...,1st Draft

Chapter 17 – Aftermath of Ramadi 1 Deployment23 Mar

The city walls are all come down
The dust, a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance
– U2, “A Sort of Homecoming”

The War According to Rory Quinn, Part Four

In listening to “The War According to Rory Quinn,” it becomes clear that Operation Iraqi Freedom was a war of what popular author Malcolm Gladwell calls “tipping points.” The basic idea of tipping points is that small things accumulate to make a big difference, and the change in phases often occurs in a short period of several weeks. The United States lost Phase One of The War According to Rory Quinn because it did not have the economic resources required to stabilize society in Iraq when it won the Invasion in 2003. The United States lost Phase Two of the War According to Quinn because it failed in thousands of small ways — lack of food, lack of electricity, lack of economic support in every aspect — resulting in the tipping point in April 2004 in which anti coalition forces won over much of the populous to their side. But, the United States won Phase Three simply by not losing also in countless small tactical engagements such as those in Husaybah in 2004 and in Ramadi in 2005, resulting in another tipping point on November 28, 2005, when Sunni insurgent leaders met with General Casey, Ambassador Khalizad, and LtCol Turner, among others, at the Government Center in Ramadi to negotiate a deal against the insurgent process. As Doug Halepaska noted, the population was “sitting on a fence at that point, teetering back and forth.” A tipping point had been created by the United States not losing in Quinn’s “Third Battle of Iraq.”

In Gladwell’s description of Tipping Points, certain key individuals — mavens, connectors — play a key role. The mavens and connectors in the Tipping Point phases described by Quinn would include the insurgent leadership, as well as the Sunni tribal leaders — the Sheiks. But, on the Marine side, the mavens and connectors of the Tipping Points engineered in Anbar from 04 to 07 would include the key leaders who stayed with 3/7 for multiple tours. Quinn himself, who served 3 tours with 3/7, including one as Lima 3/7 CO, and one as 3/7 XO, would be one of them. So too would be Marines such as Link, Mejia, and Bellmont, who had ridden into Iraq in the back of Amtracs in the same platoon in 2003, and served as NCOs leading fire teams and squads in Husaybah in 2004. Carpenter, who served 2 tours with Lima Company, then 2 more tours (and ultimately a 3d after the writing of this book) with 3/7 would be another.

Gladwell’s book on Tipping Points notes the importance of a human channel capacity — the “maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us.” For humans, the channel capacity seems to be set at about 150, which may explain the reason that a military Company has not grown beyond roughly that size over a long period time. By the time Lima 3/7 had made its third Iraqi deployment, Quinn, Bellmont, Mejia, Link, Carpenter and the other multi-tour veterans were known quantities to each other and they also knew the terrain in their zone of action.

Quinn continues his narration of the Iraq War in Six Phases by picking up where we left off in Chapter 12 at November 28, 2005, which he uses to mark the end of Phase Three. “In December 2005 — even though Lima Company had an incredibly violent attack — was basically a peaceful month. In December 05, in Ramadi, people started sending tips in, started reporting weapons caches, started ratting on insurgents, they started cooperating with us more than they had in the past. I would submit that the Al Anbar Awakening started in November of 05. In January 06, Al Qaeda realizes that they are in deep shit, so they launch a major murder and intimidation campaign — what we call an M&I campaign. They assassinate something like 6 key sheiks in Anbar. On January 5, 2006, Al Qaeda blows up with a suicide vest a bunch of Sunni police recruits at the glass factory here, 500 meters from where we are standing. This is Al Qaeda killing Sunnis. Think about the implications here. They are desperate at this point to keep the Sunnis from cooperating with the Americans so they start murdering Sunnis, they start murdering Sheiks to communicate, ‘you better not fucking cooperate.’ The great story about the glass factory bombing is these people today [October 2007] are our cops. The police recruits are standing in line at the glass factory because their tribal leadership has told them to join up. Suicide bomber comes in, detonates his vest, kills somewhere between 30 and 70, wounds a hundred more. The survivors get up, help load bottom halves of legs, hands, legs, torsos into a truck, truck drives off, and then these men get back in line and become Iraqi police who are serving today. That’s the level of their commitment to defeat Al Qaeda at that point. But what the press reports is: another senseless killing in Ramadi, the war is lost, there is no point in continuing. But meanwhile, we have already won the third Battle of Iraq, but no one understand that the third Battle has happened. In March of 2006, the [media and public] think it’s a three year, pointless war. But, we are in the fourth Battle of Iraq.”

Quinn outlined his four phases on a whiteboard while he discussed each for Halepaska’s sake. “On January 5, there was the suicide bombing at the Glass Factory. During January, 6 key Sunni Sheiks are assassinated. On February 12, the Samarra bombing goes off on the Golden Mosque on purpose to make Sunnis kill Shiites. [Al Qaeda] is trying to stoke conflict. It would be like my going to your house at Thanksgiving and telling your mom, ‘Doug said your turkey sucks,’ and then tell your dad, ‘Your wife said that you’re a lazy bastard and never help around the house,’ and then go to you and tell you, ‘Your dad thinks you are a punk.’ Unless you all communicate, you are going to be angry at each other because I am actively stirring the pot. Yet, again, the press just says, ‘The Halepaska Family is in chaos.’ No kidding it is in chaos, someone is actively stirring the pot. Well, in August of 2006 this is the globally famous event: Sheik Sattar’s father is killed, and his two brothers. The minute that Al Qaeda had to kill more and more tribal leaders to keep these people on board, we just won the Fourth Battle of Iraq. The people are so primed at this point to get on board with the coalition — we just don’t realize it. In August of 2006, I did not understand we were about to win the war. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that I could see that.”

Quinn compared the idea of pulling American troops out of Iraq in the middle of these “Battles” to pulling firefighters out of the Southern California wild fires occurring in late 2007. Americans would dismiss that idea as implausible because of the threat to their property. In the same way, Quinn argued that the ongoing American commitment to Iraq was directly relevant to the threat revealed on 9-11. “It’s 9-11 today,” Quinn told Doug Halepaska. “But people don’t get it. People have had the convenience of forgetting about it. It’s always been 9-11.”

“So, on September 14, 2006, Sheik Sattar founds the Al Anbar Awakening. His father and two brothers were murdered, and their bodies were left exposed to the sun. They weren’t allowed to bury them — [a major violation of Islamic burial protocols]. Because of that killing in August, Sheik Sattar takes a few weeks to get himself organized, and on Sept 14, he founds the Al Anbar Awakening. It is a pivotal event — it says, ‘we resent Al Qaeda, the terrorists. Our friends, the coalition forces, are to be supported.’ And Sattar says, ‘no one attacks coalition, everyone attacks the terrorists. That’s your duty.’ He said, ‘go join up to be a policeman. Provide for your child. Get paid. Become part of the government. Become part of the system. We’re going to drive these terrorists out.’ The tribal leadership of the country has decided the terrorists are not worth supporting anymore, we are supporting the coalition. Get on the train.”

