Marines on immediate actions and vehicle maintenance that would have tactical value.

Within Lima 1, Corporal Pearson was one of the leaders who held the unit together while the new platoon commander, Mauro Mujica-Parodi, took command during the aftermath of the IED attack which killed Bedard and injured Matt Hendricks. In his novel, Larson characterizes Pearson’s role in those weeks as follows: “After [Matt Hendricks] had been hit, and they had lost some Marines, he was the voice of reason. He was the Marine the men looked to for leadership while they felt out their new platoon commander…”

***

The 24 Marines of Lima Mobile, dressed in digital desert cammies instead of the flights suits that they would have preferred, took notes as Staff Sergeant Ledford gave the order. Four armored hummers and three 7-ton trucks would form a convoy that would travel down one of the main roads in Ramadi, Route Michigan. Counter IED ambushes from another of the Rifle Companies in 3/7 would overwatch the route, taking advantage of the Marines’ edge in night vision capabilities. Two of the trucks would insert Lima 1 Marines into town, while a third truck would be empty as a decoy. “The mobile platoon was going to insert Second Platoon into Observation Post VA, which is here,” recounts Larson in his videotaped interview (Larson 8). “Second Platoon was then going to go out and conduct an IED ambush in the city.” At 7:40 PM, the convoy traveled down Route Michigan towards their destination, OP VA. The Lima Marines could see the infrared aiming lasers from the overwatch as the convoy drove down the asphalt road.

***

While the convoy headed down Route Michigan, Lieutenant Larson stood watch in the Lima Company command post. Mujica-Parodi was right next to him, as the commander of the Quick Reaction Force. “In the CP,” recalls Larson, “we had to report, Mobile 2 is traveling down Route Michigan. That’s the only report we heard in the command post. While this was occuring, I was in the ECP 2 Command Post, listening to the Company Tac[tical net].” Out in town, the convoy dropped off Larisy’s platoon, but neither the convoy nor Larisy’s platoon informed the Lima Watch Officer, Luke Larson. The overwatch element reported an IED on Route Michigan, blocking the return route of the convoy.

“The next transmission that we heard,” continues Larson while pointing to the roads involved in his videotaped interview (Larson 8), “was we’ve hit an IED on In between [a road], and we need a casevac. What had happened in the mean time is the platoon was inserted into OP VA.” Neither the Mobile commander nor the dismounted platoon commander called it in because they thought the other leader would make the report to Larson, the watch officer. “So, it is important, if you were doing a case study of this event, to note that the guys in the command post did not know that the platoon had been dropped off so we thought the dismounted platoon was part of the IED blast, which adds confusion to us trying to help with the casevac.”

As Staff Sergeant Ledford’s Mobile Platoon was returning to Snake Pit from OP VA, they received a report that there was an IED on Route Michigan. “So, on the fly, the Staff Sergeant, based on that information, makes a decision,” recalls Larson, “which is what leaders do. The Staff Sergeant says, ‘There’s an IED on Michigan, [so] we’re going to pull off of Michigan onto this hospital road, go around, go on [Road] In Between, and go back towards base — essentially to drive around the IED.”

In his video taped interview (Larson 8), Larson recalls, “When the pulled of of Michigan, onto Hospital, and onto In Between, they hit an IED. It hit the first 7-Ton,” he says, scrolling into a small scale view of the immediate terrain as he points to the exact area where the IED hit the Marine convoy. “When it hit the first 7-Ton, it disabled the vehicle. Tires blew out and it was no longer drivable. The Assistant Driver in that vehicle hit his head on the roof, and had a concussion.”

“When a unit hits an IED,” recalls Larson, “the unit tries to conduct its own casevacs and do everything by itself, internally. But, because this unit had a downed vehicle, and a casualty, the other mobile section, Mobile One, lead by Lieutentant Mujica came down Michigan to conduct the casevac.”

As the lead 7-Ton Truck turned west onto In Between, an IED exploded on the first 7-Ton truck. Staff Sergeant Ledford sent in a report to the command post, where Larson and Mujica-Parodi were monitoring the radio net.

In the command post, Larson’s novel recounts the reaction of the two officers:

“Lima CP this is Lima Mobile Two we’ve been hit with an IED on In Between just west of Hospital intersection, we have one downed seven-ton, and one casualty,” squaked the radio, “We’re rigging for tow on the first seven-ton but are requesting a CASEVAC for the casualty.”

Mujica-Parodi and Larson immediately looked at each other.

“What the fuck are they doing on In Between?” asked Mujica-Parodi.

“I don’t know. First platoon might have more casualties if that was an initial assessment of the situation,” said Larson.

He assumed it was one of [Larisy’s] first platoon’s dismounts that had taken the causality.

Also in his novel, Larson adds the following, which is entirely consistent with the description of Van Riper’s spare use of the radio in Gladwell’s Blink when talking to a unit engaged with the enemy.

[Larson’s] impulse was to call back and ask one hundred questions to help build his own understanding of the situation. Asking immediately never helps the Marines in the fight, and [Larson] knew it. The unit on the ground never knew all of the events instantly. To call and ask was just adding unneeded additional friction on the leader.

Meanwhile, Mujica-Parodi picked up his bullet proof vest and rifle and ran out of the command post to pick up the quick reaction force, which he had called by a land line.

At the scene of the IED, Staff Sergeant Ledford was organizing the perimeter and treatment of the injured Marine. Corporal Pearson was one of the key leaders taking charge of the situation, showing what Larson would call “nerves of steel” in his novel account of the action.

