...,1st Draft

Chapter 21 – Expanding My AO02 Jun

In reviewing the sources for this book, I was always reminded of my own time in the Marine Corps and experiences which were similar. For example, in 1994, 7th Marines Headquarters with Lima 3/7 did a joint exercise in Kuwait in which I did a firepower demonstration with a Kuwaiti counterpart officer, a Lieutenant Obaid. We worked on the project for 5 weeks, I wrote a speech that the Regimental Commadner, Colonel Gregson gave to the Emir of Kuwait, General Schwarzkopf, and the US Ambassador, and we spent time in cross cultural activities with our counterparts. I recall the daily ritual of lunch in the large Bedouin tents — we called them ‘goat grabs’ — followed by the exhaustive rehearsals for the upcoming main event. By the end of the training, Obaid was quite candid — “This is just a dog and pony,” he would say. “We know it is just a show.” Still, I came away from such experiences with the sense that as a 24-year old, I probably had more real responsibility in that one exercise than I would have again for many, many years — if ever — and that proved to be correct.

So, as I gathered the sources to describe in detail the experience of Mauro Mujica-Parodi, and the other A-Team Commanders, in their respective JSS locations, I could immediately relate to one salient aspect of their role: as men in their early 20s, they had responsibilities that had previously been reserved for Colonels and maybe Generals, or their equivalent civilian counterparts in a U.S. Government agency. One of the significant, day-to-day aspects of the responsibility given to Lieutenant Mujica and his fellow A-Team Commanders was to execute nation-building projects, normally conducted by the State Department, which had been pushed down to the platoon level because the bottoms-up organization had not yet been built out through the U.S. inter agency process. This happened because — within the broader context — Lima 3/7 and 3/7 probably were cycling through the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) in the 4th Generation Warfare environment faster than the rest of the US Government, writ large. Doctrinally, the US Government should not be putting 20-something 1st Lieutenants (much less, Sergeants) in charge of nation-building projects, but those officers were in fact tasked with those roles because there was no one else to do them, and, those tasks were perceived as a weapon in the arsenal of 4th Generation Warfare.

Another salient aspect of the role of the A-Team Commanders like Mujica and Humphrey was that 3d Generation Warfare thinking applied to 4th Generation warfare thinking. In the last chapter, Luke Larson has already highlighted one instance of this phenomenon when he described how the “5 LOOS [Logical Lines of Operation]” could be used to evaluate “surfaces and gaps” in the normal, 3d Generation Warfare analysis of how to find your opponent’s critical vulnerability, leading, possibly to a center of gravity, which ends the fight. Again and again, we also see that the 3d Generation idea of combined arms can be applied to 4th Generation warfare too. Combined arms is defined in the US Defense Department as using one weapon to make the enemy vulnerable to another weapon. In the 4th Generation warfare environment that the A-Team Commanders operated in, they used the elements of power in the 5 LOOS to make the enemy vulnerable to other weapons.

A third salient aspect of the experience of many A-Team Commanders like Mujica, Falk, Humphrey and the others is that they were frugal innovators. (The term, frugal innovator, comes from an article in The Economist about medical procedures in India, published in early 2009.) In Larson’s novel, Senator’s Son, he devotes a chapter to Mujica in JSS Thaylet. During that chapter, Larson shows an American PRT [Provisional Reconstruction Team] representative drilling down into the costs of a sewer project. The Iraqis have quoted the PRT representative a cost of $121 million dollars, but Mujica analyzes the line items in the projects and arrives at the conclusion that the effect of the project can be achieved for $1.8 million dollars. I asked Mujica whether this was based on an actual project, and he said it was not, but that he did similar types of calculations on a daily basis as a A-Team Commander. It was common for the Iraqis to rip off the PRTs on pricing, according to Mujica. The Marine A-Team commanders — especially those coming back to Ramadi for a second tour — had much better situational awareness, relationships, and overall leverage with the Iraqis. Flooding the Iraqi economy with reconstruction funds also had the effect of devaluing the dollar and the Iraqi dinar in that environment. One of the institutional characteristics of the Marine Corps culture is frugality, as the Corps shows, for example, in the length of time it keeps a weapon system in service.