The War According to Rory Quinn, Part Five

“From September 06 to March 07, the people rise up,” continued Quinn to Halepaska at the 3/7 headquarters in late 2007. “They follow Sheik Sattar. It is not only Sheik Sattar. But he is a useful medium to understand the rest of the dynamic. It is much more complex. It has to do with police leadership. It has to do with specific citizens standing up to be police officers. To say that the sheiks lead the victory is simplistic and not true. But, it is close enough to the truth.”

Halepaska, the chemist, asked: “It was the people on the ground, the policemen, the police chiefs, who actually did the fighting?”

Quinn responded, “I would say those people you describe are the leaders. Sattar is also a leader. And Sattar is a very impactful, very charismatic political leader. But it was other guys who actually took the city back. But generally Sheik Sattar’s awakening is what did it.” One of the Tipping Points described in Gladwell’s book of the same name is the drastic drop in crime in New York in 1992 after decades of relative disorder. The shift occurred in several months time, and hinged on small things, such as policing of subway toll evaders. So too, the Tipping Point described by Quinn in the months following September 2006 seems to have hinged on the political will of leaders like Sheik Sattar and the key Sunni police chiefs, but expressed in myriad small details filtered out through the population — the “other guys” of Quinn’s 5th Battle of Iraq.

Halepaska interjected, “I’m thrilled we’re getting so much done in such a little time. I have another three weeks to go. I am hoping by the time I leave here, I will have it down.” Halepaska, a Reserve Marine who had been activated to serve at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after 9-11, was using his vacation from his job as a DEA Chemist to conduct these interviews, having paid for his own travel. It was, to use a phrase from Irish band, U2, a sort of homecoming.

“From September 06 to March 07, this is the time where the victory occurred.” Quinn emphasized his words, a natural story teller twice over by virtue of his Irish heritage, and his teacher parents. “This is the critical moment where Iraqis were killing terrorists. Taking baseball bats and walking around the city and clubbing people to death. Taking guns and going to their neighbor and talking to their neighbor, who they know is a terrorist supporter, capturing the guy, and saying, ‘who do you work with?’ And he says, ‘no body.’ And they hold a gun to his head, and they say, ‘Bullshit, who do you fucking work with?’ And he says, ‘Halepaska.’ And they say, ‘Oh yeah, where is he?’ And he says, ‘He lives about nine houses down.’ And they’d go and they’d kill you. Or what they’d actually do is they’d say, ‘I’m about to shoot you in the fucking head. Do you want to get on board? Are you going to be part of this movement?’ And if you say no, you get shot. And if you say yes, you get accepted, and they watch you like a hawk. Once you demonstrate that you are on board, and a lot of times you got on board. You might only have been working with the terrorists in the same way that people get caught up with the Mob. You didn’t really want to be there. But, guess what? There’s no jobs. There’s no aid coming in. There’s no international organizations. You have no choice but to work with the terrorists.”

Halepaska recalled an interview with Brad Watson in 2005: “That’s what Watson said once, ‘the Iraqis respect strength.'”

Quinn confirmed, “They do. Every body respects strength, particularly the Iraqis. This entire country has battered wife’s syndrome. You could call it beaten dog’s syndrome. They behave the way a battered woman behaves. They have no self confidence, no sense of self worth. They believe that you are going to abandon them at any moment. So they will do whatever you want in the short term. Meanwhile, we are trying to say, ‘No, stand up. Be a leader. Schedule a trash route for trucks to drive through your neighborhood.’ The challenge of being a coalition member in 07 is that you’re trying to give them a sense of confidence, a sense that their municipal trash service can work in the city. Show them that electricity can be repaired, and that Iraqis can maintain the electrical network. And they assume that they are going to fail. Because of the battered wife syndrome. But if you’ve ever dealt with a rape victim, they exhibit irrational behavior because they are scarred from a traumatic event. This is from Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda would decapitate people in the streets and then put a note on their chest saying, ‘don’t work with the Americans during the Third Battle of Iraq, May 04 to November 05. Historically, when we look back on it, we would say that was counterproductive behavior, but this was not a group of Mattis’ we were fighting. These aren’t a group of Pattons, a group of JFKs. They don’t have worldly leadership. They are not inspired, learned men who are working for the benefit of people. They are thugs, criminals, mafioso type — and so, of course, they behead people, and undercut their own success.”

“But in Phase Three, in November 05, most Americans just say, ‘this is two and a half years of this war, and there is no end to it.’ But, [the Marines’ perspective was], ‘we’re about to win for the first time.’ For the whole time, soldiers and Marines on the ground have been saying, ‘things are improving,’ but people hear me say that, and respond, ‘it is just cliche. People have been saying that for years.'”

“By March of 2007,” continued Quinn, coming to the end of his description of Phase Five of Six in his master narrative, “the people rise up, as embodied by Sheik Sattar’s movement. Citizens become police officers — not really because they weren’t paid. They just put on a blue shirt, and it was like Wyatt Earp in the West. And they drove Al Qaeda out of Ramadi. Now, this had happened previously, in Al Qaim. And it is happening, now [October 2007], in Baghdad. But people won’t get it for six or eight months from now. They won’t see it. By March 31st, 2007, the people have cleared the city.”

Here, again, we place a bookmark in “The War According to Rory Quinn” until Chapter Chapter 22.


Act 3 of Senator’s Son
Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13
1/6 deployment when Awakening occurred in Ramadi, Winter, 2006

...,1st Draft

Chapter 1 – 3d Generation and 4th Generation War05 Feb

Writing a book about a Marine Rifle Company in Iraq is like representing a client in a criminal case, presumed guilty by the jury of murder. The majority of the press coverage of Iraq focused on Haditha, with assistance by one of the Marine’s own, Congressman Jack Murtha (D – Pa). There is a presumption that the Marines are involved in these types of atrocities in the media, which our book would become a part of.

Yet, in the course of this representation of the Marine Rifle Company, we instead found that the unit collectively, and the Marines individually, were corporate actors who managed mergers and partnerships with skill usually found in men with decades more business experience; that they were not-for-profit, pro bono corporate actors who gave charitably at almost every opportunity, including from their own family’s experience; that they were civic officials in the failed states that Iraq had become for several years, in effect, the only municipal authorities for at least several quarters, while native political leaders emerged. By in large, these were Marines in their early 20s, with the eldest in the group in their 30s. Far from being the murderers of the most widely disseminated portrayals following Haditha, what we found, when preparing the case on behalf of our corporate client, Lima Company, 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is that the Company and its Marines represented a hybrid corporate entity of unusual flexibility, purpose, and vision together with a civic leadership team that turned one of many failed states into part of a larger country which has a chance again to at least survive.

