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Preface07 Dec


We set out to create a book with certain similarities and contrasts to two books — Stephen Ambrose, Band of Brothers; and David Morris, Storm on the Horizon.

Like Band of Brothers, we planned to follow one rifle company through multiple operations over a multi year period. Band of Brothers followed one rifle company from the 101st Airborne from training in July 1942 through the Normandy landings and multiple operations to the end of World War II in July 1945. Our book would follow one rifle company from the 1st Marine Division from training in the Fall of 2002 through the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 through multiple operations in 2007. But, Band of Brothers portrayed mainly one type of warfare — 2nd Generation, State v. State warfare, for which the initial training which the paratroopers received in 1942 was appropriate. By contrast, our book would portray four, 7-month deployments over which the type of of warfare itself changed — from 3d Generation, State v. State, Manuever warfare, for which the initial training which the Marines received in 2002 was appropriate; to 4th Generation, State v. Non-State, Idea-based warfare, for which the training which the Marines received between deployments adapted and became progressively more appropriate. Band of Brothers portrayed Easy Company as an organic, adaptive weapon system driven by the personalities of its strongest leaders, like Carwood Lipton, Dick Winters, and Ronald Speir. In the same way, Lima Company is an organic, adaptive weapon system driven by the personalities of its strongest leaders, like Peter Milinkovic, Kurt Bellmont, Jose Mejia, Dominique Neal, Brad Watson, and Rory Quinn.

Like Storm on the Horizon, we planned to detail certain tactical engagements and to try to draw broader, strategic and doctrinal lessons from those episodes. Storm on the Horizon details the battles which a Marine RECON platoon, a LIGHT ARMORED RECON company, and AIR NAVAL GUNFIRE LIAISON COMPANY (ANGLICO) detachments fought on the Saudi-Kuwait border just before Desert Storm. The book makes the case that these battles illustrated the effectiveness of new battlefield technologies which had never been as fully tested in combat like cluster bombs, air to ground precision missiles, and precision guided bombs, all coordinated by small teams of boots-on-the-ground, eyes-on RECON and ANGLICO Marines. Our book would detail battles fought by the same Marine Rifle Company, Lima 3/7, both in a 3d Generation War in March/ April 2003; and then in a 4th Generation War from May 2003 to 2007 and for the foreseeable future. Our book would make the case that the battles Lima fought from 2003 to 2007 illustrated the importance of new doctrines of 3d Generation and 4th Generation Warfare which had only been introduced into the Marine lexicon in October 1989.

We set out with certain biases that are contrary to the prevailing trends in the media. First, we were looking for evidence that the Marines used force in accordance with the rules of engagement (ROE), and that the ROE that the chain of command handed down was appropriate for the situation. Much media coverage has focused on the Haditha and other incidents where Marines may have violated the ROE. However, as former Marines, our experience is that most Marines are extremely disciplined and follow the ROE. Moreover, Marine leaders are not only informed but truly scholar-warriors who study their craft. Generally, we were looking for indications that the Marine chain of command reflected long years of professional training, education, and sound judgment.

Second, we were looking for evidence that the Marine Corps, writ large, went into Iraq in 2003 with the right training and doctrine — both for “Big Wars” and for “Small Wars.” Generally, we left the Marine Corps in the mid 1990s with a positive impression of the Corps’ approach towards training and education. Not only did the Lima Company of the mid-1990s conduct month-long combined arms training which would prepare the company for operations like “The March Up” in March 2003, but the Marine Corps also issued and discussed a little red book, The Small Wars Manual, which contained the essential elements of doctrine for Small Wars. It did not take years for Marine Infantry to begin using the Small Wars Manual after the Fall of Bagdahd. Rather, Marines started applying the institutional lessons learned in Small Wars operations almost right away.

Finally, we were looking for the best Marines — the Marines who stayed with Lima Company and 3/7 from beginning to end. Kurt Bellmont and Jose Mejia served with Lima Company from its training for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002 through four deployments, up to and including its last deployment in Ramadi in 2007. Gunner Carpenter served with 3/7 for two deployments in Lima Company in 2002 – 2004, then with Weapons Company, 3/7 in 2005-2006, and with the 3/7 Battalion staff as the Battalion “Gunner” or Weapons Expert in 2007. There are hundreds of other Marines we will encounter as we tell the story of this Rifle Company. But, these humble men, who shun attention, endured far beyond what even most average Marines endured during four 7-month tours in Kuwait and Iraq.

The title for the book — “From Desert Mech to Ramadi SWAT” — was coined by Capt Bradley Watson, who served as a platoon commander during its deployments in Husaybah in 2004 and company executive officer with Lima Company in Ramadi during 2005-06. An earlier generation of Marines was lead by Marines like Lewis Puller and Merritt Edson who had served from Nicaraguan jungles to Tarawa jungles — from Small Wars to Big Wars in the space of 15 years. This remarkable generation of Marines served in operational environments from Big Wars to Small Wars — from Desert Mech to Ramadi SWAT — in the space of less than 4 years. Dozens of Marines served with Lima Company for 3 tours, and hundreds served with the company for 2 tours. Their service was characterized not just by competence in one type of operation, but rather in flexibility across the spectrum of conflict. As Staff Sergeant Peter Milinkovic put it in describing a night infiltration where an entire platoon infiltrated and surprised an insurgent mortar team in Summer 2004, “Everyone thinks Marine Infantry is big and clunky, but Marine infantry is really a jack of all trades.”

The subtitle of our book — “The Transformation of Marine Rifle Company Lima 3/7 from 3d to 4th Generation Warfare” — is intended to challenge the normal use of the term, transformation, in the defense community. The normal use of “transformation” over the last 20 years has been in association with some advance in technology which is transformational. Our focus, instead, is on the inherent flexibility of well-trained infantry units. Also, ”3d and 4th Generation Warfare” are not accepted Department of Defense terminology. Manuever Warfare is the accepted doctrine of the Marine Corps. Some marginalized theorists classify manuever warfare under 3d Generation Warfare, and they outline a 4th Generation. In their Small Wars experience in Iraq, Lima Company — along with dozens of other Marine Rifle Companies — ran straight into the 4th Generation of warfare envisioned by theorists. Our goal in writing this book is also to contribute to the literature on this evolving and important topic in military affairs.

[Word count: 1160]

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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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Chapter 20 – Realizing Success and Going Native31 May

It was a bad time to be a foreigner. Mexico was in the throes of revolution, and the masses were out to get Diaz and his band of alien cronies.
– Barbara Mujica, Frida

“3d Generation Warfare is like algebra where you have one unknown and you are looking to solve that [unknown]. 4th Generation Warfare is like differential equations, where you have multiple inputs and multiple outputs and you have to analyze all of these in order to figure out what the solution is going to be.” – Luke Larson

Originally, this book was designed to be about the 1st Marine Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But, shortly after starting the research in 2004, I was struck by the story of Lima 3/7 in Husaybah because the XO, 1st Lieutenant Neal, took over command of the unit due to the death of Captain Gannon. I had been the XO of Lima 3/7 in the early 1990s. Later, I learned that Dominique Neal went to a rival San Francisco Catholic high school. Neal, among many other Marines “stepped up” to a higher level of responsibility due to the demands of combat during the long counterinsurgency in Iraq. Carpenter taking over command of a platoon; Link serving as a Platoon Sergeant — these were other examples of Lima Marines “stepping up” to responsibilities above their rank. In this 4th deployment in Ramadi, both Bellmont and Mejia would also step up to responsibilities usually exercised by members of a 1200 Marine Battalion staff. Sergeant Humphrey was serving as a Lieutenant.

As I went back through the interviews we had done, one in particular illustrated particularly well just how much the entire Rifle Company, in effect, “stepped up” to act as a hybrid Battalion. This interview (Larson 12) with Lieutenant Luke Larson, who was also the XO of Lima Company at the time, fully expressed the main theme of this book — the transformation from 3d to 4th Generation Warfare. One of the memorable things about serving as a junior officer in the Marine Corps is the high level of authority that one gets. Luke Larson illustrated much of this in this interview, in which he describes the internal dynamics of the Company which allowed the unit to “step up” to act as the core of a hybrid Battalion, composed of Lima Company together with Iraqi Army companies, and stations of Iraqi police.

One of the reasons that I focused on the shift from 3d to 4th Generation Warfare in writing this book is that I felt that I had learned some very valuable things about decision-making during my officer training and service from the age of 19 to 25. 3d Generation Warfare — or Manuever Warfare — had just been adopted by the Marine Corps in the late 1980s, when I was going through Officer Candidate School. Manuever Warfare was used by the United States generally (AirLand Battle), and by the Marine Corps in particular (1 MEF invading Kuwait) during the First Gulf War. Although Marines are not often given credit for a scholarly approach to warfare, this shift in doctrine was an important intellectual backdrop for my own experience in the Marines in the early 1990s. But, at the same time, authors like G.I. Wilson and William Lind were proposing a new, 4th Generation of Warfare in a series of Marine Corps Gazette articles. Now, in 2005 to 2007, I could see in the reports coming back from Iraq, that my own former Rifle Company, Lima 3/7, had in fact participated in this shift from 3d to 4th Generation Warfare. It wasn’t a shift that was documented by long scholarly articles in military journals, but rather by 25 year old Lieutenants and 30 year old Captains, who took all of the available literature, and applied what worked to the specific situation in Ramadi. Here too, is an important characteristic of the Marine Corps culture of success in combat. Just as author Malcolm Gladwell is at first surprised by the large amount of books in General Van Riper’s attic, the general public may be surprised to learn that many Marine leaders like Marcus Mainz are voracious readers who conducted an exhaustive survey of the literature of counterinsurgency to augment what they were given by the military. Part of the reason that the Marine Corps has a culture of success in combat is that there is a scholarly bent to Marine leaders, and an institutional willingness to let those junior leaders exercise appropriate initiative. In the case of Lima 3/7 in Ramadi 2, this was facilitated by the command relationship between Lieutenant Colonel Turner and Captain Mainz (and aided by Major Quinn’s presence on the Battalion Staff); and then in turn by the relationship between Mainz and his Lieutenants, including Humphrey.

Luke Larson begins an extended explanation in his videotaped interview (Larson 12) of how Lima Company stepped up to act as a combined actions battalion with a discussion of the planning process. “When we are looking at the situation, normally Marines are taught to conduct a METT-T [Mission Enemy Terrain Troops Available] Analysis. The problem is that METT-T is not broad enough to cover all the stuff that you need to conduct the 5 LOOS [Logical Lines of Operations from the new Petraus Counterinsurgency Publication]. So, one of the gaps that we saw is that we need a much broader mission analysis to figure out all of the information that we are going to need to conduct these counterinsurgency operations. At the Marine Corps higher level [meaning higher ranking officers], they have a doctrine, MCPP, which is the Marine Corps Planning Process, where they go into greater depth on mission analysis. Not all Company Commanders go to EWS [Expeditionary Warfare School], and no Lieutenants go to EWS, so at a company level, we were at a deficit of how we figure out this information. In an attempt to best conduct operations, we took a hard look at Mission Analysis. The way that we studied what we needed to do was to use a modified Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. [The Maslow’s Pyramid] stands for the conceptual needs of the populace, which is slightly different from Maslow’s Pyramid, but it is very close.”

“The most important thing is basic needs. In Iraq, most people were able to provide their own basic needs. They were able to get water, food and stuff like that. The enemy used that as a tool to get power but after the Iraqis stood up and kicked out Al Qaeda, the people were able to get their own basic needs.”

“Security is the most important thing. If we don’t have security, we can’t move up the pyramid. In 2005, since we didn’t have security, we could not move out into the city. In working with the IPs [Iraqi Police], first you need security, then you can move up the pyramid.”

“In looking at our mission analysis, traditionally [in a 3d Generation Warfare, Manuever Warfare mindset] Marines would have surfaces and gaps,” says Larson. In Manuever Warfare, the goal is to quickly reach a decisive outcome by attacking one of your opponents gaps in order to reach a center of gravity. “Traditionally, you would look at this in a very tactical way. We have a gap in our defense. Well, we were looking at this overall picture [of 4th Generation Warfare], and saying things like I have a gap in my defense because I don’t have water running. It’s the same manuever warfare concept but we’re now using it for other purposes other than the tactical level.”

If there is one idea in the entire book that we would like to emphasize, it is this idea that Larson is hitting on. The same thinking and training that is developed by the Marine Corps’ doctrine of 3d Generation, Manuever Warfare, applies to 4th Generation, Advanced Counterinsurgency Warfare. “How do those surfaces and gaps apply in 4th Generation Warfare,” I asked.

Larson replied, “It’s the manuever warfare theory based on Boyd’s OODA Loop Decison-Making Process, which is Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. That model is still effective in 4th Generation Warfare. You just use it towards different objectives and different missions. In a 3d Generation Warfare model, you’re setting up bases and defenses, and you are doing mission analysis about people, and terrain, and tanks — almost like a board game. In 4th Generation Warfare, you are still doing the 3d Generation Warfare analysis, but then on top of it, it is like Sim City [the video game]; now you have water pipes, and all this other stuff. When you are doing that mission analysis, the surfaces and the gaps are not two-dimensional anymore, they are four-dimensional. And so a good analogy that sums that up is as follows. 3d Generation Warfare is like algebra where you have one unknown and you are looking to solve that [unknown]. 4th Generation Warfare is like differential equations, where you have multiple inputs and multiple outputs and you have to analyze all of these in order to figure out what the solution is going to be.”

It is therefore in a broader context that the Marines used the 3d Generation Warfare ideas of surfaces and gaps. Larson continues, “That’s where we define surfaces and gaps. You could have your security tight, and that’s a surface [from the standpoint of 4th Generation Warfare]. In that situation, the way that Al Qaeda is going to find a gap is not through security, but through essential services. So they might blow up, or take away something else on the ladder, which would be something like water or electricity or commerce or something like that. They are looking to find a way back into the city. You are basically in a struggle for the people. Who ever has the people wins. In 4th Generation Warfare, you need to focus on the people. The people are the center of gravity, not the enemy. What you are taught in Officer Candidate School and and all the way through SOI [School of Infantry] is focus on the enemy, and you will win. Turn the map around, figure out what the enemy is going to do, and you will win. In 4th Generation Warfare, you’re still doing that. In 4th Generation Warfare, your objective is still to beat the enemy, but it is not to kill the enemy. Some people have a hard time making that jump. You don’t need to kill the enemy to win, you just need to have him not obtain his objective while you obtain yours. To win in a counterinsurgency, you need to get the will of the people. The way you get the will of the people is through the 5 LOOS [Logical Lines of Operation] of Essential Services, Economic Development, Governance, and the way you do that is by mission analysis of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”

“During [our last deployment to Ramadi], the new Petraus counterinsurgency publication 3-24 came out. But it is a book that hasn’t been [fully digested. We were supplementing] it with these texts to determine how do we employ this in an actual situation. We were not only using the counterinsurgency publication, we were printing out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we were printing out propaganda publications that the Nazis used. On thing that is not in this diagram [Maslow’s Modified Hiearchy] is information operations, which is touched on in the book, later… when the Iraqis play Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup [for Soccer]. It was a huge win for the United States that the Iraqis won because it showed that the Iraqis were excited about this sports team. This was in July or August of 2007.”

Next, I asked Larson to explain the role of Sergeant Bellmont and Sergeant Mejia during the Ramadi 2 deployment. As background for his answer, Larson starts, “In the 3d Generation Warfare model that we trained to, you have all of your traditional tasks [for a Rifle Company]. Now, in a 4th Generation Warfare model, these traditional [tasks] do not go away, you just get added more tasks. So, you have 10 tasks you have to focus on instead of the 5 you have in traditional warfare, and you don’t get more people to conduct them. So a lot of the stuff that we are doing we are training to do, we haven’t been trained to do. So, we are doing economic development. We decided that the people who are best to do things like that, like research economic development is one of the Lieutenants who have an economic degree from Georgetown and Cornell. We’d be stupid not to put them on economic development. We have guys that have business degrees, and stuff like that. So we are trying to maximize our strengths with our officer’s degrees. So we put them on a lot of this academic type of research. Guys are doing what we would call reach-back program. For example, my Grandfather is a civil engineer. I am calling him and asking, ‘How do you do the slope on a sewer?’ He is giving me tips, and we are spending US Tax Dollars based on that conversation.”