Mujica credits Larson with writing a largely accurate account of JSS Thaylet in his novel, Senator’s Son. A visitor to JSS Thaylet would find Lieutenant Mujica-Parodi with his hair grown out and a full mustache, while the Marine ate native food in a manner consistent with the local customs. Mujica would eat a ball of rice with his right hand. He had eaten only Iraqi food for several weeks. Mujica regularly interacted with U.S. Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) representatives, who operated under the authority of the US Department of State, but who were most often Department of Defense civilians.

Mujica had a room at Thaylet, where he kept his growing library of military books. Some of the titles that Larson notes in his description include Nagle’s Eating Soup with a Knife, Galula’s Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, and The Ugly American. Mujica-Parodi’s parental influences may be significant too. In his description of how he pared back his platoon to find those Marines most appropriate for the counterinsurgency, A-Team work, he and Humphrey note that they opted for Marines with some immigrant background, such as two Marines who came to the U.S. from Central Asian nations at the age of 5-10. Too, Mujica-Parodi’s father is the head of an organization, U.S. English, which stresses the importance of acculturation for immigrants to the U.S. His mother, Barbara Mujica, is the author of the successful novel, Frida, which addresses the theme of cross-cultural communications by Frida, when she immigrates to New York, among many ideas; Barbara Mujica is also a Georgetown University professor. On Mujica’s laptop, the visiting PRT official would have found a series of maps with overlays of essential services, like sewers, electricity, water treatment, schools, and hospitals. The following dialogue from Larson’s account of Mujica is based on Larson’s weekly visits to Thaylet, and it captures the level of detailed knowledge that Mujica had of the city.

“How do you know all of this about the sewer systems?” asked [the PRT representative].

“We ask the people,” answered [Mujica], “And I asked some of my dad’s engineering colleagues to give me some advice on sewer plans, he’s an architect.”

The diplomat looked at the Marine Officer’s set up. His miniature office looked more like that of a city-planner than that of a military man.

“Every week we have a mini-district council meeting with a local leader, the police chief, the local Imam and if we can have them to attend we try to invite some of the city’s actual department heads for the civil services. We actually have one today,” said [Mujica].

“There is big city council meeting on the big base once a week,” said [the PRT representative], “I attended one and it looked like no one knew what was really going on.”

While Mujica believes that the specific PRT representative character in Larson’s novel is not based on any real person, he also recalls, “I had those types of conversations with US agency officials on a daily basis. I looked at projects such as the one described in the novel on a daily basis.”

For the purposes of this book, too, it may be best to avoid any specific project. But the sewer project in Larson’s novel stand for dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of civil affairs projects conducted by Lima Company A-Team leaders throughout their tour.

In the sewer project example, the PRT official explains that the Iraqis have requested $121 million, which he has forwarded to a US Government agency. Mujica explains that the Iraqis are trying to inflate the requests to gather as much cash as possible while the opportunity exists. Because Mujica knows the details of the sewer system, he suggests a modification to the project — fix the pump stations. A boring — for a book about war — exchange, but one that is critical to winning a counterinsurgency, comes next:

“You mean they’re corrupt?” said [the PRT representative], puzzled.

[Mujica replies], “Of course they’re corrupt, sir. Not necessarily in an immoral way. In their culture this is socially acceptable … but if we can catch them trying to pull the wool over our eyes we can better maximize our money….”

“I understand but how do you do that?” asked [the PRT Representative].

“You pay attention to what is going on and find out what they really need. For example, the way they operated prior to the war was they had a fleet of sewer trucks that would just drive around and suck up the septic tanks. When the war started Al Qaeda targeted all of the essential services to make the city chaotic so they blew up all of the city’s service trucks like the sewer trucks and electricity trucks. All they need is to buy thirty septic trucks for $60K a piece and fix the pump stations that are located next to the rivers…. Sir you see if you do the math I think it would cost $1.8 million to buy 30 trucks and then add another million to fix all twenty pumps and you would save roughly 118 million that could be better used on different projects.”