Our client, in effect, had been slandered in a way that a legally sophisticated person in the United States would almost certainly respond to with purposeful litigation. A Marine Rifle Company with service in Iraq had been prejudged in such a way that a defendant in a criminal murder case might rightly ask for a change of venue due to the likelihood that the jury pool had been irrevocably tainted. Yet, our client, if you will, a Marine Rifle Company, has no such dignitary or procedural rights, as it is but a Federal Government entity, governed by the Constitution, and the laws thereunder. It is rightly, a humble servant, which takes these slights in stride. But, it should be able to make its case on its own behalf.

Unlike the Easy Company of Band of Brothers, the Lima Company of Desert Mech is not part of a “good war,” according to popular perception. Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of a “Small War” as opposed to a “Big War” is the inherent ambiguity of the purpose, and the likely lack of full public support for the mission. According to the Marine Corps Small Wars manual, a Small War is defined as, “operations taken under executive authority, wherein military force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the internal or external affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are determined by the foreign policy of our Nation.” This definition, based upon the experience of the Small Wars of the 1920s and 1930s, still serves as a useful point of departure for discussing Small Wars and Big Wars. In effect, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United States fought a Big War which lasted for at least 3 weeks, followed by possibly 3 to 5 Small Wars which were divided by both geography and time over the course of the subsequent 4 years.

Since the 1920s and 1930s, of course, technology has advanced and the changes in communications especially have caused important shifts in the dynamics of warfare. The Marines who fought the Small Wars in the jungles of Nicaragua were generally isolated with reports of their activities born out by message traffic over periods of weeks and months. The Marines who fought their Small War in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from 2004 to 2007 and beyond, were reported on by news agencies with the ability to instantly transmit a story to millions of people.

Lima 3/7 was one of dozens of Marine Rifle Companies that participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom from start to finish between 2003 and 2007 — though the term, “finish” has a much different meaning, if any, in a Small War. The unit was trained to fight a 3d Generation, manuever war. 3d Generation is a term of art that represents a type of warfare first used by the Germans at the end of World War I and perfected by both sides — including notably the Marines in the Pacific Island Hopping campaigns — during World War II. The purpose of manuever warfare is to find an opponent’s weakest spots — so-called gaps — and to penetrate and exploit those gaps, thus leading to a more rapid victory than destroying all of the opponents forces, which is known as attrition.

The Marine Corps officially adopted Manuever Warfare in 1989 with the publication of the manual, Warfighting, under Commandant Alfred Gray. But, even as the Marine Corps was adopting Manuever Warfare, there were indications that the next generation of warfare was emerging. The Marine Corps participated in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1990 – 1991 in Kuwait in a campaign that was, perhaps, the pinnacle of 3d Generation Warfare. All of the principles of Manuever Warfare were used in that campaign. But, in 1989, a series of prescient Marine Corps Gazette articles predicted a new generation of warfare, a 4th Generation. 4th Generation Warfare is advanced counter-insurgency warfare in which ideology, religion, and other traditionally non-military factors come to the forefront. The so-called 4 generations of warfare co-exist and overlap. While the culture, courtesies, and traditions of the US Military has been said to be of the 2nd Generation, the most recent operations such as Desert Shield/ Storm can be described as belonging to the 3d Generation, and the Iraq War might be described as a 3d Generation, Big War, lasting a month in 2003, followed by several 4th Generation, Small Wars, lasting several years from 2003 to 2007 and beyond. Whereas Big Wars use both Hard and Soft Power (terms defined by Joseph Nye), Small Wars emphasize Soft Power in particular.

Beginning in Chapter 6, and then continued in Chapters 12, 17, and 22, we present The War According to Rory Quinn — a series of observations on the phases of the Iraq War from the perspective of a 3-tour Marine Officer. Quinn identifies 6 phases from his perspective at the end of the period we cover, 2003 to 2007, with clarity that would be impossible to achieve during the process. Quinn’s phases are very much a 4th Generation War view of the situation, as it progressed — the 3d Generation Warfare phase is really dismissed quickly. Quinn’s phases are a Marine Grunt’s view of the Small War that was fought in Al Anbar Province, with only minimal regard to the other Small Wars being fought at the same time in other parts of Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan.

* * *

Sometimes, the answer to a problem sits down right next to you. On a cross country flight, I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, The Tipping Point. I had just written certain sections of this book, “The War According to Rory Quinn,” in which I compared stages in the counterinsurgency the Marines fought in Anbar from 2003 to 2007 to various tipping points. My problem, though, was how to write a Band of Brothers type of narrative about a single Rifle Company for a popular audience when the population of the United States had changed from one where military service was the norm to one where it was the exception. In particular, I wanted to write a book about a shift from 3d to 4th Generation Warfare — a shift in thinking that was of vital importance in national security, yet, one that would be hard to portray in an interesting way to a popular audience. Put another way, 10 classmates from my Harvard Class of 1991 had gone into the Marine Corps, and maybe 2 of my classmates from my Stanford Law class of 2000 had served in the US Military. That left 1590 Harvard 1991 classmates and 177 Stanford Law 2000 classmates who had very little point of reference for a book about a Marine Rifle Company going from desert mech to Ramadi SWAT.

“I am the subject of that book your holding,” said my seat mate on the flight. He paged forward to the chapter on the Lambesis advertising agency of San Diego. “Gladwell wrote a New Yorker chapter about Airwalk before he wrote the book. Here, I’ll send you the article by email,” Nick Lambesis said as he sent the article on his Macbook Pro.

I explained to Nick that I was reading The Tipping Point mainly for my business as an investment adviser, looking for ideas about how to market my firm. But, I was also working on a book about a Marine Rifle Company — a Band of Brothers for the Iraq War. I told Lambesis that I had struck by the comparison of the counterinsurgency phases of the Iraq War to the tipping points described by Gladwell.

“Really?” replied Nick. “I have a son who is a Army officer with several tours in Iraq. He was always saying, ‘Dad, you and Malcolm Gladwell should come to Iraq because this idea of tipping points applies to the war we are fighting.’” When I was back in San Diego, I forwarded a draft of the chapters where I drew comparisons between the tipping point and counterinsurgency to Lambesis. He enthusiastically responded.

As I continued to draft the book in the Spring of 2009 — after two of the worst quarters in the stock market since the 1930s — I continued to think about my basic problem of how to write a book about a Marine Rifle Company for a popular audience. One of the Company Commanders that we will meet, Rory Quinn, is the author of an op-ed in which he compares the current generation of Marines to the Greatest Generation of World War II Veterans. In some objective respects, this is certainly true. The length of service, the rigor of combat, all have some similarities to the experience of Americans who served from 1941 to 1945. Yet, the truth is that the All Volunteer Force is more like the volunteer fire department — it is a self-selecting minority of the American population, rather than the “Citizen Soldiers” from Stephen Ambrose books about that period. I didn’t want to write another book about Marines in combat for Marines. I didn’t want to write a book for the 10 Harvard classmates who had gone into the Marine Corps — they already followed the events in Anbar closely enough (in fact, one of those classmates, Owen West, had left a lucrative spot on the trading desk at Goldman Sachs to serve as a Marine in Iraq, twice). I wanted to write a book for the other 1590 Harvard graduates who were doctors, lawyers, investment managers, and other professionals.