“With all these new responsibilities that we have, the Marines still need to be focused. They still need to be doing their continuing actions with general operations. We really had a gap in leadership because we pulled all the Lieutenants to be Augmentation Team leaders. So, who is running the Marines? The way we filled that gap, is we created a mini-Gunner position. We reorganized our Company Staff to look like a mini Battalion staff. One of the billets we called a ‘Force Protection Officer’ was Sergeant Mejia. Sergeant Mejia was the Force Protection Officer. To win in a counter insurgency, you still want to focus on the enemy, and beat him, but you are not focused on his kinetic actions. If you only focus on the enemy’s kinetic actions, he will beat you because he is fighting on all 5 planes. To match that, we are now fighting on all 5 planes. But, now 1/5th of our energy is focused on the enemy, whereas before, all of it was. So, Sergeant Mejia’s sole focus was to go around and to keep the Marines sharp. He was doing all the tactical evaluations for fields of fire and weapons employment, and analyzing situations to keep the Marines from being in these escalation of force situations like we were in 2005. Sergeant Mejia was invaluable in the knowledge he had. [He could say,] ‘I’ve seen this before in Baghdad, Karbala, Husaybah, Ramadi, and now Ramadi again.”

In Blink, Gladwell devotes a chapter to “7 Seconds in the Bronx” to make the point that good policing essentially boils down to procedures for de-escalation which minimize or eliminate the need to use deadly force. Lima 3/7 were, in effect, the super-cops of Ramadi — a unit with superior weapons, training, and organization that would multiply their effect through leverage through the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. Mejia filled the essential role of the top Marine tasked with systematically de-escalating the need for the use of force through proper cover, weapons siting, and other weapons employment procedures at the Joint Security Stations throughout central Ramadi.

Larson continues, “Sergeant Mejia filled the role of fixed site security officer and force protection officer. He was essentially a mini-gunner going around and checking how our force protection was set up at our various sites.” A Gunner is a Marine Weapons Specialist who normally fills a billet at the Infantry Battalion, Infantry Regiment, and Division level. Gunners hold the rank of Warrant Officer of various grades. Carpenter had gone on to become a Marine Gunner and held that billet for Battalion 3/7. “This is now more complex,” continues Larson, “because we have the Iraqis living with us so the gates have people coming in and out. Before, in 2005, no civilians were allowed on our bases, unless they were detainees who were blindfolded. We had to meet with these people. We had to do Sheik engagements. In 2007, our bases are town halls. They are functioning police stations. Because the police were running them. So Sergeant Mejia had to engineer force protection where people can be allowed in and out, where people are walking through metal detectors and stuff like this — like Airport metal detectors, back scatter vans that are x-raying people. The security at some of these bases is similar to walking through an airport screening. This is not what Marines are taught at SOI [School of Infantry], so he is learning this with an x-ray machine manual. Then he is taking his 4 deployments worth of experience, and laying down how am I going to emplace barriers to best keep the Marines out of escalation of force situations. He is also employing new weapons systems, like the Mark-32 40 millimeter Six-Shot Revolver Grenade Launcher. He came up with a plan to put cheese puffs, which are training practice rounds [into the Mark-32]. So, if you shoot a training practice round at a vehicle, it is just going to put orange dust on the vehicle. So, the grenade launcher would be loaded with 4 of the training practice rounds, and the last two rounds would be high explosive rounds. He is coming up with all of these techniques to keep the Marines out of these escalation of force procedures.”

Regarding non-lethal capabilities, Larson recalls, “We lacked enough non-lethal weapons. There is a direct link between non-lethal weapons and counterinsurgency. On the high end of the spectrum [of violence], you are trained to kill, and you’re going to kill people. On he low end of the spectrum — which is where we are operating — you are faced with situations where if you take an action, you need to have an alternative between kill or be killed, and you need some grey area. We weren’t given the non-lethal tools that we needed. Sergeant Mejia was making this stuff up as he went.”

“On a Battalion-level,” continues Larson, “Gunner Carpenter filled that role for the Battalion. He focused on the enemy for the battalion. More than the Company Commanders did, Gunner Carpenter really was focused on the enemy. Carpenter was kind of Sergeant Mejia’s Chain of Command. Those two men together have more combat experience than anyone in the Iraq war, because between the two of them, they have eight deployments to Iraq.”

“Sergeant Bellmont filled the role of Intelligence OIC [Officer in Charge]. In a Rifle Company task organization, there is not an intelligence cell. You take all of the information and pass it up [the chain of command]. This is a very ‘fighting the Russians in a Cold War’ [3d Generation Warfare] model of intelligence. In this new model, you need an intelligence cell [at the Company level], and they have to do more than focus on the enemy. They need to focus on atmospherics, and all the stuff with economics and essential services. Your intel cell is really your information management cell. So, they are gathering maps of the sewer systems, [and similar data]. It would almost be like your city hall representative for administration. They have all kinds of information that they need to track, like how much does a fruit cost.” This function would be similar to the US Government function of compiling a consumer price index (CPI) used to measure inflation data used to calculate inflation indexed US Government Bonds. Larson agrees with the analogy to Bellmont taking information comparable to the US Goverment CPI. “They are doing that at the Company level with a high school education, which is phenomenal, and they are doing an outstanding job.” Bellmont, then, was filling the role of a Company Level S-2 [Intelligence staff role], collecting economic, among other indicators. “Currently, the Marine Corps is developing the Headquarters Platoon in a Rifle Company to include what they call a CLIC and a CLOC which is a Company Level Operations Center and a Company Level Intelligence Center. None of this had come about when we were on our second deployment to Ramadi. They are developing this from after action reports from units like 1/6, 3/7, 2/5 and 2/7.”

Next, I asked Larson in his video taped interview (Larson 13) to describe in detail each Augmentation Team (A-Team) deployed in each Joint Security Station (JSS). Larson, who was the Company Executive Officer (XO), or second in command, during this deployment, describes each station in detail. On a weekly basis, he toured each station with Sergeant Mejia. Larson would focus on Civil Military Operations (CMO), and Mejia would focus on site security on these tours, during which they were battle buddies. During each description, Larson is also scrolling into a small scale view of each site on Google earth in the video taped interview (Larson 13).

IP [Iraqi Police] Station Warar.

“The person running this station was Lieutenant Chase Reeves, with a 10-Man Team. He was in Lima Company the previous year before. The police station was run by a police chief named Waqadum Achmed. The person who was in charge of Warar before Achmed was an IP named Waqadum Salam and Al Qaeda assassinated him.”

JSS Sabatash

“At JSS Sabatash, we had Corporal James as an Augmentation Team Leader. This is where Lima Company was located with myself, Captain Mainz, Sergeant Bellmont, Sergeant Mejia. We all lived in JSS Sabatash. Myself and Sergeant Mejia would go on road trips every week. So on Monday, we would be at Warar, on Tuesday we would be at Azzizziyah, on Wednesday, we would be at Jumayah, on Thursday we would be at Thaylet and Katanah, and then on Friday we would be at Sharikah. So me and Sergeant Mejia would go station to station every day. While I was checking on Civil Military Affairs, he was checking up on force protection. We were kind of battle buddies.”

“At Sabatash, this is a four story building. On the first deck [story], we had Iraqi police. The Iraqi Police had a station set up in the South Wing. In the North Wing was just Marines. On the second deck, was all Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army. On the third deck was all Marines. So, we lived in this station with a hundred Iraqi police and over a hundred Iraqi army. And the Iraqi Army is largely Shia, and the Iraqi Police are largely Sunni, and we lived there in harmony; we were playing games together and eating meals together. Inside Sabatash, we created a room called the Hookah Room. In Iraqi/ Arabic culture, the sheiks have meeting rooms called Modifs, where they basically have town hall meetings. Well, we created the Hookah Room so we could have Iraqis come in and have an Arab room [to meet in]. A Marine, Staff Sergeant Pringle, it was his idea. He said, ‘Hey, I think you should have an Arabic room so you can have meetings.’ So we asked the Iraqis to outfit it, which they did. It had purple cloth wall paper, with darker purple hearts, with plush yellow couches with pink pillows. [It looked like a room from] Austin Powers. The Iraqis loved it. They thought, ‘This is the nicest room in Ramadi.’ That’s where we would have several meetings with district council men from the area to conduct town hall meetings.”

“Just North of [JSS] Sabatash, in the same compound, was a little building which we called a ‘Civil Military Operations Center.’ [CMOC] It was really a claims center where we would have Iraqis come in and [make claims like], ‘Hey the U.S. shot my building,’ and we would pay them money. So, that was another strategy we used to win over the people.”

IP Station Jumayah

“Right next to Sabatash was IP Station Jumayah. This is where Sergeant Humphrey’s Augmentation Team was. During the deployment, Sergeant Humphrey wore Lieutenant Rank, and we called him Lieutenant. For all intents and purposes, he was a Lieutenant for the entire deployment.”

IP Station Azzizziyah

“At IP Station Azzizziyah, was Lieutenant Sayce Falk. This IP Station is very critical because this station, inside the Race track [a circular road in the city center of Ramadi], especially this area here, known as The Souk, is the largest market in Anbar Province. This is very critical to the overall economy of Al Anbar province.”

“The Souk would be like a third world market place,” continues Larson scrolling into close detail of the dense urban area in his video taped interview (Larson 13), “where if you walk down these streets, these are all businesses that are selling all kinds of stuff, from fruit to TVs, to motorcycles. It is a very economically important area in here. This was the insurgent stronghold in 2005. The Marines would not patrol into the Souk [in 2005] without taking heavy contact. So, this police station was critical.”

“Lieutenant Falk basically took the worst area of Ramadi because the Gov[ernment] Center [directly across the main road from the Souk. All of the buildings in the Souk were leveled because the Marines would get into huge fire fights with the Souk area [in 2005-06]. Lieutenant Falk moved into this firing range, and just patrolled the streets, and got to be friends with all of these people. He took one of the worst areas of the city and made it pretty good.”

OP Katanah

“At OP Katanah was Lieutenant Breivogle, and his police chief was Colonel Bakeet.”

IP Station Thaylet

“Up at IP Station Thaylet, we had Lieutenant Mujica. When the Iraqis win a soccer game, they have a celebration. That event occurs at IP Station Thaylet.”

JSS Sharikah

“JSS Sharikah was run by Staff Sergeant Carlyle.”

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...,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.

Mujica interviews

...,1st Draft

Chapter 15 – Elections, 15 October 200527 May

“This was a unique situation because the strategic goals and the tactical goals aligned. If we can defend this polling center, it will be a tactical win for us to keep this thing open. The enemy was trying to shut it down to prove that they had control to the populace. This was a very big victory for the Marines’ morale…” – Luke Larson

Two weeks after the IED attack which killed Bedard and injured Hendricks, an election was scheduled. The sweep was designed to clear the city in preparation for the election, which was a referendum to ratify the Iraqi Constitution. Lima Company, along with the rest of 3/7, was tasked with providing security for polling places through out Ramadi. If the sweep failed to achieve the desired tactical and operational objective, as Luke Larson argues, then the elections themselves would, predictably, meet with a similar fate. Ramadi was still in a phase of the counterinsurgency which Rory Quinn would characterize as a time when the majority of the Iraqi population supported the insurgents, although by this stage, there were signs that the Marines’ sheer endurance was outlasting their Al Qaeda opponents.

Within Lima Company, Lieutenants Larson and Larisy were warily welcoming a new Lieutenant-Platoon Commander, Mauro Mujica-Parodi. Quinn moved the new Platoon Commander into his role, by stages, fully aware that the other Lieutenants had been very close to Matt Hendricks, and that First Platoon would take time to become accustomed to their new leader. The major factor frustrating Quinn as a Company Commander, and Larson as a Platoon Commander was the apparent lack of coordination between political authorities and agencies who dictated the placement of polling stations without consulting the Marines as to the tactical situation in the area. At the same time, the so-called “escalation of force incidents” which required Marines to sometimes kill civilians caused ongoing tension within the platoons, particularly among the lower-ranking Marines, who were petrified that they had done something wrong when these incidents were investigated by military lawyers. Reports about the murder investigations of the Marines at Haditha had started to circle back to Lima Company through civilian media channels and the internet. The reports were incomplete, and the Lima Marines did not have all the facts. They only knew that, according to the press reports, Marines were being investigated for murder in a town not too far from Ramadi.

“The United Nations actually dictated where the polling centers were going to be,” recalls Larson. “They did not consult the military units. So, I am assuming someone with a map in a city other than Ramadi, said, we’re going to put a polling center at this school, this school, and this school. They didn’t contact the Battalion Commander to coordinate whether these areas were in secure areas or not secure areas. One of the polling centers that they dictated was going to be down here” — Larson scrolls down on the videotaped interview (Larson 5) — “at the Al Fatwa School. When they issued this message, they also told the Iraqi people, ‘This is where the polling center is going to be, so you can vote.’ This is great for the Iraqi people, but it is also great for the enemy because they know Marines are going to move in and occupy this school.”

In his novel, Senator’s Son, Larson describes the planning for the polling stations as follows, “During the planning the State Department did just enough to mandate several polling site locations. The planning had no coordination with the military, leaving the site considerations completely ignorant of tactical implications. Within the final 72 hours, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps quickly disseminated a semi-produced plan down to the battalion, company and platoon levels. The ground troops worked feverishly to produce some semblance of an execution plan.” Larson’s novel quotes Captain Quinn in the days leading up to the polling: “Gents, we have to jump through our ass to get this thing off the ground.” Quinn’s character in the novel continues his operations brief noting that Marine intelligence believes that the enemy will use 5 stolen ambulances as vehicle IEDs to hit the polling centers. Quinn expressed certainty that the enemy would hit the polling centers. Quinn summed up the importance of the mission as follows, ““If we can keep them open it will be a strategic win for Coalition Forces and Iraq. If they stay open regardless of whether the people vote, the enemy will know we can win.” This is almost exactly the same assessment that Quinn has of this phase of the counterinsurgency in his master-narrative, The War According to Rory Quinn, which we have been following in the chapters summing up Lima Company’s deployments.

“When we were moving down here,” continued Larson in his interview, “I remember thinking, we told the people where we are going to have the polling centers. That’s probably a pretty good indication that we are going to take contact because the enemy is going to know about it.”

“I had a polling center here,” Larson points out a square building on his videotaped interview (Larson 5), “Kilo Company had a polling center here in this white building called ‘The Gym,’ This is route Sunset, down to Baseline [another Ramadi Road], which runs down to Checkpoint 342.”

“We moved in and I had third squad in this building [North West of the school], first squad in this building [North East of the school], and second squad in this building [South of the school], and we basically strong pointed the area around the Al Fatwa School, where we had an Iraqi Army company that was going to run the polling center. We were going to be in this area for over 48 hours. Anytime that you would stay in an area for over 48 hours, we would try to reinforce the buildings with sandbags to avoid taking casualties. We were hardening these buildings, and we were trying to get the Iraqis to harden the school.”

In his novel, Larson portrays his own feelings about the higher levels of the chain of command, both civilian and military as follows: “The higher powers that be could not seem to come up with a unified strategy, not only for the referendum but for the entire war. Despite the lack of plan the military forged ahead. Fractured from the top down the overall plan seemed to change weekly, daily and hourly. The changes were so drastic that each unit in attempt to make some progress, worth risking their lives, came up with their own plan that they thought best fulfilled the wishes of their higher. Implementing national foreign policy literally fell on the platoon level to decide what was important enough to make an effort.” In the specific mission to provide security for the polling station, Larson’s frustration came from the slow pace of the Iraqi Army unit in hardening the polling site. Through his interpreter, an Arabic-speaking Marine named Fallah, Larson encouraged the Iraqi unit to harden the polling site, which was essential to put an Iraqi face on the election. While his three squads of Marines hardened their positions, Larson also instructed them to stay out of sight so that the Iraqis could be the public face of the polling station.

Recounting the 48 hours that Lima 3 strong pointed the poling station, Larson recalls in his videotaped interview (Larson 5): “We had an IED blow up here. We had two RPG shots in here. We took mortars. One of the nights, and IED team tried to lay in an IED at Checkpoint 342 in order to disrupt logistics [convoys] that were going to Kilo Company’s side over here. One of the squads shot the IED team. We basically took 48 hours of sustained contact. To keep this polling center open.”