Mujuca-Parodi, driving down Route Michigan, has limited information. He too observes the surreal sight of the infra-red aiming lights from the IED ambushes providing an overwatch for his unit’s movement. When he saw the mobile section that had been stopped by the first IED, he halted his quick reaction force within 50 meters, and called in a situation report.

“As they were coming down, Mobile One pulls in here,” narrates Larson on his videotaped interview (Larson 8) while pointing to the exact area where the vehicles traveled. “When they pull up on scene, there are 8 Marines hooking up the vehicle, and a second IED explosion occurs. The IED exploded and the pressure goes out at the level of the 7-Ton.” In his novel, Larson describes the blast as follows, “[Mujica] looked at the downed seven-ton when suddenly a flash of fire ignited the dark night engulfing the downed seven-ton. The eruption gave off a huge BOOM. The Marines disappeared into the fireball that devoured the vehicle. The force of the explosion blew past him as he was shielded by the open guntruck door.”

Larson recalls, “Seven Marines and a Corpsman lost either one or two legs. One Marine died. When this IED went off, the Marines then had to come in and casevac.”

At that point, Mujica called in a “mass casualty” casevac. In the hellish scene that followed, Mujica and his Marines loaded dismembered Marines into hummers to evacuate them. Some Marines appeared to be a dead at first, but then opened their eyes behind ashen, burned faces. The Marines on the perimeter of the IED sites continue to provide security. Larson portrays one of those Marines using discriminate force again in the following passage where the Marine first contemplates using a heavy Machine Gun, but then opts for a less-powerful rifle in order to avoid the possibility of civilian and friendly casualties:

Through his NVGs Rodriguez saw the shape of a man with something in his hands. The man crept towards the road where the CASEVAC vehicle would have to exit. The Lance Corporal’s hands firmly gripped the handle of his .50 caliber machine gun. He trained the weapon at the figure moving through the night. His thumbs rested on the butterfly trigger. He paused stopping himself from pressing the trigger.

Corporal Fisher had impressed upon his Marines that a .50 caliber machigun’s maximum range is 7400 meters. In the city the rounds would tear through three or four of the Iraqi’s poorly constructed houses.

Rodriguez reached down and picked up his M16A4 rifle and aimed in at the man who was on the edge of the road, waiting to lay in the IED. He looked through his NVGs and rested his elbows on the edge of the turret giving him a solid shooting platform. He lined the laser up on the enemy. He took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger at the end of his exhale. The man fell to a knee with the object still in his hands and crawled off the road. Rodriguez fired four more shots as the man fell to the ground unable to put the deadly object in the road.

Back in the Company Command Post at Snake Pit, Captain Quinn — who had been summoned from his tent due to the severity of the situation — and Lieutenant Larson monitor the situation. The first report they received said that Lima Mobile Two had mass casualties. Larisy had called in from OP VA so they knew that Larisy’s Marines were not any of the casualties. Quinn ordered Weapons Platoon to assist with the casevac and called in for air assets to monitor the area for more enemy. In response to a request for an update from Quinn, a driver sent only the following transmission according to Larson’s novel, “[Lima] CP this is the driver for first truck, they’ve… they’ve all lost their legs… they’re in bad shape we need to get them.. we need to get them out of here.. its bad… IT’S REALLY BAD.”

A few minutes later, Lieutenant Mujica-Parodi sent the following transmission to Quinn and Larson, “[Lima] CP… we have seven urgent surgical casualties we are developing the situation on names. I’m launching [Lima] Mobile One with three urgent surgicals to Ramadi Med, we’ve had a small arms engagement that disrupted an IED layer on In Between and Hospital.

Mujica-Parodi stayed at the IED site while he sent his Mobile section as a casevac with the injured Marines to Ramadi Medical. A third explosion went off, which the Marines thought was another IED, but it was just one of the fuel tanks from the Marines’ vehicles. There were still several Marines from the second IED at the casualty collection point waiting for casevac. Two of the Marines had a portion of their legs hanging off and a Corpsman tended to their injuries with a tourniquet. There were not enough hummers at that point to immediately casevac all of the injured Marines. The Battalion Quick Reaction Force arrived, and the final injured Marine was finally put on the evacuation vehicles. He too was missing parts of both legs.

Larson sums up the challenges to the Marines’ restraint caused by this episode: “This was a frustrating situation because we have an IED explode, then a secondary IED explodes, and there is no action that you can take. There is no enemy. We don’t know where the trigger man is. The enemy hit the company hard, and we just had to casevac those Marines out of there. The unit that was doing the counter-IED ambush has to go out and conduct an ambush, and not revenge-kill civilians. Another important point to note is that the unit that was hit went out and did vehicle check point operations, after losing Marines seriously wounded.” This is the same platoon that lost Lieutenant Hendricks and had Lieutenant Mujica-Parodi take over.

Source:
Larson8.mov
www.lima37.com/Larson8.mov
Mujica interviews

3 Responses to “Chapter 16 – 7 December 2005”

  1. Dan Miller

    I was the driver of the 7-ton.
    It was bad, but could have been worse.
    If you want any more info on this, let me know.

    I appreciate the story you are telling.

  2. James "The Daywalker" Loomis

    The worse night of my life. The fact that the guys I went through bootcamp with and SOI were stuck out there and there was nothing I could do, the worse. Thank you for writing this, even though it took me five days just to read through the chapter without needing a drink. Thank you sir, you have done Bier a honor.

  3. cpl gaynor

    i was attached with lima as one of the the 7 ton drivers,i attached with lima shortly after this night till the end of the deployment, but stay in contact with one of the other 7 ton drivers of that night cpl dusheke…i also have pcitures ,let me know!!

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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.