Then, it hit me. I was working through an interview with another Lima Company Commanding Officer, Marcus Mainz. Mainz was narrating his philosophy of command, which we will encounter in the last quarter of this book. Mainz reduced the essential functions of a Marine to three areas, one of which was decision-making. What Mainz was describing was essentially similar to another topic covered in one of Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling books, Blink. Indeed, in Blink, Gladwell uses Paul Van Riper as an example of this type of thinking without thinking — in the military it is called, recognitional decision-making, or coup d’oeil, based on long-study of the 99% of tactics that is known and established. Further, Paul Van Riper had commanded a Marine Rifle Company in Vietnam — in fact, Mike Company, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, a sister company to Lima 3/7. “It is a series of risk-reward calculations,” Marcus Mainz was explaining. I was writing the book in the early mornings while I watched the stock market as an investment adviser. I re-read Blink, and of course, Van Riper had struck up an immediate kinship with derivative traders on one of New York’s exchanges — probably the Merc — and brought the traders down to Quantico where they interacted as brothers with Marines. The thing that they had in common was the ability to make decisions under stress — in a blink. Gladwell notes, “To Van Riper, it seemed clear that these ‘overweight, unkempt, long-haired’ guys [the traders] and the Marine Corps brass were fundamentally engaged in the same business — the only difference being that that one group bet on money, and the other bet on lives.”

So, one of my main themes in the book was right there, in the words that Mainz was using to describe his decision as to whether to break my Rifle Company — as he put it. “It’s a risk-reward calculation.” A military commander is a portfolio manager. In the America of 2008-2009, everyone can relate to a portfolio manager — possibly with feelings of hatred, loathing and contempt. But, 99% of the population knows, intimately, what a portfolio manager does. 401k’s have become 201k’s. TARP1, TARP2, TALF, Homeowner Stability, derivatives — these have become household terms. If you ask a member of the World War II Generation how many bullets are in the clip of an M-1 Rifle, most men of that era will know the answer, with a muscle memory from the sore thumb caused by feeding the clip incorrectly. If you ask a member of the current generation how many bullets are in the magazine of an M-16 Rifle, most will not know, and they will probably label you, subconsciously at least, as some dangerous gun nut. But, if you ask almost anyone the price of the Dow Jones, you get instant — if painful — recognition.

In early 2009, it has become clear that some authors had the problems which lead to the Crash right. One is Nassim Taleb, author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. Taleb, an option trader, models himself as a philosopher and “skeptical empiricist” and reserves particularly high praise for military officers in The Black Swan. Some passages from that book adroitly forewarn of the groupthink of bankers at too-big-to-fail, over-leveraged institutions that would implode spectacularly in 2008. At least two of the Tipping Points in the 6 Phases of “The War According to Rory Quinn” can also be understood to be Black Swan events — relatively fast sea changes that were not fully anticipated by the participants, but which, upon retrospect, lead to a persistent shift in the outlook. In the Crash of 2008 and the quarters following in 2009, Taleb was interviewed on the Newshour, Charlie Rose and other popular media venues as a visionary of the unexpected. Black Swan has entered the popular language. As an investment adviser, I now have sophisticated clients who come to me and say, “I want a black swan portfolio.” I reference Taleb’s book, and cook up an appropriate allocation that is 90% hyper-conservative, and 10% hyper-aggressive. But, if you listen closely to the language of Marine Commander Marcus Mainz, you find the language of a Black Swan portfolio manager too. Mainz says, “Augmentation Teams were my bid for success,” describing the decision to break up his Rifle Company into teams of 5 to 10 Marines deployed with 100 Iraqi Police amid 10,000 Iraqi citizens in the last quarter of this book. Those “A-Teams” could have been snuffed out by a hostile population, or a treacherous police force. That is the risk. Mainz, the military commander/ portfolio manager would have to weigh that risk. But, those 5 to 10 Marines, exerting a positive influence into the 10,000 citizens around them was his “bid for success.” If Mainz were a portfolio manager, those 5 to 10 Marine A-Teams would be like a derivative position that could cause profits many multiples of the original investment. But, of course, they were not securities positions, but flesh and blood Americans, whom Mainz was entrusted with using wisely. But, if you try to explain to an American that Marcus Mainz was using a CAP — a Marine concept — he will probably think you’re talking about a baseball cap, rather than a Combined Action Platoon (CAP), as had been used successfully in Vietnam in the 1960s, and in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua in the 1930s. But, if you explain that Mainz was using 5 to 10 Marines, influencing 100 Iraqi Cops, to create a leveraged option on 10,000 Iraqi people — just like an option on stock, or one of those stupid Credit Default Swaps issued by AIG — then the light bulbs may go off. At least, I am willing to bet the other 1590 Harvard 1991 classmates will keep reading if I explain that Mainz was using an option created by 5 to 10 Marines to possibly control 10,000 Iraqi people. He was using a leveraged instrument. Leverage (like tracers) works both ways. That’s a concept that all Americans in 2009 can understand.

As the Spring wore on, I read Gladwell’s latest best seller, Outliers. Gladwell’s third best seller is an attempt to explain success through context. There is the law of 10,000 hours for mastery of a subject area, and the protocols used by KIPP to make disadvantaged kids into students as effective as upper class kids with helicopter parents who impose a culture of constant striving. And here was a third set of best selling ideas which readily relate to the story of a Marine Rifle Company from 2003 to 2008. What the Marine Corps does is to create a culture of success in combat. This is a deliberate, repeatable process. History is the religion of the Marine Corps, it has been said. Recruits at Boot Camp in San Diego learn about Chesty Puller in the Banana Wars — Small Wars — of the 1930s in Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, before he went on to further success in World War II and Korea so that they will have a point of reference. When the time comes, General Jim Mattis will write them a letter saying, this is your Small War, and they will know what this means. The Marine Corps reduces all of the protocols of combat into acronyms — for calling for mortars, for making 13 Marines shoot at the same target at once, for calling for a helicopter to evacuate your wounded. Marines carry these protocols in laminated battle books or in their heads. These protocols seek to reduce the 10,000 hours required for mastery of the subject of effectiveness in combat to a fraction of that. Brilliance in the basics is the phrase that Mattis uses to emphasize adherence to these protocols, and they are what carried the Marines through the most difficult of the phases of “The War According to Rory Quinn” that we will encounter. Through their brilliance in the basics, Marines like Bellmont, Mejia, Milinkovic, and Carpenter came to be outliers certainly in American society, but also in the Department of Defense, and even within the Marine Corps. They served 3 or 4 consecutive tours of duty ranging from high tempo combat operations to advanced counterinsurgency. All of the ideas that Gladwell uses in Outliers are present in the careers of these Marines, as we will see.