The following extended excerpt from Larson’s novel, Senator’s Son, gives some important tactical details about the IED attack:

[Larson] stood behind the truck directing the offload with the corpsman assisting him. He was pleased the Iraqis were doing their own work. He pointed to the truck and then…


An IED exploded five feet from their position. The blast from the explosion threw [Larson] against the court yard wall. He could not see anything, dust filled the air. He tried to gather his composure but all he could hear was PINGGGGG…

He had a very loud ringing in his ears.

[Larson] kneeled from being knocked down and felt out the corpsman. He grabbed him and looked him in the face as the dust dispersed slightly.

In slow motion [Larson] yelled, “DOC ARE YOU OKAY!”

The doc looked back at [Larson] yelled the same thing. Was he okay? He did not know. His back was wet with something. He reached back and felt warm liquid running down his spine He did not feel pain. Am I hit, thought [Larson]. He pulled his hand back wet from the warm fluid.

Water. His camelback had popped when he impacted the wall and had drenched the back of his cammie blouse. He wiped the dust off his face and tried to focus.

In that instance [Larson]’s instincts told him something that had sat in the back of his mind for some time.

[Matt Hendricks] hit two IEDs …back to back.

[Walt Larisy] hit two IEDs… back to back.

Every time an IED had exploded… there had been a secondary.

“Get back in the school!” yelled [Larson].

He winced in anticipation of the secondary blast that he knew was about to occur. He and Doc took off running towards the school. Then he stopped. He looked back…


Through the lifting dust cloud he could see several jundies laying in the fetal position screaming as if they had been hit. He stopped, pausing to look at the Iraqis. Behind them the IED blast created a crater five feet deep and just as wide. The blast hit a water pipe which sprayed water out of the crater. The fountain rained down on the stunned jundies.

[Larson] looked back at the school then pivoted and ran towards the Iraqis.

“Get up, ta’al jundie syrah, ta’al jundie syrah, Come soldier hurry! Come soldier hurray!” yelled [Larson].

The Iraqis lay shell shocked not moving.

“Khatar Kumbalah ta’alu we ya yeh, Danger Bomb come with me” pleaded [Larson].

The jundies were paralyzed by the blast. Muddy rain came down on his face. You’ve got to get out of here, thought [Larson], that secondary is going to blow. He kicked a jundie in frustration. You’ve got seconds. God damn get up. His muscles tensed in anticipation of the explosion he was sure was about to go off. Get up, he thought just get up. His adrenaline was raced. They are not going to move.

He grabbed a jundie, drenched from the water, and threw him in a fireman’s carry. As he ran towards the school with the Iraqi soldier on his shoulder the corpsman ran out of the school.

[Larson] dumped the Iraqi next to the entrance of the school. He ran back to the IED blast site, where the secondary had yet to blow. Doc ran past him towards the school carrying a soaked jundie.

The Lieutenant and the Corpsman did the exchange another two times carrying all of the jundies into the courtyard. Inside the courtyard [Fallah], confirmed that none of the jundies were badly injured, just shell shocked.

The enemy intended the IED to blow up on a vehicle. They buried it very deep in the ground in order to force the pressure of the blast directly under a Humvee, as it had done with John’s vehicle. If the IED had been buried a foot shallower it would have killed the Lieutenant, his Corpsman and several jundies.

[Brad Watson] who was located with second squad overlooking the whole incident immediately called EOD and had them re-sweep the area. EOD found the secondary IED un-detonated, three feet from the crater. Sergeant [Brown] and [Watson] had been [Larson]’s guardian angels. As soon as the first blast went off they both immediately sent out fireteam satellite patrols from their overwatch positions. The patrols most likely deterred the enemy’s triggerman.

The above extended excerpt from Larson’s Senator’s Son illustrates several important tactical details about the polling center mission that Lima 3 conducted. First, the Marine platoon is taking the lead in accomplishing the security mission for the polling center. The Iraqi Army unit is relatively disorganized compared to the Marines. At the point where the IED goes off, the Marines have already hardened their positions, and the Marine Platoon Commander himself is leading the Iraqi unit in offloading supplies to fortify the polling center, where the Iraqi Army unit is supposed to be the face on the election.

Second, the enemy’s IED tactics — which had been effective on 8 April 2004 — have been negated to some degree by tactical improvement on the part of the Marines. While Larson and his corpsman are in the open, the Marines have posted an overwatch — known as Guardian Angels — to respond to an attack on the Marines in the open. This is one of General Mattis’ hard and fast standing orders, Guardian angels always. The overwatch responds to the IED by pushing out patrols immediately after the first IED in order to deter the triggerman for the second, follow on IED. Lima Company is adapting based on its organic based of tactical knowledge from the prior deployment to Husaybah, and on the tactical knowledge from the critical first 30 days of the Ramadi 1 deployment.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell outlines 3 major sub-themes, one of which is the Law of the Few. The Marines sometimes refer to themselves as the “few, the proud.” One of the topics under Gladwell’s Law of the Few is the “Rule of 150.” In human groups of 150, rules can be enforced by person to person relationships because of a feature of brain functionality which allows any one human to keep track of the relationships with and between 150 people. In a practical, tactical sense, here is an example of where the continuity of Marine leaders within Lima Company from deployment to deployment starts to make a difference in reacting to the same enemy tactics. In Lima 3 at the polling center on the 15th of October, 2005, there would have been several leaders who had served in the prior, Husaybah deployment, including the platoon sergeant, Sergeant Peter Milinkovic, the squad leader providing “Guardian Angel” overwatch, Sergeant Brown, and the Company Executive Officer, 1st Lieutenant Brad Watson, who had been hit by no less than 2 IEDs during his Husaybah deployment.

From a national security standpoint, a Marine unit often functions like a call option in finance. A call option is a derivative instrument, which means that it controls another instrument, such as a stock index. A call option is the right to buy a certain index at a certain price, on or before a certain date. A call option can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of the underlying index. For example, an investor can buy a call option for $500 that controls 100 shares of an index worth $8000. The typical image of a Marine unit is Iwo Jima or Inchon — an amphibious landing, which is, in effect, a call option on a piece of terrain. In finance, buying a call option by itself is a high risk-high reward trade. The $500 investment could turn into several thousand dollars — or it could go to zero. The landing at Inchon could turn into a war-changing, brilliant stroke that unhinges the enemy’s composure — or it could be a catastrophic failure. This is the normal image of the American public towards Marines — and perhaps towards derivatives.

But, in finance, derivatives can also be used to hedge, that is, to lower risk. In national security, Marines can also be used to lower risk in operations like the polling center joint mission with the Iraqi Army unit. The polling center mission on the 15th of October, 2005 is significant in Lima Company’s history of the Iraq War because it foreshadows a broader trend towards more joint operations with the Iraqi Army, and eventually, with the police. In finance terms, the very same call option can be sold against an index — a position known as a covered call. There are academic studies which show that this lowers the risk (the volatility) of the position, if done systematically and over time. A more enhanced version of this trading technique is known as a collar. The very same call option can be used in the collar. Academic papers show that the collar lowers the risk of the position even further. Similarly, in the mental arsenal given to Marine Officers, there are books like the Small Wars Manual, which show techniques like a combined action platoon, composed of a Marine Squad of 13 Marines, and two squads of native soldiers (the exact numbers vary). The history of the Small Wars in the 1920s and 1930s, as re-told in books like Mars Learning, and the experience of the combined action platoons in Vietnam as retold in West, The Village, as well as Krulak, First to Fight, suggest that the Combined Action Platoon is a technique that can promote stability. Larson’s Lima 3 could be an assault platoon on a beach in an amphibious landing, which would be more like buying a call option — but the same platoon could be a platoon used to augment an Iraqi Company (using the same ratio as a combined action platoon), which starts to be more like a collar position, designed to stabilize the situation.

As I write this book, my main goal is to make the techniques used by Marines more accessible to the majority of my college and graduate school classmates with no military service experience. I have 3 screens open to a draft where I am composing this book, to a copy of Larson’s manuscript for Senator’s Son, and to a video tape of his interview. At the same time, I have 3 screens open to my trading software, to quote software, and to a PDF of my client’s positions from last night’s close. I probably gravitated towards a career as an derivatives trader because of my life experience at the age of 21 to 25 as a Marine Officer. I recognize in the descriptions from Larson and Watson of Lima Company in Husaybah and Ramadi my own training by the Marines Corps in 3d Generation Warfare. The reason I like trading is the need to make decisions under stress — but I seek to lower the risk, and to improve on proven techniques (like the collar, discussed in academic papers). So too, what Lima’s leadership, like Larson, Watson and Link were doing in that mission at the polling center on 15 October, 2005, was improving on the Anbar-specific application of the techniques, tactics and procedures which had been used before in the jungles of Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Vietnam.

In his novel, Larson describes his own thought process after the IED attack: “If I don’t interject my force of will it will not get done.” Although the Iraqi Army unit was reluctant to continue hardening the polling site after the IED attack, Larson took a leadership role in pushing his counter part to finish fortifying the polling place. In his novel chapter re-telling the event, Larson cites a decision by US Ambassador Bremmer as a negative factor in the low quality of the Iraqi Army unit at his position: “Paul Bremmer, the first U.S. Iraqi Ambassador, disbanded the original Iraqi Army after the invasion. When the U.S. tried to rebuild the Iraqi Army the only people they could convince to join were the disenfranchised and uneducated Iraqis. These men were in such dire straits they signed their name to a death warrant by working with the coalition forces.” In frustration, Larson finally personally starts to offload sand bags from a truck to harden the polling site. Larson is joined by his corpsman and translater, Fallah. Finally, one of the youngest Iraqi soldiers — merely a teenager — joins the trio of Marines in offloading the sand bags, a small, inter-personal tipping point, but part of a trend towards joint Marine-Iraqi units that would expand in the coming months and years of Lima’s operations in Ramadi.

Larson’s novel continues to describe the banter between himself and Link, his platoon sergeant, and Sergeant Brown, one of his squad leaders. The more experienced NCOs had been wounded and received purple hearts. They rib Larson about “getting your cherry popped,” and take credit for preventing a second, follow-on IED through their “Guardian Angel” overwatch. A machine gun burst from the school pulls their attention back to the present. A jundie (Iraqi soldier) has fired his PKM machine gun at two men, about 150 meters South of the school, one carrying a RPG, and another carrying a Dragunov sniper rifle. Larson congratulates the jundie, and relays the information to the three Marine squads surrounding the school in their overwatch houses. Larson orders his Marines off of their rest cycles, and to 100% alert.

In his novel, Larson observes, “Most leaders [platoon commanders and squad leaders] stayed awake and maintained their stamina through Red Bull, nicotine, occasional jitters and sheer force of will.” In his best seller, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell notes that the optimal range of heart rate for rational decision-making for police officers in shoot-or-no-shoot situations is between 115 and 145 beats per minute, with “an absolute break down in cognitive processing” above 175 beats per minute. The lack of sleep and use of low-level stimulants like Red Bull and nicotine should be noted as one of many factors — including the heat — that would challenge any human to make consistently good decisions under that level of stress. But, having past the 30 day thresh hold, Larson, Link, Brown and the other Lima 3 leaders would also have their experience to aid them in processing a chaotic situation. Author Larson describes Lieutentant Larson on that October day: “[Larson] plopped down next to third squad’s radio watch looking forward to a minute to gather himself from the morning’s excitement.” At that moment, Larson heard another explosion.

One of the Iraqi soldiers was hit by a RPG. Larson organizes a casualty evacuation for the injured Iraqi with a radio call to Watson. Watson responds tht Lima mobile [one of the other platoons in Lima Company] is enroute. Larson thinks that it will be a easy evacuation, but then mortar rounds start to land around the polling center. The enemy has coordinated his attacks on the polling station: a RPG attack causes a casualty, and the enemy covers the predictable casualty evacuation with mortar fire — which is precisely what happened to Lima 3 on 14 April 2004 in Husaybah. In his novel, Larson recounts the situation: “All of a sudden explosions started raining down from the sky, 50 feet to the north of the school. Three mortar rounds impacted on the road. The jundies, seeing the explosions directly in front of them, shrunk back into the school, disappearing from sight. The enemy was trying to force the Marines and the jundies to close the polling center by the continued attacks.”

Larson coordinates with the Lima Mobile platoon coming to evacuate the Iraqi. He directs the hummers to stop at the location of one of his Lima 3 squads. Small arms fires goes out from the courtyard of the school — the Iraqi army is firing on the insurgents. Then, second squad from Lima 3 returns fire. One of Larson’s squad leaders notes the severity of the Iraqi soldier’s injuries. Time is of the essence or the man may die from his wounds. The Marines and the Iraqi Soldiers argue about how to transport the wounded man to the position where the Lima Mobile hummers are waiting to evacuate him. One of Larson’s squad leaders volunteers to carry the injured Iraqi to the evacuation vehicle. Larson reports on the radio: “‘Gents we have mortar’s coming inbound, they are 82 millimeter mortars, so they are probably about two clicks out,’ said [Larson], ‘I haven’t heard the thumps of the rounds dropping but keep you’re eyes peeled for their forward observer.'”

In Blink, Gladwell notes that physical violence, especially with guns, is a very rare experience, often over much more quickly than is portrayed in the movies. This episode involves not just rifles, but rockets with shaped charge warheads, and mortars, which are fired from a tube. It is in a situation like this where the sights, sounds, and all the sensory inputs from an experience like going through a Company-level attack at Range 400 will come into play. A platoon commander like Larson may have seen the Marines’ 60 millimeter and 81 millimeter mortars impact from a distance of several hundred meters (“danger close” in the language of Marine combat arms). The Marines’ 60 millimeter mortar is roughly the equivalent in range to the Russian 82 millimeter mortar which was likely being used. Larson, Link, Brown, Watson, and the other Lima 3 Marines would have known to look for a “forward observer” — any person with a radio or cell phone, possibly adjusting the mortar rounds onto the target. In his other book, Outliers, Gladwell notes the importance of a culture in cultivating success. One of the rules of thumbs in Outliers is that it takes 10,000 hours to gain mastery of a certain subject. In a tactical situation like the polling place strong point, the net effect of Marine combat training — from Recruit Training, School of Infantry, and then unit training like Range 400 — all come into play as the Lima 3 Marines understand the threat posed by the snipers, RPGs, and mortars — and respond to it appropriately.

One of Larson’s squad leaders carries the injured Iraqi soldier from the school, which is under mortar fire, to the Lima Mobile hummer, where Lieutenant Mujica-Parodi, now in command of 1st Platoon, is waiting. The squad leader is not only under mortar fire but small arms, rifle fire as he carries the wounded Iraqi soldier to the waiting evacuation hummer. Mujica-Parodi helps the Lima 3 squad leader in carrying the wounded Iraqi to the evacuation hummer, all the while under gun fire.

Meanwhile, one of Larson’s Marines from second squad spots the enemy forward observer. Larson’s description emphasizes the discriminate use of force: “During the excitement a Corporal from second squad’s position spotted a man with binoculars and a cell phone on a roof. The Corporal coolly aimed in on the man while the last mortar rounds fell near the front of the school. Aiming through his scope he lined the reticule pattern up on the man’s chest and took two deep breaths. On the second exhale of the last breath he slowly squeezed the trigger dropping the enemy’s forward observer.”

In his videotaped interview (Larson 5), he scrolls out on the Google map, summarizing the net effect of the operation, “We basically took 48 hours of sustained contact to keep this polling center open. We had one civilian vote, and we’re fairly certain that it was an insurgent casing out the joint, so no civilians voted at that point. In Iraq, in the South, the Shia people came out and voted, so we viewed the Referendum as a success. This was a unique situation because the strategic goals and the tactical goals aligned. If we can defend this polling center, it will be a tactical win for us to keep this thing open. The enemy was trying to shut it down to prove that they had control to the populace. This was a very big victory for the Marines’ morale, to go down there. If the enemy is going to attack us, they have to come to a known place, and a known time. So, when we did the mission for the elections, we took some contact, but it was almost like it made sense because we thought the mission was important, and what we do at the tactical level will help out a strategic goal.”