In mid-2009, as I write this on a computer where at the same time I monitor client option positions, the following comparison comes to me. Certain trading strategies which were appropriate in the crash of 2008-09 will work, but trading costs are a critical consideration. In one extreme example, an option transaction at a large, “wirehouse” may cost $52 dollars — that is, just to execute the purchase or sale of the option. By using a different custodian, the cost to the client can be reduced to .70 cents, or even less. In a similar way, the Lima Marines conducting the A-Team missions in the JSS and IP stations in Ramadi in 2007 were frugal about costs, probably in part because their particular service was habitually frugal in its spending. Also, the Marines had better situational awareness on the total network of essential services than their counterparts from other US Government agencies. It was essential to be watching their particular market — the market for US Government assistance into the local economic and civil affairs of the Ramadi population. A visitor touring Thaylet with Lieutenant Mujica would next find that one way of accomplishing this was his own “Hooka Room,” which mirrored the one at JSS Sabbatash in purpose.

Larson — who visited Thaylet and all of the JSS or IP stations weekly — describes the Hooka Room at Thaylet as follows: “[Mujica] told his police chief he wanted the finest modif in all of Ar Ramadi. The walls were lined with dark green velvet curtains with gold trim. Outlying the large room were four white low sitting leather Arab style couches. In the middle of the high eleven foot ceiling hung a golden chandelier.” In the Hooka Room, optimized for powerful men in Iraqi culture, a visitor like a PRT representative might meet the Iraqi police chief and the district council man. Mujica would regularly conduct meetings with his Iraqi counterparts, often with Larson and other Americans like PRT representatives as visitors. Larson characterizes the reaction to such meetings by PRT representatives as follows, “[the PRT representative] could not get over how much the Marines were doing that was completely out of their realm of basic infantry tactics.” During these meetings, Mujica might pitch a project, and the Iraqi counterparts would offer positive and negative input. Towards the middle of 2007, one of the highly anticipated cultural events was the Iraqi national soccer team’s participation in the Asian Cup. If the Iraqis won, Thaylet would be the site of a huge celebration party, where several lambs would be slaughtered in celebration.

Following such meetings, Mujica and Larson would often conduct patrols of the local area with visitors, like the PRT representative. The patrols contrasted sharply with the patrols of the Ramadi 1 deployment because the Marine were not “bumping and bounding” in a tactical manner, nor did they wear their body armor or helmets. Paradoxically, such appearance and aggressive movements in the present environment might serve to antagonize the population. The Marines would greet the Iraqi civilians and police using Arabic phrases, while touring reconstruction projects. Mujica would be regulating the allocation of resources like fuel to power electricity generators. The following explanation from Mujica is taken from Larson’s novel, Senator’s Son, but it expresses, almost precisely, the concept of broken windows in Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: “We’ve even had them paint the curbs and the surrounding court yard walls. Our theory is if things look like they are getting better, the people will perceive them to be getting better and it will have a force multiplying effect.”

In Larson’s novel, the PRT representative replies, “Like Rudy Giuliani’s broken window theory in New York during the 90’s.”

“Yes exactly” said [Larson], “Perception is reality, if the people perceive the city to be safe it will tighten the gaps that are open to the insurgents, also research shows if businesses start to open it usually has a ripple effect.” Too, the Lima Marines backed “John Deere” projects in which the Americans bought local farmer’s pumps to irrigate crops. The terrorists had blown up the previous pumps to force the local Iraqis to be dependent on them.