To extend the analogy about Marine Leaders to Portfolio Managers one step further, Marine Leaders are not only portfolio manager, but derivative traders. Marine leaders are not like buy and hold investors who buy an unleveraged equity and hold it forever. Rather, they are more like short term traders seeking short term profit (tours of 7 instead of 12 months). They use leverage through derivatives, financial instruments that derive their value from the price of another instrument. The Marine definition of combined arms is to use one weapon to make the enemy vulnerable to another weapon — which is the essence of a long-short hedged position created with financial derivatives. Marines have unique protocols to quickly create such leveraged, hedged battlefield positions for the purpose of creating no-win dillemmas for their opponents — in effect, to profit from a movement in either direction, just like a portfolio manager who uses a hedged position instead of a long-only position which only profits in one direction. The ideas of Marine commanders as derivative traders are found both in 3d Generation (Maneuver) and 4th Generation (advanced counterinsurgency) Warfare.

Sitting in front of 3 computer screens while running a small trading business in the Spring of 2009, I worked on drafting Desert Mech to Ramadi SWAT. Beside me, I had a stack of video taped interviews, documents, maps and other source material relating to Lima 3/7’s deployments between 2003 and 2007. I also had a stack of model books, first among them, Band of Brothers. But, American society, and my intended audience had changed since World War II. Also beside me, I had a stack of five books relevant to my business: Gladwell’s Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers; and Taleb, The Black Swan, and Fooled By Randomness. Gladwell and Taleb’s books were about what I did, which is make decisions in a portfolio using derivatives, and then try to market that portfolio management to the more sophisticated part of American society. A-ha!

I realized that the stack of books about trading and the books about counterinsurgency warfare were really not very different. Moreover, the majority of Americans — the 1590 Harvard 1991 Classmates out of 1600 who had not gone into the Marine Corps — would more readily relate to the Gladwell and Taleb books than they would to the other stack of books, especially in the wake of 4th Quarter, 2008. Instead of writing Band of Brothers for Operation Iraqi Freedom, my task instead was to write Band of Brothers with the language of Gladwell and Taleb. Blink should supply the language of Marine decision-making. Outliers should supply the language of Marine training for success in combat. The Tipping Point, The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness should describe the nature of 4th Generation Warfare.

There is a “Canon” relating to 4th Generation Warfare. Almost certainly, my 1590 Harvard 1991 Classmates who did not go into the Marine Corps would have no idea of what it is. I had thought about using some of those books as a framework for writing Desert Mech to Ramadi SWAT, but there would be little if any frame of reference for the majority of the American public. Here is a chart with the 7 books of the Canon (from the website, www.d-n-i.net, which is maintained by several of the acolytes of Col John Boyd, USAF, a visionary thinker who influenced much of this body of theory):

Member of The Canon Significance for 3d and 4th Generation Warfare Significance for Lima 3/7, 2003 – 2007
C.E. White, The Englightened Soldier About Scharnhorst, Prussian military educator who laid basis for development of 3d Generation Warfare in the 19th and early 20th century Some Lima Officers educated within military educational system modeled on Scharnhorst
Robert Doughty, The Seeds of Disaster Development of 2nd Generation Warfare by French during and after World War I, from which the American military learned 2nd Generation Warfare Mainly relevant in organizational structure of Marine Corps
Bruce Gudmundsson, Stormtroop Tactics Development of 3d Generation Warfare in German Army during World War I, and about retraining an Army during war. Directly relevant to the 3d Generation, Manuever Warfare taught to all Marine Leaders as Warfighting Doctrine
Martin Samuels, Command or Control? Draws distinctions between 2nd and 3d Generation Warfare by contrasting British and German tactical development from the late 19th Century through World War I Directly relevant to why 3d Generation Warfare is superior to 2nd Generation Warfare
Robert Doughty, The Breaking Point 2nd and 3d Generation Warfare clash in 1940 Battle of Sedan Same as above
Martin van Creveld, Fighting Power Compares 2nd and 3d Generation Warfare as institutions (US Army v German Army, World War II) Same as above
Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War Basis for 4th Generation War, State’s loss of monopoly on war and social organization Directly relevant to the 4th Generation, advanced counterinsurgency which Lima Company fought for most of 2003 – 2007

But, the above table, while possibly of use to a mainly professional military audience, would probably cause a dead stop by any regular reader of the New York Times Review of Books. But, understanding counterinsurgency warfare is vitally important for the majority of Americans because we are sending our friends and family to go fight in Afghanistan. In early 2009, a new President announced a new increase of forces in Afghanistan. Journalist David Brooks commented on The Newshour that this was likely to lead to an increase in casualties in Afghanistan for years. Telling the story of Marine Rifle Company, Lima 3/7, from 2003 to 2007 carries a sense of urgency now, in the Spring of 2009, because similar stories of Marine Rifle Companies will again be lived in Afghanistan, from 2009 to 2013. It would be better for us as a Country if more Americans had a grasp of this new, 4th Generation of Warfare. But, the 7 books of the Canon, are not a useful template for informing the American public at large about this topic.

Instead, I suggest the following table, which might be more accessible to the sophisticated American who regularly reads both The New York Times Review of Books, as well as his monthly 401k statements.

Gladwell/ Taleb Topic Application to 3d and 4th Generation Warfare Thinking Significance for Lima 3/7, 2003 – 2007
Thin-slicing Relationships between cultures, US Military and Iraqi Cultural training at SASO compared to Mojave Viper
Tipping Points Phases of Counter-insurgency Warfare “The War According to Rory Quinn” — all 6 Phases
Black Swan Events The Biggest Shifts in the Phases of the Insurgency “The War According to Rory Quinn” — the 2 most important shifts
Blink Coup D’oeil — Power of the Glance, the test of Generalship, Rapid decisions based on long training Certain decisions made by Lima Commanders at all levels
10,000 Hour Rule Marine Approach to Training Training of both enlisted and officer
KIPP Marine History, Traditions and Combat Protocols
Law of Few Marine Leaders influence Iraqi Police v Al Qaeda leaders influence Iraqi insurgents Marine Leaders influence Iraqi Police v Al Qaeda leaders influence Iraqi insurgents
Power of Context
Stickiness Factor Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy adapted to Needs of Populace
The Matthew Effect – Cumulative Advantage Lessons Learned in Small Warfighting passed on to future generations Lessons from Marine Small Wars in Banana Republics and Vietnam applied
Three Lessons of Joe Flom regarding success of NYC Attorneys Three Lessons of best Marines: A) A Way Out, B) Liked Sports, C) Liked Video Games
Legacy: The Importance of Scots Irish Culture The Marine Corps Culture is Scots Irish (Webb) Schreffler, Gannon, Neal, Quinn, Mainz have elements of Scots-Irish culture
The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes (Power Distance Index) 2nd and 3d Generation Hierarchy give way to 4th Generation flat organization, distributed operations “Rank is Nothing, Talent is Everything”
Rice Paddies and Math Tests: “No one who rises before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich” Work Ethic of US Military applied to a new Generation of Warfare USMC Training Schedule, 4 AM reveille at OCS/ Bootcamp, 24 Hour Operations
Marita’s Bargain: KIPP Behavior Protocols of Military Environment cut 10,000 hours required for mastery Why Link, Mejia, Bellmont, Vegh, Neal, Gannon signed up. Training (Call for Fire Protocols). Education (CMC List, Mattis OIF Reading List)