In Outliers, Gladwell argues that success is a function of culture. Success in health in a village is due to the culture of the village, which emphasizes certain behaviors. Success among New York lawyers is due to common cultural traits, some having to do with Jewish heritage, some having to do with the generation into which a person was born, and the career opportunities that the timing granted the individual. History is the religion of the Marine Corps, it has been said. If that is so, then a high priest of the Marines is a long-term historian like Bing West, who served as a Marine Officer in Vietnam, and who published the definitive work on the Combined Action Platoon in Vietnam, The Village, but who has also published perhaps the definitive trilogy about the Marine Corps in The Iraq War, The March Up, No True Glory, and The Strongest Tribe. West’s biography suggests one particular aspect of the culture of the Marine Corps which has made it particularly effective in Small Wars. West was educated at Boston College High, a Jesuit college preparatory. Other Marines, like John Toolan, a graduate of New York’s Fordham University and one of Mattis’ key commanders in 2003 and 2004, were products of a Jesuit education. Mauro Mujica-Parodi, one of Larson’s fellow Platoon Commanders in Lima Company, attended Jesuit Georgetown Preparatory, and Georgetown University, both of the Washington, D.C., area. Dan Wagner, a graduate of Saint Ignatius Preparatory of Chicago (and the author’s Basic School roomate), served as a civil-military affairs team leader in support of Lima 3/7 in Ramadi 1, and credits his Jesuit education with his future military career which includes graduating from the Naval Academy and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Like the Jesuits — sometimes called the Pope’s Marines — the culture of the Marine Corps is expeditionary. The Marine Corps is the most Catholic of the services. The collective good signified by Corps — from the Latin for body — suggests a common ethos with the Catholic idea of Corpus Christi, or collective participation by the membership in the body of Christ. The Jesuits were known as the Pope’s Marines because they became the preferred missionaries of the Catholic Church. Jesuits like Xavier traveled to far-a-way continents like Asia, making inroads into Hindu and Sinic cultures. Webb’s Born Fighting — about Scots Irish culture — acknowledges that the Jesuits were able to make inroads in taming the Irish tiger to the Catholic yoke by learning their language and culture, thus leaving Irish Catholocism with a large dose of the Celtic pagan tradition. Webb — from his fictional characterization of Hodges in Fields of Fire, to his non fictioin account of Scots Irish culture in Born Fighting — has argued that the culture of the Marine Corps is Scots-Irish. One of the defining characteristics of Scots Irish culture is that it is expeditionary, and many of those Irishmen carrying Scots Irish culture around the world are Jesuits. One of the trends that we will start to see in the coming chapters — and which is hinted at in Lima 3’s actions at the polling center on the 15th of October 2005 — is a willingness and ability of the Marines to engage in foreign cultures through learning the language and cultural patterns of their battlefield allies. Larson and his Marines learn enough Arabic to communicate with the Iraqi Army Company on their mission. Even though Larson estimates that only 1 Iraqi voted — and he was likely a terrorist — Larson counts the mission on that date a success. One measure of success is that the discrete action at the polling station in Ramadi is part of a national referendum. Even if Sunnis voted only by exception, in the South, Shias voted in larger numbers. Larson’s Marines have contributed to the larger, strategic mission of American forces on that day. Too, Larson’s Marines are making expeditionary, cultural progress in working closely with an Iraqi counter-part unit. This theme will be the path towards ultimate victory on the level of Marine Rifle Company, Lima 3/7, in Iraq.

For my part, I am the graduate of a Jesuit preparatory, Saint Ignatius Prep of San Francisco, I took classes at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology while in college, and I taught at Bellarmine Prep of San Jose. Nassim Taleb — not a Marine, but a trader-author whose works I reference often — credits the influence of the Jesuits through his parents for his wandering intellect. There is a fine line between an expeditionary mindset, shared perhaps by the Marines and the Jesuits, and a wandering intellect. But, when one finds the same idea in two best selling works of non-fiction and in an unpublished work of fiction, one sits up and takes note. That idea is the tipping point, the name of a book by Malcom Gladwell, and an idea which Taleb defines in Chapter 10 of his book, Fooled by Randomness, as follows, “a small input can lead to a disproportionate response.” This idea also goes by the popular title, “chaos theory.” Interestingly, General Mattis — one of the universally respected Marines in Anbar — chose as his radio call sign, Chaos.

While writing my own book about Lima 3/7 in Anbar, I also kept Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness and Gladwell’s The Tipping Point close at hand because I am a derivatives trader and those are useful references both for trading and for marketing. Then, while drafting this chapter on Larson’s platoon strong pointing the polling station, I came across the following passage in Larson’s book, Senator’s Son, which shows both how much the Marines at the lowest levels were aware of tipping points, and how much they strive to bury overly intellectual reflection beneath practical considerations.

“Do you know what Chaos Theory is?” asked [Larson], sparking up a smoke.

“Yeah, I saw it on Jurassic Park,” said [Link], “A butterfly flaps his wings in the Bahamas and it causes a storm in New York City or some shit.”

The Sergeant thought for a second.

“What are you saying Sir? The Iraqis are going to turn into dinosaurs, ha. Sir if that happens I’d say we’re gonna need some bigger fucking guns.”

The Sergeant laughed out loud. These guys are fucking ridiculous thought [Link], why don’t they just talk about finding the mother fucking enemy or something worthwhile. During the previous conversation, [Watson] explained pieces of the second law of thermodynamics and how entropy related to the amount of resources the U.S. was putting towards the war to achieve their overall strategic goal. Fucking Lieutenants thought the Sergeant, I’ll play along, but only out of sheer boredom.

“Everything tends towards disorder?” replied [Link], humoring his platoon commander.

“Yeah, Yeah everything goes disorder…well not really, I think the general belief is actually the opposite. Everything tends towards order,” answered [Larson].

[Watson] nodded his head.

“I think the biggest thing about the idea that relates to what we’re doing over here is that small changes can have large consequences. Basically very small events can have extreme ramifications.”

[Link] looked at the Lieutenant and shook his head.

“Like us holding this one polling center open could literally be the tipping point in the entire war. I mean its probably not that dramatic obviously, but what we’re doing here at the small unit level can have impacts far above what is normally associated with the shit at let’s say the platoon level and below.”

“I can kind of see your correlation here,” said [Watson], “Like had Arch Duke Ferdinand not been assassinated it could have changed the course of world history. I get what you’re saying about us having a bigger impact but I don’t necessarily see how that relates to chaos theory.”

[Link] could not believe they were having this conversation. He wondered if they actually knew what they were talking about and decided they did not.

“In its most precise rendering chaos can only arise when the possibility of any given state repeating itself is potentially zero, a situation in which the orbital…”

“For fucks sake! I’m not speaking in fucking literal terms,” interupted [Larson], cutting of the physics major.

“I’m just trying to make a damn point. [Watson] I swear, if you say anything about entropy again I’m going to punch you in the throat…”

The two Lieutenants then started to wrestle while sitting down.

“I get it,” said [Link] breaking up the Lieutenants scuffle, “It’s like the strategic Corporal or Sergeant. A Marine on patrol looks at a butterfly flap its wings, he isn’t paying attention and BOOM, he gets killed by an IED. The next day on a patrol his squad leader at the tactical level, revenge murders some innocent Iraqis, cause his buddy got smoked the day before. Then the shit goes sideways.”

“A reporter happens to be standing there and catches the whole thing on video tape. The tape then airs on mother fucking CNN and the excitement goes all the way up the chain. Everyone goes berserk with the story, the locals go nuts because the Marines murdered some innocent dudes and start rioting. Oh by the way, CNN happens to video all this as well.”

The above extended excerpt from Larson’s novel, Senator’s Son, shows how the Marine Corps idea of the Strategic Corporal fits with the idea of a tipping point in the bigger picture. Link is an exceptional Non Commissioned Officer, who was promoted meritoriously several times, and, as a Sergeant, was filling a billet usually held by a higher ranking Marine, a Staff Sergeant. Link would also be chosen to attend college and become an officer. Nonetheless, the passage illustrates that Marine Non-Commissioned Officers — Corporals and Sergeants — were aware of the strategic impact of their actions. In Link’s example, a Marine “revenge murders” an Iraqi, setting off a negative tipping point. Link understood that the tactical actions that he and his fellow Marines were engaging in could have strategic consequences. Yet, in the athletic, aggressive culture of the Marine Corps, indulging in such intellectual reflections for too long would be grounds for a beating to bring the offending party back to the present.

Larson5.mov [to do: pick up interview again at 5:15]
Larson6.mov [to do: whole interview]
Larson7.mov [to do: whole interview]
Chapters in Larson’s book – we hold these truths – 9 votes and a siren

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.


...,1st Draft

Chapter 9 – 14 April 2004, Crackhouse OP22 May

[dtg] 14 April
[grid] South East Husaybah – 11:45 AM

With the benefit of hindsight, one of the future Lima Company commanding officers would label the month of April, 2004, as a tipping point transition between two major phases of the Iraq War. In that month, in Rory Quinn’s estimation, the population shifted its support towards the insurgents and away from the Americans. But, in the moment, as this transition was taking place, it was more difficult for the Lima Marines to fully comprehend what was occurring. April 14 would mark another major step in the escalation of the insurgency against the Lima Marines in several respects. First, on April 14, the insurgents combined command-detonated IEDs with direct, small-arms fire for the first time. The April 8 IED Ambush on Market Street was an IED-only attack. Second, on April 14, the insurgents coordinated their actions in a narrow time frame — what in the military would be called a “Time on Target” mission.

Following the coordinated ambush of Lima 3 on April 8 on Market Street, the enemy continued to prepare Husaybah for a coordinated attack on Camp Husaybah. On April 10 at 3:45 PM, 2nd Lt Awtry was injured by an IED which left him with a shrapnel wound to the left side of his chin. He was treated by Navy Lt Millegan and released to full duty. Later that night, another IED exploded injuring Private David Juarez, who received a shrapnel wound to his right shoulder. He too was treated by a medic and released to full duty.

On the next day, three more Marines were wounded by shrapnel from IED blasts. Lance Corporal Vargas was wounded in his left flank and upper left thigh. He was evacuated to Al Qaim. Lance Corporal Craigen received shrapnel to this left cheek, was treated by a medic, and released to full duty. Lance Corporal Russell Friedman received a contusion to his right bicep, was treated and was released to full duty.

By April 14, Lieutenant Watson had returned to take command of Lima 3 back from Sergeant Soudan. A year later, in an email, Watson wrote, “April 14th I wanted to be “back in the saddle” as quickly as possible. I’d just returned from medevac at Al Asad a couple of days earlier and I was eager to get out with the platoon again. I don’t think anyone wanted to admit it but ‘mass casualty’ became very convincing at this point because we were facing a dedicated enemy and not just ‘a few dead-enders.'” Watson’s description suggests that the major assumptions which had driven the Operational Plan — from the Department of Defense on down (“dead-enders” was one of Secretary Rumsfeld’s phrases) — were fundamentally flawed.

Watson continues, describing the internal dynamics of Lima 3: “My Platoon Sergeant had just been relieved and I was all the platoon had for leadership beside Sgt Soudan who had been meritoriously promoted to Sergeant only a 6 weeks earlier.” Soudan may have expressed contempt for Watson — a feeling which was shared by some of the Staff Non Commissioned Officers in the Company, as we will see — but he also had at least a little contempt for Soudan’s lack of seniority as well. The main purpose of this book is not to develop the internal dynamics of Lima 3 (one of the main topics in Blood Stripes), but the central relationship between Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant in Lima 3 was not as strong as in other platoons.

Watson saw returning to command after his injury on 8 April as a personal challenge. He continues in his email, “I was still in pain from the shrapnel but wanted to prove to myself that I could continue. Every morning Doc Matthews would remove the gauze from my ankle and we would hope that the piece of sock and boot leather that the metal had taken in with it would come out of the wound. Every morning Doc would give me another motrin to swallow and I’d think ‘maybe tomorrow?'”

On the morning of April 14, Gannon assigned Lima 3 the mission of conducting an Observation Post (OP) in order to deny the area in Husaybah to the insurgents. Lima Company was still located in Camp Husaybah, on the edge of the town. Lima 3 and Sierra 4 — a sniper team from the Battalion headquarters company — were on patrol in Southern Husaybah. Lima 3 and Sierra 4 split up in order to establish two separate rooftop OPs overlooking Southern Husaybah.

Watson decided to set up a patrol base in a building which the Marines had named the Crackhouse. This was Checkpoint 69 on the Company’s maps. Corporal Lightfoot, one of Lieutenant Watson’s squad leaders disagreed with the decision to put the patrol base on top of the Crackhouse because it was well known by the enemy. Despite the misgivings of Lightfoot, Watson chose Checkpoint 69, a familiar large three-story pink building along Route Train. Later, Watson emailed me pictures of the building – a former hotel – informally known as the Crackhouse because of its run down condition. He noted, “You can see why it would make a good patrol base with so many stories and good stand off distance.” But, apparently the insurgents had made the same assessment of the building’s attractiveness as an OP.

Meanwhile, Sierra 4 continued north on foot to find a suitable building to establish an additional rooftop post. Lance Corporal Kurt Bellmont’s fireteam from Lima 3 went along to provide additional security. Lt Watson gave Bellmont the mission of escorting the snipers because he had the experience and judgment to operate independently.

Watson ordered to his remaining squad leaders to conduct security patrols in the vicinity. Corporal Milinkovic, 1st Squad Leader, and Corporal Gary DeLawyer, 3d Squad Leader (who had replaced Mejia due to injuries), departed on their missions. The remainder of Lima 3 began the process of clearing the crack house from floor to roof. As the sweep and clear of the Crackhouse entered its final stage, Watson, Corporal Lightfoot, and Lance Corporal Kevin Roshak stepped out onto the flat rooftop of the building and were hit by and IED attack. Lima 3 was setting up in the Crackhouse at 9:33 AM when a pile of wood on one corner of the roof exploded while Lt Watson, Corporal Lightfoot, and Lance Corporal Kevin Roshak, the Platoon Radio Operator, were setting up the Platoon Headquarters. The explosion blew out Lt Watson’s hearing – “but that was the 3d or 4th IED that I’d been next too at that point. I am not sure whether it was that IED that blew out my hearing.” A piece of shrapnel pierced Corporal Lighfoot’s left foot. A piece of shrapnel injured Lance Corporal Roshak’s left shoulder, and a 2×4 piece of wood was propelled into the left side of his neck.

The IED was most likely remote detonated by an enemy insurgent located on a nearby rooftop using a cell phone to trigger the explosive device. The crack house had been used in the past as a patrol base and the enemy most likely emplaced the IED on the roof under the assumption that a patrol would return to reuse the building – further increasing the likelihood that an insurgent was in a position close enough to observe the patrol step onto the roof.

Lima 3 Marines ran to assist and noticed that Lance Corporal Roshak had been impaled in his neck just under his left ear by wood splinters from the IED. Uncertain if his skull had been penetrated or if his inner ear was damaged, Watson — whose eardrum had been ruptured by the explosion — radioed Lima Company headquarters at Camp Husaybah for an evacuation of Roshak and Lightfoot.

The enemy had set up a coordinated ambush throughout much of the city. As soon as the explosion occurred on the top of the Crackhouse roof, a firefight with insurgents broke out between Lima 3 and insurgents north of the Crackhouse. Lima 3 expended at least 700 rounds of ammunition in the exchange. Corporal Milinkovic’s First Squad engaged a vehicle which they believed to be holding an IED as it sped towards their position in a house near the Crackhouse.

Link — who was leading his squad, which was providing security around the Crackhouse when the IED went off on the roof — recalls that the enemy was located between Lima 3 and Sierra 4. The enemy was taking advantage of an ambush opportunity. The insurgents were located in the buildings around the Crackhouse, they spotted the Marines and initiated the complex ambush, using both IEDs and small arms fire. Link recalls, “They had to be located between the Crackhouse and where [Bellmont’s] house was. The contact where we lit up [fired on] the vehicles, and the possible car bomb, and then we engaged a couple of targets on the roof, was maybe just a ambush opportunity.”