Larson’s chapter about Mujica’s JSS Thaylet is based on his weekly visits to each station in his capacity as the Executive Officer of Lima Company, which had, in effect, become the centerpiece for a Combined Action Battalion. Larson would stay at each station for a day or so, traveling the circuit with his battle buddy, Sergeant Mejia, the fixed site security officer — or mini-Gunner — who used his 4 tours of total Iraq experience from 2003 to 2007 in order to continuously improve the tactical posture of each station against Al Qaeda. While Larson and Mujica might be taking their slow walking “patrol” of the Thaylet district with a visitor like the PRT Representative, Mejia would be surveying HESCO barriers, installing or improving metal detectors at the entrances, or training the Marines in using non-lethal procedures like the 6-Shot 40 millimeter grenade launcher loaded with 4 bright orange training practice rounds, and 2 high explosive rounds.

Larson chooses one of these overnight visits to Thaylet as the setting for more telling dialogue between Lieutenant Mujica and the PRT Representative. Mujica observes, “I was trained to shoot, move and communicate and here I am practically the mayor of the Thaylet district.” The shift between phases of “The War According to Rory Quinn” have occurred so quickly — a characteristic of Black Swan events, which can be positive in nature as well as negative — that the sometimes lumbering institutional reaction of the US Government is quarters, if not years, behind the situation left by the Anbar Awakening. A Marine Lieutenant, whose billet of Rifle Platoon Commander usually requires very little in political leadership of foreign nationals, is now, in effect, a mayor of 10,000 people.

In his novelization of the evenings’ events, Larson paints the picture of the normal PRT representative visitor to the de facto authority and responsibility that A-Team Commander Mauro Mujica-Parodi is exercising:

“DIME, means Diplomacy, Intelligence, Military and Economics,” said [the PRT representative], “This is essentially our foreign policy approach. I mean you guys are conducting foreign policy at the company level, the decisions you are making at your level were reserved for Colonels and Generals when I was in the Army.”

Notably, DIME is an acronym that makes it into the relatively jargon-free best seller by Malcolm Gladwell, Blink. Perhaps because of its ponderous meaning, Gladwell uses it to stand for the too lengthy decision-making process employed by the Blue Forces in the August 2002 Millenium Challenge exercise, which foreshadowed the Iraq Invasion of 2003. In that exercise, Paul Van Riper, a retired Marine General and true scholar-warrior beats the Blue Forces because he makes decisions more quickly — what Colonel Boyd would call cycling through the OODA Loop [Observation Orientation Decision Action] — at a faster rate. DIME’s ponderous logic is a hinderance to Blue Forces beating the more adroit Red Forces. In an afterward to Blink published in a later edition of the popular book, Gladwell compares Millenium Challenge to the Civil War battle of Chancellorsville, where a Union Army that was superior on paper lost to a Southern Army because of the faster decision cycles of Robert E. Lee. In Ramadi, by 2007, what has occurred, ironically, is that the Marines have taken charge of the US Government DIME [Diplomacy, Intelligence, Military, Economics] responsibilities because a fast, unexpected Black Swan Tipping Point occurred at the end of 2006 when the Anbar Awakening was fully manifested. But, this state of affairs was the exception, not the rule.

Larson expresses his opinion on the subject as follows, “[Mujica] and I have a unique perspective because we saw the bad times so we’re willing to let go and do this diplomacy type actions, but the military should not be the nation builders, and even if they aren’t it shouldn’t be the Marines…” Larson’s novel, while fictionalized, portrays the real world tensions going on at the time. The funds for reconstruction would not flow through the Marines indefinitely. At that time the funds were going to stop being channeled through Marine units. Local JSS commanders, like Mujica, argued for the continued use of the funds, however, because it gave them wasta, which is Arabic for social capital. In Larson’s novel, Mujica argues to the PRT Representative that the funds should continue to go through him, otherwise he will personally become dispensible — a more likely target of Al Qaeda assassination attempts. Mujica makes his closing argument for continued authority over the funds as follows, “the Iraqis need to know it’s the people living in town doing it or we gain no leverage and then we’re put at risk. The two have to be tied together to maximize their effects.” The thinking is precisely the same as combined arms — the focus is on effects, but the recipient of the effects is not the enemy, but the people. In his role as A-Team Commander, while the funds were flowing through his hands in this exceptional, post-Anbar Awakening environment, Lieutenant Mujica-Parodi was using the various elements of US National Power directed through the 5 LOOS in a combined arms manner. But, instead of machine guns and mortars, his weapons were instead sewer project funds and school building funds.