The above table, then, provides the basic framework for my narrative. As I have gone about the task of writing the book, I have come upon a block at several junctures. But, the most basic reason for this was articulated by General Jim Mattis in a phone interview in early 2004. With limited time (because he was deploying in a matter of days), he asked, “Who are you writing this for?” That’s the most important question. In the end, I am not writing for a military audience (those accounts have already been written). Rather, I am writing for the American public at large. The concepts above are accessible to the public because they are more broadly understood. Many of these subjects are tied to economics. It is perhaps appropriate to frame much of the narrative about Lima 3/7 from 2003 to 2007 under the subject of economics for several reasons. First, the goal of Al Qaeda’s stated grand strategy is economic: to turn the US budget surplus into a deficit. Second, much of Lima Company’s efforts, especially in the 3d and 4th deployments, focus on economics.

There is a “Canon” of 4th Generation Warfare for the military community, consisting of 7 books. Then, there is a Canon of 4th Generation Warfare for the general American public, consisting of Gladwell, The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, and Taleb, The Black Swan, and Fooled By Randomness. I have selected this, second 5-book “Canon” of 4th Generation Warfare because many of these books have already been widely read and understood by the American public, especially in light of the market crash of late 2008 and early 2009. My choice of these 5 books came to me organically from having done the research — tens of hours of video taped interviews with the principal participants of the 4 Lima Company deployments from 2003 to 2007. The first clue was the master narrative of the War According to Rory Quinn, which summarizes the each deployment (Chapters 6, 12, 17, 22) — a narrative, which, quite obviously was just a series of tipping points. Not only were each of the 6 Phases that Quinn articulates tipping points, but the major topics in Gladwell, The Tipping Point — The Stickiness Factor, The Law of the Few, and The Power of Context — are useful frameworks for discussing how the tipping points were caused.

The next clue was the interview with Marcus Mainz. Mainz had in fact studied with General Paul Van Riper, who was the subject of a chapter in Blink. Indeed, Blink was first published in January 2005, at the nadir of 3d Phase in Quinn’s Six Phase master narrative of the Iraq Counterinsurgency Campaign. The Van Riper chapter in Blink may have been an implicit criticism of the net work centric warfare (NCW) thinking, with its emphasis on Effects Based Operations (EBO) that lead to many of the strategic and operational failings of the initial plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Van Riper, the Marine General with a lifetime of experience and 2nd floor attic-ful of military history books is cast as the leader who creates a command climate fostering fast action and who makes rapid decisions to defeat the Blue Forces of the American military in the 2002 wargame, Millenium Challenge. As I listened to Mainz’ interview again in 2009, I realized that Mainz was describing a command climate in Lima Company 3/7 identical to the command climate in Mike Company 3/7 created by Van Riper 4 decades earlier in Vietnam. Further, Mainz’ decision about how to deploy his company in Ramadi was itself a decision taken in a blink — but it was based on years of study of counterinsurgency, not just 10,000 hours of initial military training in his first year or two in the Marines, but an additional 10,000 hours of professional military education from reading, career level schools, and most importantly, perhaps, seminars with retired senior Marines like Van Riper while at Quantico.

As I looked over the evidence and considered how best to make my case — this is not, after all a court case, but a book designed to make an argument in the court of public opinion — there were more and more connections to ideas in the Gladwell and Taleb books. Most of those are suggested in the table, above. In the coming chapters, I will rely primarily on the words of the Lima Marines who made these 4 deployments — especially those of Bellmont and Mejia who made all 4 — but I will frame those descriptions in terms taken from Gladwell and Taleb to orient the story for an American public that has, perhaps, become too far removed from the experience of serving in uniform.

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Prologue04 Feb

16 45’21.14″ N 107 11’27.02″E elev 6m Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam
1900 Local Date Month 1968

2nd Lieutenant Michael I. Neil, USMC, and 2nd Lieutenant Richard Gannon, USMC, shared a foxhole. [The two platoon commanders in _ Co, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, had been fighting a protracted counterinsurgency in Vietnam’s northern-most I Corps for _ months. The US Strategy of conducting large scale operations against NVA Main Force units had met with ____ success (failure). Later in his tour, Lt Neil would earn a Navy Cross for his heroism. The two Marine Officers would both settle in San Diego, where both men started families, and Neil rose to the rank of Brigadier General, while also starting a law firm. Gannon’s son would enter the Marines, like his father.

16 49’19.51″N 107 05’38.53E elev 6m Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam
1800 Local Date Month 1968

Captain Carl Shaver, USMC, was the skipper of Lima 3/7. Of the five captains who commanded companies in 3/7, 3 would lose their lives during their command of their companies. Shaver had just lost a good man — Smitty — a tough Marine who walked point for the unit. Smitty had tripped an ambush, saving several Marines, but paying for the warning with his life. Shaver himself had barely escaped death with a few bullets cracking by his head. He took great pride in the performance of Lima 3/7, though. It was a solid company, that did everything asked of the unit — and more. Shaver was particularly proud of his company’s ability to coordinate fire support.

After returning to the United States, Shaver would continue his Marine service, rising to the rank of Colonel, and eventually commanding 5th Marine Regiment, one of the three infantry Regiments in the 1st Marine Division.

38 30’07.17″N 77 26’22.01W elev 80m Infantry Officers Course, Quantico, VA
2100 Local Date Month 1999

Student Lieutentant Marcus Mainz, USMC, was shivering in the cold of the Quantico, Va, winter along with 39 other Student-Lieutenants at Infantry Officer Course. With 40 students to 9 Captain-Instructors, the course was the final phase of the training and education that a Marine Officer received before taking command of his first platoon in the fabled Fleet Marine Force, or simply “the Fleet.” The weather at Q-Town, though, had a particular habit of hovering just above freezing, while also raining in an incessant, maddening drizzle — not just for hours, but for days. This particular rain — known as krachen, or ‘crying’ — had the insidious effect of invading every square inch of a student-lieutenant’s body with moisture, which conducted temperature much more efficiently. One of the Captain-Instructors came out and yelled at the class for a failure in discipline — then he got back in his car. The instructors could tag-team the class through the 12 day training evolutions in the field, thus insuring that they had a few days in the field, and a few days at home with their family between the frigid field exercises. The boisterous Captain earned the disdain of Lieutenant Mainz and his fellow students. Then a second figure emerged from the cold, dark night. Walking slowly, Captain George Schreffler gathered the freezing Lieutenants together.
“Gents, give me a school circle,” said Schreffler, his voice embodying his heritage as a Southern gentleman. “Let me teach you how to wear your cold weather gear. You need to be aware of how you appear to your Marines.” Schreffler proceeded to teach the shivering, freezing Lieutenants about a base layer, about layering their insulating layers, about how the venting system on their gore-tex parkas should be used to regulate the increased perspiration which they would generate during exercise, about not wearing too much insulation during movement, and keeping a few layers in reserve for when movement stopped. Above all, Captain Schreffler taught them about their appearance to their enlisted Marines — the entire purpose of their existence as Officers of Marines.
Day 9 of this goddamned fucking “war” — thought Lieutenant Mainz. But, this is good gouge — Marine-talk for information worth remembering. Mainz admired Schreffler because he was the consummate instructor — a patient, knowledgeable teacher.
From that day forward, Lieutenant Mainz consciously emulated Captain Schreffler, filing the Officer-Gentleman’s demeanor away as a bookmark for his own leadership development.