The IED exploding on the top of the Crackhouse was probably the trigger event for the ambush. Link recalls, “An IED had blown closer to the firm base, and that’s when we heard the car engine. He came flying out. Right when the car exposed itself, we started taking fire from the roof tops. So, maybe it was an ambush opportunity, or the people on the rooftops knew we were there and they did not want us to engage the car. The guys on the roofs just pretty much took off [when Link’s squad returned fire].”

Milinkovic squad was tasked with clearing the houses that the contact came from. He had fire teams moving through the different houses from which Lima 3 took contact. Link’s squad and 3d squad, commanded by DeLawyer, were clearing the houses. Link remembers, “My squad was tasked with clearing every house, block to block. So, I had [4 Marine] Fire Teams, ping-ponging across the street, just bounding back and forth. We had another squad set a screen for anyone that would come out running, and to check the roof tops. We tried manuevering out there to get after them, and we searched every single house in two city blocks, and had a CAAT Team [armored Hummers with heavy machine guns] cordon it off and everything, but we didn’t find anything. We found a couple of AK’s, but they use that for self defense, they are allowed to have an AK.”

Lance Corporal Bellmont’s fire team was operating independently a few hundred meters to the east of the Crackhouse. Lieutenant Watson trusted Bellmont to operate independently because of his judgment and leadership skills. Bellmont had a team of snipers from the Battalion STA (Surveillance, Targeting and Acquisition) Platoon attached to his fire team. Bellmont’s Team had been moving into and out of various houses in order to try to find the best position for the snipers to set in. Just 5 minutes after the IED exploded on the top of the Crackhouse, the snipers were setting up on top of a house, with Bellmont and the rest of his fire team in the house, below. Corporal Thompson, one of the snipers, stood up – and was shot through and through the left leg and into the right leg with a possible fracture. Thompson lay, badly wounded and in pain on the top of the roof while the enemy fired on him. One of the other snipers picked up a M-249 SAW and fired into the general direction of the insurgents while Bellmont ran onto the roof and picked up Thompson and carried him off the roof, and down the stairs so that he could be medevaced. Later, Lima Company put Bellmont in for an award for valor for his actions on top of the roof.

Still further to the East, in the H-K Triangle, at 12:15 PM, the Battalion Commander, LtCol Lopez and his translator, Lance Corporal Fallah were both fired upon, with Fallah receiving a serious wound to his left arm, requiring a medevac to Al Qaim. At 12:20, Lance Corporal Jason Dunham, Lance Corporal William Hampton, and PFC Morris were injured in a grenade blast. Lance Corporal Dunham had covered the grenade with his Kevlar helmet, then with his body, when the insurgent had dropped the explosive while the two wrestled. Dunham probably covered the grenade with the helmet, then his flak vest and body in order to minimize the effects of the bomb on his two fellow Marines. For his actions, 3/7 recommended that Dunham receive the Medal of Honor.

Lima 3 then received small arms fire from the rooftop of a nearby abandoned building known as the “white castle” – 200 meters due east along Route Train. The platoon immediately returned fire and observed that the enemy insurgents were all dressed identically – black robes with red and white checkered head wraps.

Sierra 4 had traveled north approximately 300 meters when they heard the IED explosion at the crack house and subsequent small arms fire. They quickly picked the closest abandoned building in order to establish a rooftop position facing south to orient themselves to the developing situation with Lima 3. Upon reaching the roof, Sierra 4 received small arms fire from a rooftop directly to their east. They immediately returned fire and noticed the insurgents all wearing matching black robes with red and white checkered head wraps. During the initial firefight, Lance Corporal Matthew Thompson was seriously wounded from a gunshot to both legs – his femoral artery had been hit and he was bleeding profusely. Lance Corporal Lucas Munds immediately grabbed the SAW machine gun and provided a base of suppressive fire as Corporal Steven Reifel and Bellmont drug Lance Corporal Thompson to safety inside the house. Bellmont administered first aid in order to stop the bleeding as Corporal Reifel and Lance Corporal Munds returned to the rooftop and continued the firefight.

On the platoon radio net, Link heard Bellmont and Watson arguing about whether Sierra 4 could move with the seriously injured Corporal Thompson. Link says, “I remember hearing [Bellmont] on the radio, saying, ‘Negative, I cannot leave’ and hearing [Bellmont] trying to argue with him. I thought that was a good [decision], in the end it was a good [decision].”

I asked, “Why do you say that?”

Link responded, “That’s a perfect example of why do you have team leaders, why do you have squad leaders. If that fire team leader is three blocks away, and I am calling him saying, ‘Get your ass here now.’ [The team leader responds] ‘Well why do you need it.’ I say, ‘For accountability.’ Well, what if he’s on to something, maybe finding a mortar position. He’s got better [situational awareness], he’s got to be a good enough leader to say, ‘Hey, hold on. I will be there when I can. I am doing this now.’ That is the same as a squad leader talking to the Lieutenant, and it’s particularly good for a fire team leader to be able to say that to a Lieutenant. Link felt that Bellmont made a good call in that he had better situational awareness and made a decision to stay in his position.

I asked, “What decision did Watson as Platoon Commander, and you as Squad Leader make after you took that contact?”

“I remember a couple people were engaging us still. We had SAW gunners [light machine guns] on the rooftops engaging multiple targets. I was sitting there watching this, and thought, ‘Fire’s no good without manuever,’ so I told Watson, ‘I am going out the door, I am gone, is that alright?’ [Watson replied] ‘Just show me where you are going on the map.’ Then, together we worked out where I would go. [Watson said] ‘Check this block, this block, and this block. Stop here.’ He set out a couple of my boundaries, which is what a good Lieutenant does. The squad leader should be aggressive, but he’s got to pull you back a little bit.”

From Link’s perspective as a squad leader, the working relationship between Link and Watson was very effective. Watson held Link back a little, gave him a general mission (clearing the buildings where the fire came from), but otherwise, Link operated on his own. One of the trends that we will see throughout this book is that talented Marines like Link and Bellmont appreciate the autonomy of being allowed to operate with as much independence as they show that they can handle.

Link and Bellmont believe that it was not all the same insurgents shooting at both Lima 3 and Sierra 4. Bellmont could not tell how many fighters the enemy had posted throughout the city. But, he gives them credit for employing very good coordination. Bellmont and Link think that the insurgents had them sandwiched, just based on the geometry of fires — the Marine term for where the small arms fire was coming from.

I asked Link and Bellmont, “What did the enemy do that surprised you?”

“They mortared our helicopters,” replied Link. “They [the mortars] were far off,” continues Link. “But they tried to hit the helicopters with mortars. They knew that the medevac was coming to the LZ there. We were in a 360 [degree perimeter] launching 203s [40mm grenades] at rooftops because we were still taking little pop shots from one of the mansions [one of the prominent local houses]. And we heard [the mortars] going off in the distance. All of a sudden, they were trying to walk the mortar rounds onto the [landing zone].” Link recalls that he was surprised that the enemy attacked the helicopters when they came in. That showed a level of planning, coordination, and preparation that the Marines had not yet seen in their opponents in Husaybah.

Bellmont adds, “What surprised me was that this was a coordinated attack. They had so many attacks going on in different places, so it was obviously something they had set up in their meeting the night prior. With the angles that I got shot from, and the angles that [Link and the rest of Lima 3] were shot from, it was not all the same people firing at them, and the same people firing at me. I think that they had individuals or groups of two posted in different parts of the city. They are not going to post them all in one corner of the city, and hope the [Marines] all go here today. So who knows how many they might have had in different parts of the city that just didn’t get action that day.”

Link adds, “I think we had them sandwiched. [I don’t] know exactly. But just the fact that we had a [Fire] Team plus [Bellmont and the snipers].”

I asked, “What worked and what didn’t work that day?”

Link replied, “Well once everyone is freaking out — well not freaking out — but there is that much chaos, most leaders will try to pull everything in, and reorganize it. Once they could not get Bellmont back and did not know why, and the thing with the Battalion Commander and Sergeant Major was happening, with blood on their Humvee from Fallah, telling us that story [at the H-K triangle, several hundred meters away], and the thing with Dunham was going on at the same time [just a little further to the East], we [the Lima 3 Marines] did not know that, which was complicated enough. [At that point in time], you pretty much took the whole leadership above us away because they were tasked with all this other stuff going on. The Lieutenant was getting on the radio, and there was crazy stuff going on on the net [the radio]. Alright, we have to do this ourselves. All I need is some direction about where to go house to house, and I will take it from here.” For his part, Link seems to have thrived on the chaotic situation, an assessment made by other Lima leaders, such as Gunnery Sergeant Sandor Vegh.

Lieutenant Watson stayed at the Crackhouse. “That’s where the casualty evacuation was going to be. That’s where the react would come if they needed it.”

“That’s how I like it,” continued Link. “I don’t need the Platoon Commander coming with me. Not that I am being disrespectful, I just don’t like that feeling of him on my watch.”

Watson heard the firefight to the north at Sierra 4’s position and advised Lima Company headquarters of the developing situation. He observed that Sierra 4 was under fire from identically dressed terrorists on a separate rooftop and directed his squads to fire onto that rooftop in addition to the castle’s rooftop. Moments later, a gray sedan with two occupants dressed in black robes with red and white head wraps, appeared from a side road to the northwest of the crack house and drove directly into the crossfire between 3d Platoon and the northern enemy position. The vehicle was hit and immediately disabled and the Marines temporarily ceased fire. 2nd Lt Watson radioed Lima headquarters and updated them on the situation as his platoon and Sierra 4 continued to receive sporadic fire.

CAAT Blue A — which consisted of armored Hummers mounted with heavy machine guns — lead by Sergeant Ryan Harnett departed Camp Husaybah for the crack house in order to extract the injured. Lima Company headquarters then advised Battalion headquarters of the impending casualty evacuations and the Air Ambulances at Camp Al Qaim prepared for the fight. In addition, Lima headquarters dispatched the company reaction squad – 3d Squad, 2nd Platoon (Lima 23), led by Lance Corporal Jeremy Rodgers – to reinforce 3d Platoon. Lima 23 moved through town on foot and linked up with 2nd Lt Watson in the vicinity of the crack house. Lima 23 then stayed attached to Lima 3 throughout the remaining engagements. Meanwhile, CAAT Blue — another unit comprised of armored Hummers — arrived at Sierra 4’s position and Bellmont carried Lance Corporal Thompson down from the roof and loaded him into a Humvee. Bellmont then returned to the roof as Sierra 4 continued their firefight with insurgents. CAAT Blue moved south and searched the gray sedan to discover the driver dead and the front seat passenger seriously wounded. CAAT Blue made their final stop at the crack house and picked up Corporal Lightfoot and Lance Corporal Roshak.

With all four injured onboard, CAAT Blue departed for LZ Sparrow, an empty grass field on the southeastern edge of Husaybah. Sierra 4 and Lima 3 continued to engage the enemy and provide covering fire as CAAT Blue drove east along Route Train, the main East-West road on the Southern edge of Husaybah. CAAT Blue arrived at the landing zone and secured it for aerial medical evacuation as Staff Sergeant Wilder established communications with two Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. One of the helicopters maintained aerial overwatch as Wilder guided the other into the zone. Nearing touchdown, the helicopter came under enemy fire and was forced to abort the landing and depart the landing zone. Unable to locate the enemy shooters and guarantee reasonable landing zone security, CAAT Blue abandoned LZ Sparrow and drove all four injured to another landing zone, a large paved parking lot just to the southeast of Camp Husaybah. 2nd Platoon, Lima Company (Lima 2) was on scene and had already secured the area. Captain Jon “2 Pam” Stofka, the Lima Company Forward Air Controller (FAC), was with Lima 2 and he instructed the helicopters to remain airborne and hold nearby until CAAT Blue arrived on scene with the wounded. Once the vehicles arrived, all four injured were loaded onto the Air Ambulances and taken to Camp Al Qaim for further medical attention. CAAT Blue was then re-routed to the Husaybah-Karabilah Triangle in order to provide assistance to an ongoing firefight involving the Battalion Commander and the Civil Affairs Group (CAG).

The narrative above — largely taken from the 3/7 unit chronology — sets the skeleton of events on April 14. Stepping back — scrolling the Google map back an order of magnitude, if you will — we begin to see some significant patterns emerge. The first pattern is the timing of events. The following are the list of injuries sustained by Marines from 3/7, from the unit medical diary:

At around 11:45 an I.E.D exploded injuring two Marines. Corporal Lightfoot received shrapnel to his left foot. Lance Corporal Roshak received shrapnel to his left posterior shoulder and a protruding object on the left side of his neck. Both Marines were a priority medevac to Al Qaim.

At around 12:00 Peacemaker took small arms fire injuring two Marines. Private Simental received a bullet wound to his right calf. He was a routine medical evacuation to Al Qaim. Captain Lewis received a gun shot wound to the left upper arm. He was a priority evacuation to Al Qaim.

At around 11:50 one Marine from the Battalion sniper platoon was injured due to enemy fire. Corporal Thompson received a gunshot wound through and through the left leg and into the right leg with possible fracture. He was a priority medevac to Al Qaim.

At around 12:15 Blade 6, the Battalion Commander, received small arms fire injuring two Marines. Lieutenant Colonel Lopez received a burn to his right rib cage and was treated by Navy Medic Close and released to full duty. Lance Corporal Fallah received a through and through gun shot wound to the left arm with possible humerous fracture. He was a urgent medevac to Al Qaim.

At around 12:20 three Marines were injured from a grenade blast. Corporal Dunham received blast trauma to his head. He was a urgent surgery medevac to Al Qaim. Lance Corporal Hampton received multiple shrapnel wounds to his body. Private Morris, received multiple shrapnel to his body. Both were routine medevac to Al Qaim.

Several observations stand out from a review of the exact time of the injuries. First, five distinct attacks take place all within 35 minutes, approximately. This is what is called a “time on target” or synchronized attack in the military (9-11 was a time on target attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Capital). Given the communications that the insurgents had, this level of coordination is notable. The insurgents had to observe the activities of the 3/7 Marines for weeks in order to discern the patterns and targets that would have the biggest effect.

Second, the insurgents targeted leaders. On the top of the Crackhouse OP, the insurgents hit Lt Watson (again) with a command detonated IED that ruptured his eardrum, impaled his radio operator’s (Roshak’s) neck with a piece of wood, and put a hole through the foot of one of his squad leaders (Lighfoot). At the H-K Triangle — a road intersection with a distinctive arch that marked the dividing line between Lima Company and Kilo Company’s respective zones of action — the insurgents targeted the Battalion Commander, LtCol Lopez.

Third, the insurgents targeted interpreters — what political science scholars (like Joseph Nye) might term a source of “soft power.” A Marine like Wasser with a bag of soccer balls meant to build good will with Iraqi kids would also be a source of “soft power.” The insurgents did, in fact, injure Corporal Fallah — a Marine who spoke Arabic because he was a native speaker — an indication that they targeted him in particular.

Fourth, the insurgents targeted a sniper — Corporal Thompson. In a counterinsurgency, as has been observed of the Fallujah operation, snipers were the weapon that insurgents feared the most.

Fifth, the insurgents targeted the area where Lima Company and Kilo Company’s zone of actions were divided. This is the area where Corporal Dunham sustained the trauma to his head. Dunham actually jumped on an insurgent grenade, covering the explosive with his helmet, and then his own body, thus protecting his two fellow Marines from likely more serious injury. For his actions, Dunham would later receive the Medal of Honor, but he died of his injuries so his parents received the nation’s highest award for valor on his behalf. His story, including many of these same events on April 14 is also the subject of a book by Michael Phillips, The Gift of Valor.

These were not just a series of random attacks carried out by opportunistic individuals. Rather, the IED blast on top of the Crackhouse, followed immediately by small arms fire; the well aimed shot that dropped Corporal Thompson, followed immediately by small arms fire; the shots that almost killed the Battalion Commander and his translator; the intensity of the close combat with Dunham, Hampton, and Morris – all together these enemy actions indicated a coordination that had been lacking in the enemy actions up to that point. The enemy had ratcheted up the violence against the Marines. Before April 8, the Marines faced individual IED blasts without small arms fire. In the April 8 ambush, the Marines faced 3 IEDs, all coordinated to explode in the path of 3 squads as they moved together down Market Street. Yet, there were many, many more IEDs in almost any path that the Marines of Lima 3 could have chosen on April 8. Now, on April 14, the Marines were facing not only coordinated IEDs, clearly detonated by enemy trigger men with “eyes on” the Marines as they set into the top of the Crackhouse. The Marines were also facing small arms fire which was integrated with the IEDs. A basic tactical principle of the US Military is that obstacles should be covered by fire. By April 14, the enemy was covering their IEDs with small arms fire, coordinated by information gathered from the population or their own spotters.