In July or August, 2007, JSS Thaylet celebrated the victory of the Iraqi soccer team in the Asian Cup. Larson describes the scene in his novel in the following extended excerpt:

On the roof the Marines shot off red, white and green pyro at all of their firm bases across the city. The effect looked like fireworks in the Ar Ramadi sky. [Mujica] explained [that] they had made an agreement with the police chiefs if they shot the pyro the Iraqis would not shoot celebratory fire. The deal went bust and hundreds of shots rang out across town. A PFC on post explained to the diplomat they weren’t shooting at the Marines just in the air. On all of the loud speakers through out town on both the Mosques and the Marine bases the Iraqi national anthem was projected.

For thirty minutes [Mujica] watched from the roof as thousands of Iraqis flooded the streets of Ar Ramadi and celebrated their country’s victory. Men, women, and children of all ages waved Iraqi flags over their heads as the masses jumped up and down.

After the excitement, they moved back to the Thaylet Hooka Room. In the room sat four large platters with huge pyramids of rice. On top of each pile of rice was a baked lamb, largely still in tack with just the head and the hooves removed.

After the Iraqi feast they moved out to a sandlot behind Thaylet police station where forty Iraqi youths played each other in a game of soccer. One team wore bright blue soccer jerseys that said Thaylet in Arabic with the Iraqi flags on the back. [Mujica]’s parents had bought four hundred soccer jerseys and sent them to their son.

The above extended excerpt from Larson’s novel illustrates several of the leading ideas that he repeatedly emphasizes in his interviews. The victory of the Iraqi soccer team in the Asian Cup is an example of what Larson calls Information Operations, often referred to as IO in the military. The fact that the Iraqis won the Asian Cup and celebrated it for its own sake was a “huge IO win” for the Americans. The reason that this event was a huge win for the Americans is that the Iraqis were celebrating a event that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or the insurgency. For a moment, at least, they could celebrate — through celebratory gunfire, feasting, and dance — an event that was associated with their national identity.

I write this section of the book during a week in mid-2009 when a new American President will travel to Cairo to deliver a speech directed in part at the Islamic world. This is also a week when the index for the longer term US Treasury Bonds are trading at a level down 25% from where they started the year, possibly because the country is using debt to a degree never before seen. Finally, I write this at a moment just two months after the announcement that the United States would increase its commitment to Afghanistan, and less than a month after the Secretary of Defense changed the top commander in Afghanistan. Our media is primarily driven by sound bites that can be easily digested by the largest part of the American public. Yet, it is the media which can be one of the largest force multipliers through what the military calls, “Information Operations.” During the 2009 Memorial Day weekend, the writer Rick Atkinson observed that in World War II, the entire resources of American society were behind the infantry battalions that the country put into the field against our opponents. Today, if we as a society are to put our total resources behind the American service members who take the field in Afghanistan, it should also include aspects such as “Information Operations.” Of course, the independence of our media is one of the inalienable features of our country, embedded and assured by our founding documents. Yet, the amount, and focus of press coverage, can itself, at crucial junctures in a counterinsurgency, play an important role. This is one of the subtle lessons of the Asian Cup victory by the Iraqis in the Summer 2007, yet in the United States, the domestic coverage was muted by the political issues surrounding the Iraq War. If the American public takes the view that informed interest in certain topics important to the people where our Marines are fighting a future counterinsurgency is not just patriotic, but a form of enlightened self-interest, then there may be more support for these Information Operations by the mainstream American media. Perhaps in an age where a US President makes a major address from Cairo, this type of sea change in the media’s support of the US Military is possible.

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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.