38 30’07.17″N 77 26’22.01W elev 80m Infantry Officers Course, Quantico, VA
2100 Local Date Month 1999

Student Lieutenant Dominique Neal thrived at IOC. In the infantry, the qualities that Dom Neal had developed as a life-long athlete, particularly in high school football — a determination never to quit, or to let down his team mates — came to be qualities prized in this Calling of Being a Grunt. In the 3 month program designed to be the capstone of nearly a year of screening and classwork for new Marine Officers, Neal had finally found a home, after completing the Naval Academy and Marine Officers Basic School.
Among the Captain Instructors that Neal admired most one stood out above the rest — Captain George Schreffler. Schreffler took an interest in Neal, as he had other students, and became a mentor to the young officer. Neal worked hard to gain Schreffler’s approval, which in the closed moral system of the Grunt, was a goal worth attaining.

33 22’14.65″N 117 15’40.40″W elev 220m Marine Corps Programs Department, Fallbrook, CA
1100 Local Date May 2004

Douglas Halepaska and Janar Wasito sat in the office of Col Carl Shaver, USMC (Retired) at Marine Corps Programs Department, Fallbrook, CA. Janar had met Col Shaver at a military symposium in San Diego. After a few minutes of conversation, they found that they both had served in Lima 3/7 — Carl Shaver as Lima 6, or Commanding Officer in the late 1960s, Janar Wasito as Lima 5, or Executive Officer in the early 1990s. Doug and Janar had served together in Lima in the early 1990s. Now, Janar and Doug were on their way to 29 Palms to do research for a book about the 1st Marine Division and the development of Small Wars Doctrine. They had stopped to pay their respects to a former Lima 6. Col Shaver shared a letter to the two aspiring journalists — a letter from Captain George Shreffler, describing his 10 months as the Commanding Officer of Lima Company during the build up for and invasion of Iraq in 2003. Shaver and Shreffler had commanded Lima 3/7 in combat during periods separated by 35 years, yet the two had a common loyalty to the Rifle Company, whom they both regarded as exceptional.
“You might find this interesting,” said Carl Shaver. “Captain Schreffler is the Battalion S-3 Operations Officer now, but he writes about Lima 3/7 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he writes about his replacement, Captain Richard Gannon.”
After sharing some unfortunate news with Col Shaver about the letter, Doug and Janar continued on to 29 Palms, where they had appointments to interview Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (1/7).

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Chapter 6 – Aftermath of OIF 102 Feb

The War According to Rory Quinn, Parts One and Two

The one Marine that we interviewed who most resembled Dick Winters of Band of Brothers is Rory Quinn. Quinn joined Battalion 3/7 as a staff officer in the S-3 Operations Section during the 2004 deployment, then commanded Lima Company for the 2005-06 Ramadi Deployment, and then served as the Battalion Executive Officer for 3/7 during the 2007 Ramadi Deployment. Winters had served as both a company grade officer (Lieutenant through Captain), commanding a company, and then as a field grade officer (Major through Colonel), as second-in-command of a battalion, just as Quinn would do over 3 tours in Iraq with Lima Company and 3/7. This career progression is unusual, and speaks to the individual qualifications of the officer and to the needs of the service during a demanding war time situation.

We found that the best net assessment of the phases of the evolving Small Wars environment in Iraq came from Rory Quinn’s own words, largely unedited, near the end of the 2007 Ramadi Deployment, which Doug Halepaska recorded in his first interview with Quinn while on an embed with 3/7 in Ramadi.

“Let me give you a quick history lesson,” began Quinn, talking to the former 3/7 machine gunner turned DEA forensic chemist using his vacation to travel to scenic Ramadi.

“I’ve thought for hundreds of hours on this, so what I am going to give you will seem like the first time I am hearing this. But no one has talked about this publicly. But it is not like I am a genius. Every body you meet [among the Marines] think about things like this. You have to commit it to paper, or it disappears. [This should] be understood by every American.”

“The United States lost the first two battles of Iraq, and we won the next three, and we are winning the sixth one. That’s the war. The war is not a four year war. There have been six battles. We are in the sixth one now. We just potentially moved into the seventh. If you could understand the dynamics, you’d understand that this is not a situation where you should bury your head in the sand and say, ‘it is not working.'”

“The first phase was March 03 to May of 03. We lost this one big time. Yes, we won the Invasion, but we lost the Occupation. The moment when we lost was the Museum in Bagdad being looted.”

Halepaska, the forensic chemist, asked, “Why are you picking the looting of the Museum as a major reference point?”

Quinn replied, “No single event will be perfect, so you are grasping for a generic symbol. And the reason why that is the thing that indicated we lost is because the minute the museum was looted, it became obvious to the world, and most importantly the Marines on the deck and the soldiers, that our leadership had devoted zero thought to what would happen to Iraq after the Invasion. And all of Dusty Soudan’s bitterness from OIF 2 is a result of that. The same lack of planning that resulted in Museums being looted is going to account for the poor tactics of OIF 2.”

Halepaska asked, “This is the same theme developed in Cobra II [a book by Gordon and Trainor]?” Halepaska had always read military history far above the level expected of his pay grade while an enlisted Marine. He was a warrior-scholar in service to the country, which is what he had in common with the current generation of Lima Marines he had traveled around the world to join on his own funds and using his government vacation time.

“Right, exactly,” confirmed Quinn, who was outlining his thoughts on a whiteboard. “The second phase is May 03 to April 04. We lost this one. This year was characterized by a continued discontent by the populous as our lack of planning compounded upon itself to make them more and more unhappy — we can’t get electricity working, we can’t provide heaters during the winter time, we can’t get food out — so that by the Spring of 04 [the people had been lost.] The people in April 2003 when the statue fell, they basically said, ‘OK, let’s see what the US has to bring to the table. I am ready to follow you. What do you have?’ And we had nothing. We had no generators, we had no organization, no blankets, no anything, we had nothing. And for a year, the population said, ‘come on, give me something, give me a reason to get on board, I want to follow you guys.’ We continuously did nothing, nothing, nothing. We did presence patrols, that was good. The Marines in 3/7 did tremendous things in Karbala in the Summer of 2003. The Marines were loved when the left Karbala.”