Summing up April 14, Watson recalled in an email, “At sundown on 14 April I had been in Iraq only 5 weeks and had already been wounded twice. (the IED on the crackhouse ruptured my eardrum).”


In Outliers, Gladwell argues that success is a function primarily of culture. In the complex ambush of April 14, we see several indications of the culture of success in combat that the Marine Corps has developed. Two of the concepts from Outliers are most applicable. The first principle of success that applies here is The Matthew Effect, or the idea of cumulative advantage expressed in the Biblical verse, “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance.” Link and Bellmont, both in their own way, display this characteristic of successful Marine combat leaders.

On April 8, Link lead his squad North of Market Street. He was using Satellite patrolling to disperse his Marines into 2-Marine teams so that no IED would kill or injure more than just two Marines. Although his squad sustained injuries on April 8, his unit — perhaps by luck, but also perhaps by the use of Satellite Patrolling — came out of the ill-fated presence patrol with fewer injured Marines than the other two squads.

By April 14, Link and his commander, Watson, had a high degree of mutual respect. Link lead his squad West of the Crackhouse, reporting in to Watson, but largely running his 13-Marine unit with autonomy. His squad engaged the vehicle of insurgents, and his squad cleared a structure from which the platoon had taken fire. Watson was in command of the 40-Marine platoon, but Link was stepping up and taking over decisions and actions sometimes reserved for a higher level unit. In contrast to the contempt from Soudan, Link had a higher degree of respect for Watson — in fact, when Danelo’s book regarding the Watson-Soudan tension came out, Link was one of Watson’s defenders. While the relationship between Watson and Soudan may have been souring, the commander to commander relationship between Watson and Link was improving.

Similarly, by April 14, Bellmont was also given a higher degree of autonomy by Watson. Watson detached Bellmont to escort the sniper teams because he thought Bellmont could handle the autonomy. When confronted with the complex ambush in which Corporal Thompson was hit with a grievous wound, Bellmont validated his commander’s judgment of his independent leadership ability. Bellmont carried the injured Marine from the roof, then Bellmont made the call to not move the injured Marine. Bellmont helped to make sure that Corporal Thompson was evacuated in a way that would give the Marine the best chance of surviving.

Another chapter in Outliers is devoted to “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.” This chapter turns on what sociologists call the Power Distance Index (PDI), which is “concerned with attitudes towards hierarchy, specifically with how much a particular culture values and respects authority.” A high PDI may have been the reason that pilots from certain ethnic backgrounds crashed their planes due to avoidable errors like running out of gas when crew members are confronted with incompetent (but high PDI) senior pilots, or brusque (low PDI) air traffic controllers. In Lima Company, this concept comes up under the title — to foreshadow a major idea used by Lima leadership in 2007 — “Rank is nothing, talent is everything,” a nice shorthand for a low PDI combat culture.

In the stress of the complex ambush of April 14, Link’s talent as a squad leader starts to trump his rank. Similarly, Bellmont’s good judgment and timely actions start to trump his rank as well (at that point, Bellmont is not even a non-commissioned officer, which is the rank of Corporal and Sergeant). Bellmont’s heroism with the sniper team were the subject of a passage in Michael Phillips’ The Gift of Valor, and the Lima Company leadership wrote Bellmont up for an award, but it was never given to him. Bellmont’s actions lead to further responsibility.

Finally, the account of the evacuation of the injured Marines depends to a great degree on the competence of Staff Sergeant Wilder. His role that day, too, could be noted under the heading of “Rank is nothing, talent is everything.” Wilder was credited by Link for “teaching him everything he knew,” when Link first joined Lima Company in 2002. But, earlier in the Husaybah deployment of 2004, Wilder was the Lima 3 Platoon Sergeant who was relieved due to striking a Marine who had failed to bring along the assigned gear out on a patrol in Husaybah. Wilder was potentially in a lot of trouble, though his case would end for administrative reasons in a few days. But Captain Gannon went out of his way in his spare communications with Battalion to praise Wilder for the work that he did in fortifying Camp Husaybah. On the 14th of April, with Marines critically injured with limb- and life-threatening injuries, Gannon assigned Wilder the important task of going to a landing zone, securing it, and then calling in a medical evacuation helicopter. Not only did Wilder secure one landing zone, but when the insurgents shot at the evacuation aircraft — a surprise for Link and Bellmont — Wilder went to a second landing zone, secured that area, and then repeated the medical evacuation protocols.

[The Marine Corps is a low PDI culture, which will be useful in transitioning to Small Wars operations, as we will see in coming sections of the book.]

This was taken following the firefight at the Crackhouse 14 April 2004. These are members of 1st Squad Third Platoon Company L, 3/7. I’m seated in the middle, Sgt Peter C. Milinkovic is standing with his kevlar under his arm to my right. Cpl Bilderback is kneeling to my left with a red motorola radio on his flak

...,1st Draft

Chapter 8 – 8 April 2004, Market Street Patrol, Husaybah22 May

On the morning of April 8, 2004, Lima 3 — 3d Platoon — exited Camp Husaybah at the Western edge of the town. The mission was a presence patrol. The platoon would move down the main street, Market, which ran along the Northern edge of the town. 2nd Lieutenant Bradley Watson commanded the platoon, and Sergeant Dusty Soudan was his platoon sergeant. Staff Sergeant Wilder, the previous platoon sergeant, had been relieved weeks earlier and was working on improving the fortifications at the Camp, a task which Captain Gannon went out of his way to praise in communications to battalion head quarters. Watson had a Psychological Operations (PsyOps) Hummer attached to his platoon for the mission. Violence had been ramping up in the weeks since Lima Company deployed to Iraq for its second tour, but Lima Company had not yet lost any Marines, but some of its attached units had. Despite his growing sense of concern that the environment was not as benign as he had expected, Captain Gannon continued with his operational plan.

In explaining his assumptions about the environment in Husaybah at the time, Brad Watson notes, “Almost everyone a new Lt could talk to in 3/7 before we deployed to Husaybah would tell you, ‘yeah, don’t worry it’s going to be just like Karbala in a month. The Army’s all jacked up and we are going to roll in there and this will be a benign environment in no time. We don’t need their tanks.'”

Watson had one squad travel down Market Street, escorting the PsyOps Hummer. Bellmont was in the lead fire team of 4 Marines. Watson traveled with that squad and the PsyOps Hummer. North of Market Street, and traveling in parallel to the base unit of the movement on Market Street was Corporal Peter Milinkovic and his squad. South of Market, and also traveling in parallel to the the base unit was Corporal Mejia and the squad he commanded.

Going into the patrol, recalls Bellmont, “I assumed that it would not have a good outcome. I did not think we would make it all the way to the end of Market Street. Market Street was not where all of the people were. It was just past the area [with most of the population]. The biggest thing that scared us — the area that was a heavy contact area was the Baath Party Headquarters. West of the Baath Party headquarters, where there was a low population [was a source of concern]. That and moving in a column like that, where you are not moving in other directions [besides the main direction of advance], you’re just moving parallel to each other, in a straight line; they know where we are going to go, they sat there, when they saw us not making any turns, they thought, ‘yeah, we’re going to get these guys now.'” Bellmont’s Fire Team of 4 Marines was in the lead of the 13-Marine Squad going down Market Street.

Bellmont recalls, “We had squads on both sides of us, and we had the Humvee right there, so we had no choice but to move down Market Street.” The first IED hit the middle squad on Market Street — the insurgents were targeting the platoon commander and the PsyOps Vehicle, which was broadcasting messages in Arabic. “When the first IED hit them,” recalls Milinkovic, ” it was so huge and loud that I thought we got hit by an IED, even though I was two blocks away.” Both Lieutenant Watson and Lance Corporal Rigoli, one of Bellmont’s 4 Marines, were hit when the first IED went off. After the first IED went off on Market Street, injuring Watson and Rigoli, IEDs also hit the two squads South and North of Market Street. Lance Corporal Wasser, the point man for the squad South of Market was killed by the blast. He had a bag of soccer balls slung over his back, though he was not actually distributing them at the time of the IED explosion. The enemy intent — not just on Market Street, but throughout Anbar Province that month — was to separate American soft power (economic development, the attractiveness of our culture) from hard power (raw GDP, military force).

A year later, I asked Bellmont and Milinkovic a series of questions, but the questions themselves were drawn from a “CAX Debrief Format” which I had laminated into a field reference booklet while I was serving in Lima Company, a decade earlier. The questions themselves reflected 3d Generation, Manuever Warfare. I asked, “What was the enemy’s location and fire plan?”

“I think they were right in the middle of the crowd,” replied Bellmont. “We walked right by the trigger man. It was a big crowd. They blend in. That’s their key strength — that they can look like everybody else.”

“What was their intention, their most dangerous course of action?” I asked.

“Kill as many Marines as possible with one explosion,” offered Bellmont.

“What was the enemy’s strength or weakness relative to your force?” I asked.

“They are not able to communicate like we can. We have two way radios. They are going to have to re-group and get together to be able to keep hitting us, but other than that it is going to be a hit-and-run nine times out of ten,” said Bellmont.

I asked, “Was the enemy’s use of IEDs because they could not fight you in a stand up, toe-to-toe fight?”

“Definitely,” recalled Bellmont. “I think that’s the reason that they did it. I mean, I would do the same thing. If I couldn’t go toe-to-toe with someone, you’re going to use what works.”

I asked, “Did you see any exploitable weaknesses or vulnerabilities on the part of the enemy that you could take advantage of?”

Milinkovic noted, “Alot of the IEDs that are freshly placed, like if they know you are coming down the road, they have a certain area where they can detonate. So, if you had some kind of a mobile cordon, maybe not a full cordon, but maybe scattered OPs [observation posts], like 3 major OPs, like maybe punch out 3 squads to isolate a whole block, you would definitely have the trigger man within that circle. Now, he may throw [the cell phone trigger device] under a bush.”

Bellmont joined in: “We also have better technology than them, signal scramblers and stuff like that. That’s a big thing too, staying ahead of their technology.”

Milikovic agreed, “Now they can only use cordless phones. That means that they have to be real close to detonate an IED. That took away most of their center of gravity.”

“How would you describe their center of gravity,” I asked. The idea of a center of gravity comes from the German military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, who used the term to describe the thing that holds together an enemy coalition — the thing without which the enemy falls apart. On a tactical level, it can be something specific like crew served weapons. “What gives them freedom of action?”

“They blend in,” Milinkovic responded right away. “There’s no written thing that says, ‘enemy’ on their forehead. They guy that shakes your hand and you see everyday, he’s the guy trying to snipe your guys.”

With the benefit of hindsight, the interview is notable in several respects. Most significantly, the framework is itself designed to pull out the lessons learned from exercises such as Range 400, deliberate company attacks against a similar opponent. The questions are themselves a indication of 3d Generation, Manuever Warfare, against another state-backed military organized and trained like the American military. But, the enemy, of course is a non-state group of insurgents, many of whom are Iraqi citizens, and only some of whom are Al Qaeda or foreign fighters.

“What decision did you as a squad leader, or your platoon commander make, when faced with that situation on the 8th of April,” I asked.

“I ran down there to support,” recalled Milinkovic. “I cordoned off the area because we heard that they had a couple of casualties. It turns out the Platoon Commander [Watson] was wounded, he was bleeding pretty badly. He didn’t want to leave. But there was no serious mission out there for him to sacrifice his leg. That’s when Sergeant Soudan took over, tactically. Mejia was hit moving up to your [Bellmont’s] position.”

Another book, David Danelo’s Blood Stripes, covers this same engagement, as well as the dynamcis within Lima 3. Danelo’s account in the first edition of his book is taken entirely from the perspective of Sgt Dusty Soudan. Soudan’s over-riding feeling towards Watson is contempt — a fatal emotional element for any long term relationship, as author Gladwell notes in his description of a couples research specialist. The relationship between the platoon commander and platoon sergeant has often been described as the mother and father of the platoon family. If there is tension there, everyone in the platoon is aware of that fact. Soudan had only taken over the billet of platoon sergeant weeks earlier, after moving from another platoon. Perhaps his contempt for Watson was due in part to his taking over the unit in combat. Another explanation for Soudan’s contempt comes from a future Lima Commanding Officer who believes that Soudan’s contempt for Watson was really contempt for the stupidity of the missions assigned — contempt for doing a presence patrol down streets where all three squads in a platoon are hit by IEDs. In this interpretation of Soudan’s feelings towards Watson, Soudan was basically expressing contempt for the stupidity of the mission by channeling his feelings towards the platoon commander who gave the orders. This interpretation seems plausible since Bellmont and Milinkovic also express contempt for the mission of the presence patrol, executed on 8 April 2004, as we will see shortly.

Even within their assigned, zones, though, squad leaders like Milinkovic used initiative to minimize the danger to their Marines. “I was satelliting,” recalled Link. His squad was moving North of the base unit with Bellmont in the lead fire team, Lieutenant Watson commanding the Platoon, and the PsyOps vehicle as the most hated of insurgent targets. Link’s squad was not on a main road, but rather on narrower side streets. “I was satelliting my two-man teams all around the Northern part of the [zone of action]. These guys [gesturing to Bellmont] got hammered, and screwed because they were going down the main road. At least two guys in each [4 Marine] Fire Team had a Garmin RINO [which allowed the Marine to send and receive a GPS Coordinate], so we’d break into two man teams. I shadowed these guys [pointing to Bellmont, who was with the middle squad].”

Link’s 13 Marine Squad, then, was broken up into as many as six two-Marine teams, each equipped with a Garmin RINO, which had been purchased through the Marines’ own funds to augment their other communication gear. Using this technique made Link’s squad less of a single target, and allowed his unit to flow through the urban terrain more organically, like a basketball team on fast break, rather than a row of soldiers on the drill field. This type of control of a squad resembles the improv-inspired type of movement that Gladwell writes about in Blink in the chapter on Van Riper’s victory as a commander. This comes under the heading of “The Structure of Spontaneity.” It explains why, when Link talks with his hands in the interview, and says, “I moved down to cordon the area where Bellmont’s squad was hit,” he really means that his squad moved around him, organically, like water flowing downhill, or a basketball team on a fast break.

Commenting on the Satellite Patrolling, Bellmont observed, “They may have avoided [an IED] just by using that technique.”

Milinkovic continued, “If an IED does go off, you’re not getting the grand prize of the whole squad [because the use of satellite patrolling caused the Marines to be dispersed, so no more than two Marines would be exposed to any single IED].”

“What did the enemy do that suprised you?,” I asked, continuing with the debrief format inspired by 3d Generation, Manuever Warfare.

“He was willing to die,” recalled Link. “He did not even care about his own life. I want to know what we did to these people to make them hate us that much. They will go to any extent to kill you, they don’t care about anything. They don’t care if they have ten kids and the greatest wife at home, they will die trying to kill you.”

Link’s comments are consistent with that of a later Lima Commanding Officer, Rory Quinn, who will look back and see in the month of April, 2004, a shift into a 3d Phase of the Iraq War. That shift is a major turning point where several factors serve to finally alienate the majority of Iraqis and turn them towards Al Qaeda. First, the Americans failed to provide services, including security, but also basic utilities for much of 2003 and early 2004. Second, the Blackwater killings and the American reaction — which was perceived as overreaction — occurred at the end of March and beginning of April, 2004. Third, the Abu Gharib prison scandal also came to light in this period. Together, these events and the shift in Iraqi public support for Al Qaeda can be described as what Taleb labels a Black Swan event. In Taleb’s book of the same name, a Black Swan has the following characteristics: A) a surprise; B) The event has a major impact; C) After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight, as if it had been expected. The market crash of late 2008 is a black swan. Within the expectations of the US Military for a relatively benign civilian environment in Anbar in Spring, 2004, the shift in public support for Al Qaeda in April 2004 would qualify as a Black Swan event. The shift in sentiment in that month is the backdrop not just for the events of 8 April 2004, but also those of 14 April and 17 April, which will be the subject of coming chapters in this book. What Peter Milinkovic — a leader of 13 Marines among the thousands of Americans in Anbar that Spring was observing — was the rage of the Iraqi public against the Americans. It is notable, though, that this observation — which is really appropriate to 4th Generation Warfare — comes in response to a 3d Generation Warfare question, What did the enemy do that surprised you? It is the wrong question. I was still oriented in a 3d Generation Warfare way of thinking about state-organized militaries — an “enemy” — whereas, the enemy was actually mostly Iraqis who may have been planting IEDs for cash, organized by much smaller cells of Al Qaeda and foreign fighters.

I asked, “What worked and what didn’t work?”

Link and Bellmont look at each other for a moment or two. Then: “The presence patrol needs to get thrown own the window,” says Link, echoing the frustration that lead to Soudan’s contempt for the chain of command, and most immediately, for his platoon commander, Brad Watson.

“They know we are there,” agreed Bellmont. “We don’t need to go and say, ‘hey, we’re here,’ because they know. The mission that we had that day… we gift-wrapped it for them. I don’t know who came up with it. But, I didn’t like it.”

“There were no other major contacts like that before,” noted Link, perhaps explaining why the mission was assigned. “Once that happened, it was kind of a slap in the face for everyone. ‘Oh, well, you can’t do that any more.’

Upon reflection, Bellmont circled back to the question of what the enemy did that surprised the Marines. “[Milinkovic] mentioned that there had not really been contact before, but it was small, intermittent. [What suprised us was that] they had so much out there, that day. They had so many [IEDs] out there, that day. [There were] the ones that blew up on us. [There were IEDs] that we found that didn’t blow up on us. That’s what surprised me — the fact that they had so many. What a coincidence, they got so lucky.”

On that day, the first squad hit was in the middle, on Market Street, where Bellmont, Watson, and the PsyOps Hummer were located. Less than 15 minutes later, another IED hit the squad South of Market Street, killing Wasser, the point man, and injuring other Marines, Vega and Rumley, to the extent that they are medically discharged from the service for their injuries. Then a third IED hit Link’s squad, North of Market Street. All those events happened within 15 to 30 minutes.

“All different areas,” notes Link.

“Even before Mejia got hit, right after we got hit [in the middle of Market Street],” continues Bellmont, “we found another IED about a hundred meters up the road. It wasn’t a daisy chain, it was just waiting for us to move forward. We found that IED, and then [the second IED blew up injuring Marines in] Mejia’s squad. So, just so much going on all at once.”

“It was on everyone’s route, almost,” continues Link. “It’s like someone took an overlay off the wall, and handed it to them, right on the route that we were walking on. It’s weird.”

“Yeah, that surprised me,” concludes Bellmont.

The description of the complex deployment of IEDs by the insurgents is consistent with the description of this period as a major tipping point in public opinion towards the insurgents, and away from the Americans, caused by the major factors noted by Quinn in his master narrative, above. Placing IEDs along all of those points would have been visible to the majority of the population. Moreover, the trigger men who caused the IEDs to detonate precisely when the platoon commander, Brad Watson, and the PsyOps vehicle would be injured also indicates that the trigger men were blending in with the population. The trigger man who killed Wasser and handicapped Vega and Rumley for life also would have had to choose his moment precisely from the security of anonymity. Finally, to place the IEDs on the routes that the Marines would be traveling with high precision would have required extensive gathering of data from multiple sources — again, an activity that could only have taken place with the knowledge of, and possibly the active support of, the population.

“Another thing that the enemy surprised me with,” continues Link, “was the ability that they actually brought to the table. They had a full-on strategic plan on the 17th of April. The 8th of April was an example of what they could do, but on the 17th, the enemy had the ability to reinforce, they had all those people out there in the town, defenses, and machine gun bunkers. I always underestimated them. I thought they were pop-shot, spray and pray kind of people.”

Brad Watson recalls, “On 8 April the reality of war set in for me. I felt responsible for Wasser, Vega and Rumley. I felt guilty for getting wounded myself. I felt like our strategy as a battalion and maybe even as a Marine Corps had underestimated the threat we faced. On April 9th Marine Corps Armor rolled into Husaybah for the first time.”

Across Anbar in that first week of April, the Black Swan tipping point of broad, Iraqi public support away from the Americans and towards Al Qaeda was taking place. At a tactical level, Link, Bellmont, and Soudan were seeing the immediate indications of that shift: a coordinated IED ambush of an entire platoon of 40 Marines, not just with one detonation, but with a series of detonations over 15 or 30 minutes, each initiated by a trigger man who blended in with the people. In the coming days, the violence would increase in stages in which the enemy generally held the initiative.

To their credit, the Marines of Lima 3 did not attack the Iraqi population without positive identification of their attackers. In similar circumstances, months later in Haditha, a Marine squad that had a Marine killed and others wounded was accused of the murder of Iraqi civilians in a story that was widely publicized in the media, and even cited by Representative Murtha, a former Marine, as grounds for withdrawing US military forces from Iraq. On April 8, 2004, Lima 3 lost its commander to wounds and had the second in command, a Sergeant, take over command. The Marines set a cordon, and called in a MEDEVAC. Then, Lima 3 lost a Marine killed in action — a Marine carrying soccer balls on his back, no less — as well as several Marines critically wounded. But, Lima 3 did not respond with murderous gunfire at the population, which was almost certainly aware of, if not actively assisting the enemy. This restraint was drilled into the Marines by countless repetitions of the “lane training” where the units moved through “shoot/ no shoot” scenarios which emphasized the rules of engagement. Link and Bellmont expressed the contempt towards the presence patrol mission shared by many of their fellow Marines, such as Soudan. Yet, they executed the mission in large part because of the Marine culture of success in combat. They had gone through their 10,000 hours to become combat experts through Boot Camp, School of Infantry, Unit Training in Lima 3/7, and the experience of Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003. Lima 3 returned to Camp Husaybah, and prepared for its next mission. Watson, for his part, was medevac’ed but would make a particular effort to return to his platoon. Squad Leaders Mejia and Link re-organized their squads after the casualties.

Captain Gannon wrote regularly to Major Schreffler, who was the Battalion S-3 Operations Officer. In an email to Schreffler on April 11, Gannon outlined a series of mounting concerns which started to indicate the increasing severity of the insurgency. First, he noted that one of the tanks assigned to Husaybah had gone down due to missing a part, and that it was “completely ineffective (dead weight) without the part.” Part of the Marine response to the Market Street ambush on April 8 was to put 70-ton main battle tanks into the urban environment, whereas their assumption going into Anbar that Spring is that they would be greeted based on the positive reputation earned by the Marines in Southern Iraq in late 2003, when General Mattis had sent his armor home early.

Second, Gannon noted the need for replacements due to combat casualties. “What is the chance of receiving combat replacements. We have effectively lost 20 Marines to CASEVAC [Medical Evacuation]… not including RECON Marines. We are also anticipating the loss of 8 others due to EAS [End of Active Service discharge] in the near future.” The enemy intent of cutting down the Marines’ numbers through attrition was working.

Third, Gannon noted the following about the PsyOps Hummers: “Speaker system of the PSYOPs vehicle was destroyed today by an IED. FYI, the enemy really does not like when we employ it and has targeted the vehicle three of the last four occasions that I sent it out. On the other hand, we have received positive feedback from the population with regard to its use. PSYOPS team is coordinating a replacement. Just wanted to keep you informed and see if you can assist.” The insurgents specifically targeted the vehicles because they were designed to communicate with the population, who apparently responded favorably to them. This is consistent with the image of the population on the fence, on a tipping point, as Rory Quinn would later characterize the situation in April 2004 — a key moment of transition between his Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Iraq War.

Fourth, there is this item regarding legal liability for use of force: “Could use some more clarity on the transition to Phase III ROE [Rules of Engagement] and possibly some time to discuss scenarios personally with the SJA [Staff Judge Advocate]. My understanding is that it does not substantively change at my level, only that the threat has redefined what we view as ‘hostile act/intent’. I understand Blade 6’s [Battlion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lopez] interpretation with regard to most scenarios, but wanted more legal clarity if I can get it.” Rick Gannon, a scholar of warfare, knew that he was in the middle of a growing counterinsurgency, yet he had doubts about how much and what kind of force to use. A Staff Judge Advocate would be a licensed attorney and a commissioned officer who served a number of functions, including counseling commanders as to Rules of Engagement. That Gannon was asking for an interview with a SJA to clarify the rules — 3 days after the Market Street ambush — indicates that the insurgent tactics of triggering ambushes from the anonymity of the population had put the Marine leadership in a dilemma. Hostile act/ intent was one of the criteria — along with Positive ID or PID — for a Marine to use deadly force. The insurgent tactics were designed to kill Marines without giving them the authorization to respond.

Fifth, Gannon asked, “Need zip ties badly if there are any up there.” This indicates that Lima Company was taking many more prisoners than they anticipated, and that they had not taken enough of the plastic hand cuffs to handle the detainees. This is consistent with later lessons learned from key leaders such as Carpenter who will observe that the Company was not supplied with enough essential ammunition such as grenades and rockets for the SMAW rockets in the Lima Weapons Platoon.

Sixth, Gannon noted the following about his interpreters: “Originally we talked about me getting my interpreter back within 24 hours of the completion of the regt [7th Marine Regiment] operation. I understand that he was needed to interrogate prisoners after that, but I am really starting to need him. Right now I do not have a single interpreter that will walk the streets (looks like my local finds flew the coop). Any thoughts on when I can get him back. Could also use HET [Human Intelligence Exploitation Team]. I have gotten absolutely no actionable intelligence (except one piece from SST) since their departure. Prior to that, we were consistently making progress.” Lima Company was literally a few hundred yards from the Syrian border, on the extreme edge of the Marines zone of action in Anbar that Spring. The Fallujah situation had caused Major General Mattis to pull 7th Marine Regiment back towards Fallujah in order to isolate the city for a possible assault by another Marine Regiment, lead by Colonel Toolan. 3d Battalion, 7th Marines was out on the edge of the 1st Marine Division’s area. Resources such as armor, and even interpreters were given to the main effort of 7th Marine Regiment, which was assisting the 1st Marine Division in Fallujah. The cultural distance between the Lima Company Marines and the population was therefore widened at a critical juncture by the lack of interpreters because there were no interpreters who would walk patrol with the Marines. The insurgents may have successfully threatened or intimidated any Iraqis who could be recruited as interpreters.

A day later, on April 12, Gannon wrote another email to Schreffler. Gannon asked whether Schreffler could send out a short range unmanned aerial vehicle, possibly because of the attrition to his manpower due to the insurgent IED attacks. He also wrote, “Blade 6 [LtCol Lopez] indicated to me that he was going to get the entire engineer platoon down here to augment my patrolling efforts. His intent is that I can then pull rifle platoons off the line for a few days of recovery. Not sure if he has run that by you, but know that he already gave Lt Ponzo the warning order. Wanted to know the timeline on that one as well.” This request, too, indicates the inadequacy of the amount of troops for the task at hand.

Schreffler, had, however, responded to one of Gannon’s requests from the previous day, indicating his understanding of the high importance of language skills. Gannon wrote in the same email, “Thanks a million for getting my translator and HET back to me. Hopefully I can produce actionable intel here now and get back at conducting targeted missions. Not getting a whole lot from higher on the intel side over the last 10 days. SST is producing a lot of hits, and at least one appears to have produced a valid target (the guys I rolled up with Blade 6 at the Yellow Hotel). ODA [US Army Special Forces] is highly efficient at the art of interrogation so I welcome any opportunity to get them down here.”

One of the few reporters to make it out to Husaybah that Spring was Ron Harris of the Saint Louis Dispatch. He noted that Husaybah was “on the farthest reaches of the US military effort in Iraq, [where Marines] don’t make the headlines, not like those in Fallujah or Baghdad…” He noted the ceremony commemorating the death of Lance Corporal Christopher Wasser: “Wasser was a well-liked youngster who last year had gone through the first phase of the war with Lima Company and returned with the company this year…” The story quoted Lance Corporal Tim Dilorenzo: “I remember that Chris would do anything for any of us — anytime, any day.” Regarding the larger situation, the story quoted Lance Corporal Carp as saying, “Karbala was a lot safer. This is a hell hole.” The story quoted Captain Gannon as saying to the Lima Marines, “Make no mistake about it, we’re here in a battle. I want you to go out and paint a school like we did before. But right now, we’re going to go out and kill some people, because there is some killing that needs to be done.” Harris wrote, “Gannon was surprised when he saw the heavy casualty reports from the 82nd Airborne, which had been there before the Marines. ‘I was like Whoa why haven’t I been reading about this?… What’s been going on here? Have they been having some kind of silent war? And sure enough, they had been.”

Rick Gannon and George Schreffler knew what was happening, but they lacked the structure to respond to it quickly. Their dilemma can best be explained to a non-military audience by appealing to two ideas both drawn from Gladwell’s Blink. In Blink, Gladwell describes the “Theory of Thin Slices: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way.” He describes how certain relationship counselors can tell whether a couple will divorce based on 15 minutes of video taped interviews. Gannon was a scholar of warfare, and his father had served as a Marine Officer in another counter-insurgency in Vietnam. He would have read about insurgencies and he would have been aware of the indications that he was witnessing a tipping point in the insurgency. The terse, spare language that Gannon used to communicate with his friend, George Schreffler, who was Godfather to his children, points out the details that Gannon was collecting — the need for the interpreter, the importance that the insurgents placed on the PsyOps Vehicle, the appeal for Special Forces expertise. Schreffler, too, would have been fully aware of what was happening; the fact that he responds to the request to return the interpreter to Lima Company within 24 hours demonstrates this awareness of the most important factors in the present situation. Yet, the same messages betray Gannon’s dilemma.

In Blink, Gladwell also devotes a chapter to “Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity.” Gladwell quotes General Van Riper as saying, “Suppose you had a rifle company pinned down by machine-gun fire. And the company commander calls his troops together and says, ‘We have to go through the command staff with the decision-making process.’ That’s crazy. He should make a decision on the spot, execute it, and move on.” The quote illustrates a key idea of the Marine Warfighting doctrine — that speed itself is a weapon. In the messages of April 11 and 12, however, Gannon shows that the rigidity of the Marine Operations Order Format itself was an obstacle; it was not the right “structure for spontaneity.” The protocol for a Marine operations order is summarized by the acronym, SMEAC — Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration, Command & Control. I have full copies of all of Rick Gannon’s operations orders from this period, and they are military works of art — pages and pages of detailed, accurate description of the enemy; the rules of engagement; the task organization; ad infinitum. One of my last jobs in the Marine Corps was to write those orders, and I appreciate the work that Gannon did. But, that’s just the point. The Operations Orders are almost too complete. Gannon changed his orders as the situation deteriorated in the first weeks of April, 2004. As the situation changed — as the Blackwater contracter’s lynching in Fallujah resulted in a reaction, pulling 7th Marine Regiment resources towards Fallujah — first Division, then Regiment, then Battalion, then Company (Gannon) re-wrote his order. In the messages to Schreffler, Gannon is working on getting an interview with a military lawyer in order to clarify a point about the rules of engagement regarding hostile intent — at the same time, he is telling his Marines (as quoted by reporter Harris), “we’re going to go out and kill some people, because there is some killing that needs to be done.” Writing an Operations Order — to use a civilian analogy — is like writing a legal brief; writing a change to the order (known in the military as a “frag order” or fragmentary order) is like writing a motion for that brief. In the space of two weeks, Gannon writes several frag orders modifying his original Operations Order. In effect, the enemy was pinning down Lima Company with their equivalent of Van Riper’s machine gun — the IED — which killed or wounded six Lima Marines on 8 April, alone. Instead of “making a decision, executing it, and moving on” as Van Riper suggests, Gannon had to go through layers of command in order to get clarification about his order (which would have included a section on rules of engagement under the Execution section) through a command staff process.

The right “Structure for Spontaneity” in a counter-insurgency is a Combined Action Platoon (known as a CAP in the Marines), in which a Marine unit of 13 joins with two indigenous squads of 26 (the numbers can be adjusted) to form a joint platoon of 40. The CAPs should be widely dispersed throughout the area in which the counter-insurgency is being fought. The 13 Marines (a squad) may still come under the operational control of the 180-Marine Company, but decision-making is highly decentralized. Gannon knew this, as did Schreffler, as well as every Marine commander up to Generals Mattis and Conway (the top Marine commanders in Anbar) — but for the moment, the insurgents had the initiative. During this time, I had a chance to talk to the Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division, and he commented that we are “in a branch plan, of a branch plan.” This means that the original 1st Marine Division Operations Order itself had been adjusted at least several times. But adjusting the Operations Order for these multiple layers of authority is a process that requires more than just re-writing the document — it also requires disseminating the orders, doing appropriate training, and then executing the orders. In the coming deployments, the units that came after 3/7 in Husaybah and Al Qaim would be among the first to use the CAP technique; and in time, Lima Company would use those techniques — but this is years away from April 8, 2004. In retrospect, the painful irony of Gannon’s situation then was that he almost certainly had enough thin slices of knowledge to know that the insurgency in his area was morphing on a day by day basis, yet he also lacked the structure for spontaneity to adjust to it in the most effective manner.


At around 1545hrs an I.E.D exploded injuring one Marine. 2ndLT Awtry, Aaron, received a shrapnel wound to the left side of his chin. He was treated by LT Millegan and released to full duty.

At around 2233hrs an I.E.D exploded injuring one Marine. PFC Juarez, David, received shrapnel to his right shoulder and treated by HM2 Close and released to full duty


At around 0933hrs three Marines were injured by an I.E.D blast. LCPL Vargas, Joshua, received shrapnel wounds to his left flank and upper left thigh. He will be a convenient casevac to Al Quiam. LCPL Craigen, Jonathon, received shrapnel to his left cheek and was treated by HM2 Close and released to full duty. CPL Friedman, Russel, received a contusion to his right bisep and was treated by HM2 Close and released to full duty.






...,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]

...,1st Draft

Chapter 22 – Aftermath of Ramadi 225 Mar

The War According to Rory Quinn, Part Six

According to popular author Malcolm Gladwell, the three main agents of change in Tipping Points are the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. All three of these are evident in the series of Tipping Points which Rory Quinn describes in his re-telling of the Iraq War in six phases. The Law of the Few is evident in the out-sized role played by the Al Qaeda leaders on the one hand — the 1 in 50 on average in the insurgent cells who were the most violent and committed — and by the Sunni leaders like Sheik Sattar and the police chiefs on the other hand.

The Power of Context comes into play in various forms. One of the aspects of the Power of Context is the Magic Number of 150, and the role that human brain capacity has in making groups of that size natural petri dishes for a new idea. As a scientist quoted in Gladwell’s book observes, “At this size [150], orders can be implemented and unruly behavior controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct man-to-man contacts. With larger groups, this becomes impossible.” Captain Mainz was at once a formidable wrestler who challenged Mejia — the best ground fighter in the company — to a fight within days of assuming command while also a formidable thinker who had studied the main concepts of advanced 4th Generation Counterinsurgency in seminars with William Lind and Quantico while those ideas were being drafted into the updated, Department of Defense-wide manual. Within the Context of the 150 Marines of Lima Company, Mainz’ influence was felt thoroughly. Halepaska and I both still remember the personal characteristics of Lima Commanding Officers like Captain Dodd, who had a habit of plopping down beside surprised machine gunners on exercises and acting as A-gunner. An intellectual tipping point took place within Lima Company in the period between the 2005-06 and the 2007 Ramadi deployments — a tipping point that was exemplified at the platoon level by Mujica-Parodi and Humphrey, and at the company level by Mainz and Larson.

The Stickiness Factor in the Tipping Point Phases of The War According to Rory Quinn was simply Maslow’s Needs Heirarchy. Both the Marines and Al Qaeda were competing for the People, and the framework for the competition was the Needs of the Populace (City) — from Basic Needs up through Self Actualization. A counterexample for this use of Maslow’s Needs Heirarchy could be the failure of the Israeli Military to make lasting gains in Lebanon in 2006 in part because Hezbollah made more comprehensive plans to address the Hierarchy of Needs at all levels in the contested areas.

“By March 31st, 2007, the People have cleared the city of Ramadi,” continued Rory Quinn in his overview to Doug Halepaska at the 3/7 command post. “Since April 1st, there has been almost not one single attack in the city.” Quinn punctuates the date, writing “Ramadi Cleared” on the whiteboard, and marking the end of Phase Five of his Six Phases.

“Now from April 2007, to the Present [October 2007], this is the re-building. This is the same concept as Phase Two, from March 04 to April 04. The people in April 1st, 2007 looked up from their six months of intense combat with Al Qaeda, assisted by the coalition, but it was not us clearing Al Qaeda from Iraq during Phase Five. It was the People. And when they would be overwhelmed, we would assist with presence, like go to their position, and flag their morale, and say, ‘you can do it.’ But it wasn’t like we were running around with baseball bats. That’s something that I think gets misunderstood. It wasn’t the Americans who won the war. We prevented a loss. We held the system up as long as necessary so the people could stand up and win.”

“On April 1st, people looked up from the scarring six months of combat and they basically said, ‘OK, now what? I just signed my own death warrant on September 14, 2006, when I stood up with Sheik Sattar and his movement. If this doesn’t succeed, I am going to be murdered, my family is going to be chopped to pieces, I’m going to watch my wife be raped, and then I’ll be shot in the head. What now?’ And the challenge went out. It was almost like they held up a sign that said, ‘Make our lives better to show us that we made the right decision. Like, I have to see something from this.'”

“The exactly wrong thing to say on April 1st, 2007, is what we said on May 1st, 2003, which is, ‘whatever happens, happens. We can’t be held responsible for a museum being looted. Sometimes you don’t have the army that you may have in some future point in time, you only have the army you have, not the one you want.’ You have to fucking come to play now. Show me why I did this. The implied statement on the part of the population was, ‘If you can’t produce, if you can’t make me glad I did this, I will just go back to work for the terrorists.’ Because every day, Al Qaeda is trying to get them to go back, but they don’t want to. The Iraqis don’t need America right now, they want America. If we don’t give them anything, any progress, show them that their lives are better, that their children are healthier, that they are going to have a more peaceful existence, if we don’t give them a job, then they will have to go back and take $300 to lay an IED. So, this is the fight. The people won these phases,” Quinn points to Phases Four and Phase Five. “Phase Six is where the American need to win. And since April 1st, 2007, we have been re-building the shit out of Ramadi, rebuilding the shit out of Fallujah. Fixing electricity, fixing sewage, getting water running, fixing roads, getting adult literacy programs started, re-building schools, all this stuff — and this is the decisive moment because they signed their own death warrant when they signed up to fight the terrorists. They beat the terrorists. The terrorists are on their heels. If we do nothing, the terrorists will recover and they will get back in. So the current fight is all about providing essential services to the people, making their lives better, showing that we have a plan, which we didn’t in 03 and 04. We’re doing well. U.S. Policies have changed to facilitate us doing this. The Generals are the ones who are doing this. They have gotten it. They have changed their tune. The new Secretary [of Defense] is planning things. He is facilitating.”

“So, what are the papers saying today? They are saying that militarily it is going alright, but the political reconciliation is not occurring. The papers say, ‘The purpose of the surge was to give the Iraqis breathing room so that they can make political progress. You’ve done tremendous things, militarily, but the Maliki government is not making political progress so the surge is a failure.’ Well, here’s the kicker, what we can’t know in the present day [October 2007] but I am going to theorize for a second.”

Quinn returns to the whiteboard, near the end of Phase Six. “On October 23, 2007, when we put a thousand people on the street in the Ramadi Unity Parade, walking.” Quinn points to pictures. “This is MSR [Main Supply Route – a military term for road] Michigan. When we were here, on this stretch of road in 2005, 200 IEDs detonated from just the edge of this picture to the other edge. By contrast in 2007, there are hundreds of people in formations walking down the street. One machine gun on the long axis, enfilade fire, look what it could do — and this is what was going on, and there was no attack. So, let’s just say that the Ramadi Unity Parade on October 23, 2007, signals the end of the Sixth Phase. To pull this off is proof there is no terrorist activity in the city, and there hasn’t been for six months. And, we have repaved parts of this street. We’ve gotten the sewer fixed underneath. We are cleaning up the trash that used to be there. This is a gravel pile that is evidence of new construction that is going on. So, we may end up looking back on this and deciding that the Seventh Battle of Iraq started on October 2007 and ended on a date to be determined. And this was the political reconciliation. The Shiites have come out from Baghdad. In that parade, 80% of the marchers were from Baghdad, and they came here [to Ramadi] on purpose, saying the reason we are here is to demonstrate central government support for the Safwa [Awakening] Al Iraq — they don’t call it the awakening of Anbar anymore, they call it the Awakening of Iraq; it is going national.”

“The Iraqis tell me,” continued Quinn, “that all of Iraq envies Anbar right now. Everyone in Iraq wants a piece of the stability and prosperity that Anbar has. Everyone in Ninewah, in Diyala. So if this parade is evidence of the central government coming out and supporting Anbar, that could be the beginning of National Reconciliation — let’s just say that takes October 07 to March 08. That’s it, the war is won. We lost the first two battles. The people won the next three. We won the sixth. And the politicians have to win the seventh. The contribution of American forces is as follows. We had Abu Gharib. We had Haditha and another incident. Even though they are nothing like My Lai, they were black eyes. But, we have been at war for four years, and 99.9% of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have conducted themselves with discipline, a purpose, Strategic Corporal type of maturity, and in doing that we didn’t polarize the populous to hate us. We didn’t create blood enemies from every family in Iraq against the United States that will last for generations. Al Qaeda did. We just held the line. We could not be defeated.But we couldn’t win, until we got the people on our side, and they provided the victory.”

Quinn’s recitation of his Six Phases is largely concluded. But he also notes, “In my opinion, there is alot of grand standing in the [U.S.] military, saying, ‘We did this.’ We did, but in the sense of we made it impossible for us to be defeated. And we made it possible for the people to get on board, and when they did, we supported them absolutely. We risked lives. We never armed them, as far as I can tell. The joke here is, ‘Every insurgent I ever met had a gun already.’ When we turned those guys to work for us, they already had their arms already. What we did do is we gave them some logistical support, we gave them morale, we gave them leadership, we gave them an example, we definitely mentored these guys. We just won the Sixth Battle of Iraq, I think, with that parade. It could be a month ago, or a month from now — the parade is just the dividing line. The dates that I picked out are generic, but they are close enough. Of course, this whole timeline is also Ramadi-centric. Like Fallujah calmed down this summer [2007].”

Pointing to the phases on the whiteboard, Quinn notes that most Americans don’t understand these nuances. “This is very similar to the progression of World War Two. We were getting our asses smacked all over the globe for most of the year of 1942 until Guadacanal, which was so significant for the Marine Corps, since it represented our first victory. That was July 1942. Once the tide turned in World War Two, we started winning every battle. Phase Four [of the Iraq War According to Quinn] was a nine month period. Phase Five is a six month period. Phase Six is a six month period. It’s not only winning, but now we are gaining momentum and the phases are getting shorter. So, there’s every reason to be optimistic about the war, not pessimistic. But most people don’t have that granularity.”

[source: 10-25-07_Maj_Quinn_1stMeeting.wav minute 1:03 ff]

Reference: Larson14.mov,

Lessons Learned for Marine Lieutenants from Senator’s Son

Contrast and Compare Webb, Fields of Fire, with Larson, Senator’s Son,

6 Themes:
How does Larson contrast and compare his novel with Webb’s novel?

Memorial Day, 2009:

Michael Phillips, the same Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote a book about Jason Dunham, the recipient of a Medal of Honor for his heroism on April 14, 2004, filed a story about Lima Company, 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, from a little known town, Now Zad, Afghanistan. Lima 3/8 is engaged in a bitter, positional fight against Taliban/ Al Qaeda units. Like Lima 3/7 in early 2004, Lima 3/8 does not have enough manpower to fully occupy the town so the unit takes up positions from which it can control most of the town. Phillips writes, “From their entrenched lines, neither side is strong enough to prevail.” The description of Lima 3/8 in Now Zad recalls Gannon’s emails to Schreffler, asking for more troops to replace his combat casualties. But the main focus, both in early 2004, and in Summer 2009, seems to be elsewhere. Most significantly, perhaps, both in early 2004, and in Summer 2009, the Marines are not yet using the combined action platoon (Joint Security Station/ A-Team techniques). The Phillips article about Now Zad notes that a Marine platoon is occupying a post which is supposed to be a joint unit, but the Afghan unit is not able to fulfill the commitment.

Memorial Day, 2009:

The index tracking the 20+ year US Treasury Bonds have fallen 22% from the beginning of the year, with another precipitous dip just before the holiday commemorating the sacrifices of US service members. The Economist has just published an article reporting on a Brazilian bond rating agency that will lower the rating on US Treasury Bonds to AA from AAA. Other articles note that Brazil and China will start to conduct global transactions in their own currencies, instead of the US Dollar, continuing a theme from earlier in the year, when a Chinese central banker suggested that the US Dollar be replaced as the global reserve currency. The United States national debt of $11.3 trillion dollars is growing at an increasingly faster rate. The Crash of 2008 may not lead to another Great Depression, but it seems at least headed for a Great Recession, if not a Not-So-Great Depression. A PBS Frontline special report, “Ten Trillion and Counting,” places part of the blame for the roots of this fiscal crisis in the policy of cutting taxes while fighting two expensive wars in the years following 9-11. James Webb, now a US Senator, warned in a September, 2002, Washington Post editorial, “Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall… An “American war” with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia.”

The strategic and fiscal circumstances on Memorial Day, 2009, make it more important than ever that Americans integrate their support for our military with our economic policies. The interesting question that Phillips’ article about Lima 3/8 in Now Zad raises is, Does the next 4 years in that Afghanistan zone of action look like 2003 to 2007 in Anbar? Yet, from an economic standpoint, America faces a much more challenging fiscal environment in 2009 than it did in 2004. This makes it ever more important that, when we, as a society, send our armed forces — representing both blood and treasure — into a mission like Afghanistan counterinsurgency, a greater percentage of Americans understand what the Lima 3/8 Marines are trying to do. Defense budget cuts recently have pared back expenditures for the most advanced weapons systems, like the F-22 or the Future Combat Vehicle. Secretary Gates recently switched the General commanding the Afghanistan mission from one who had spent most of his career in armor to one who had spent most of his career in special forces. Reporter David Brooks suggested that the coming Summer, 2009, would represent a spike in casualties for US troops — including many Marines — as they pushed out from towns like Now Zad, into the population, just as the Marines had in Anbar in the years following 2004.

Perhaps Americans will not respond en masse to a moral imperative to better understand what Marines do in counterinsurgency. Perhaps a better reason for most Americans to understand Marine counterinsurgency techniques is simply self interest. What Jim Webb was arguing in September, 2002, is that an over-reaction to 9-11 would lead to a kind of geopolitical judo in which America did more harm to itself than our opponents could do through direct action. Joining him were other experienced military professionals like General Van Riper, General Zinni, and General Hoar, among others. But, having made the decision to invade Iraq, it was then in the national interest to fight the war as efficiently — and economically — as possible. The Marines started to see a tipping point in Anbar in late 2006, before The Surge announced in early 2007. Much of Petraus’ “new” counterinsurgency doctrine was built on techniques that the Marines were already using in Anbar. As Bing West put it in both Newshour interviews and his book, The Strongest Tribe, the “iron rods” in Anbar were Marine Rifle Companies, like Lima 3/7. Within the massive economic commitment that the US Department of Defense represents, a Marine Infantry Company remains one of the most flexible, effective, and powerful weapon systems. As the next 4 years unfold in towns like Now Zad, Afghanistan, for more Marine Infantry Companies like Lima 3/8 — while at the same time the United States faces serious questions about the rating of its national debt — it may be a wise and cost effective investment of attention and support if Americans were to take a focused interest in the plight of the humble Marine grunt trying to win that Small War.


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.