Bing West’s book, The Strongest Tribe — which cites Quinn repeatedly — confirms the performance of 3/7 in Karbala in Summer of 2003. Indeed, West notes that the Commanding Officer of 3/7, LtCol Matt Lopez was a popular favorite for mayor of Karbala, an office which, of course, he could not hold.

“General Mattis’ OIF 2 Plan was perfectly suited for OIF 1, post-invasion,” continued Quinn. “But the people start to get disatisfied [meaning that the assumptions which drove the planning for the 2004 Marine Deployment in Iraq were based on the Marines’ experience in Iraq in 2003].”

Looking back, continued Quinn, “I could explain the entire war effort — and the entire insurgency — based on economics. The people simply follow the money — not because they are money grubbing, but because they have to provide for their families — whoever has the money, that’s who they follow.”

“Are you talking about Iraqis being paid $500 to shoot an RPG at a hummer,” asked Halepaska.

Speaking in 2007, Quinn replied, “And today, we give them a job. And so they don’t want to shoot an RPG at a hummer. But when there’s no options for them, they take the $500 and they shoot the RPG at the hummer — because they have to, because their kids are starving.”

Halepaska noted that Brad Watson, whom we will meet in the coming chapters, also described the war according to economics.

“Exactly,” replied Quinn, “and Brad was the first guy I ever met who explained the war in those terms, and now I see he is completely right.”

“The things that made us lose the second battle of the war in 2004 are: Economics — a year of not being able to provide essential services to the Iraqis; Blackwater — the proximate cause which causes the battle of Fallujah; and, on a separate axis, Abu Gharib. Blackwater was March 30, and the encirclement of Fallujah is in early April. And then Abu Gharib breaks about April 10 or so. Those things, collectively, make the people think, ‘OK, hold up, you are attacking a city in Al Anbar Province? I got it, 4 people got killed, 4 Americans got killed, but you killed 400 Iraqis just by escalation of force incidents like shooting at cars at checkpoints. I am not willing to go to war with you over 400 people getting killed,’ the Iraqis will say. ‘It’s a problem, but I am still willing to engage. But now hold on, we killed 4 of your people, and you are going to take down a city?’ The Iraqi people can say, ‘It wasn’t even us that killed them, it was the insurgents.’ Furthermore, the Iraqis look around and say, ‘no electricity, no water, no jobs — why should I side with you.'”

“So, the foreign fighters who were in Iraq — the AQ [Al Qaeda] types — who are the leadership — and if there are 50 insurgents, one guy is the AQ leader, and there are 49 Iraqis working for him. So the country blows up in April 2004. I would say the month after April 2004 was the low point, because we kept using Karbala-type (2003) tactics in a Fallujah type environment. That’s when Dusty Soudan had his heart turned to a shriveled, black bitter thing.”

And that’s where we will end Rory Quinn’s oral narrative — a bit akin to the Celtic warrior tradition — of the 6 battles of the Iraq War until Chapter 12, when we will continue reciting “The War According to Rory Quinn,” as a useful framework which incorporates the tactical perspective into an operational and strategic overview. But, it is useful to note that Quinn’s reference to both Dusty Soudan and Brad Watson serve a larger purpose. Lima 3/7 has been the subject of several books so far, including David Danelo’s Blood Stripes. In the first edition of the book, Danelo relied solely on an interview with Dusty Soudan for a chapter about the internal dynamics of a platoon in Lima Company commanded by Brad Watson. Soudan’s views were expressed in that book, so they serve as a reference point with a limited scope for us to adjust from as authors who are writing our book at a later date. Quinn was aware of the characterization of Watson by Soudan as expressed in Danelo’s book. At the least, Quinn was making an effort to explain why Soudan would have the views towards Watson that were expressed in Danelo’s book, while not detracting from Soudan’s right to hold those views.

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Chapter 12 – Aftermath of Husaybah Deployment01 Feb

Chapter 12 — Aftermath of Husaybah Deployment

The War According to Rory Quinn, Part Three

When we left “The War According to Rory Quinn” in Chapter 6, he had just finished describing the main factors which lead to the spike in violence in April 2004 — a combination of economics, the reaction to the lynching of the four Blackwater employees, and Abu Gharib. Quinn thought the “lowest of the low” occurred in May 2004, “when Dusty Soudan had his heart turned into a shriveled, black, bitter thing” because “we kept using Karbala type tactics in a Fallujah environment,” and “[Soudan] blamed Watson for it.”

In Quinn’s view, Phase Three of the War occurred in May of 2004 to November 2005. “This is the main phase of the war,” said Rory Quinn as he wrote on a white board for the benefit of Doug Halepaska at the 3/7 Command Post several years later. “What goes on for this 18 month period is Al Qaeda, with the Iraqi people behind them, tries to defeat the United States. And no matter how much they brought at us, no matter how many times they attacked us, no matter how many times they blew us up, they could not beat us. Now, we couldn’t win either. But, they couldn’t defeat us. And every month that went by, the United States’ position became stronger.”

Quinn uses the following tactical vignette to stand for the strategic stand off during this period: “I could show you videos of insurgents coming into a person’s kitchen in Ramadi, shooting at the Government Center across the street for seven seconds, then the Iraqis run out of the house, and then there’s a ten second gap, and then one hundred fifty cal rounds from the government center plough through this person’s kitchen, but the insurgents are gone. So the homeowner is in the bedroom, flattening himself on the floor, holding his infant underneath his ribcage as our fifty cal rounds are ploughing through the house. Let’s just say in May 04 the homeowner let’s say he said, ‘God is great, go get em insurgents.’ Well in June 04, it happened again, and maybe the homeowner said, ‘God is great, go get em insurgents.’ But in July 04, it happened again, and we hadn’t yet been defeated, and more fifty cal rounds are ploughing though this person’s house. And all of a sudden, the homeowner is thinking, ‘I’m not so sure this is going so well for me.’ And in August 04, we were not even close to being defeated, but we couldn’t win either, yet we were still pumping rounds through these people’s houses because the insurgents would attack us from the houses. So, at some point, the people said, ‘Fuck this, it ain’t worth it.’ But, at that point — I’m going to arbitrarily say that’s September 04 — Al Qaeda is in too deep. They married into families.”

“I’ve read about that in Afghanistan,” noted Halepaska. “They would become part of the tribal blood.”

“And then the whole tribe has to be loyal to the members of their tribe,” Quinn picked up on the thought. “From May 04 to November 05, these new tribal members ask so much of their tribe that their tribe gives them everything that they have to give, and then the Al Qaeda guys continue asking for more, and at some point, the tribe says, ‘You know what, Fuck this.’ And the time that happened was November 28, 2005. On that date, there was a meeting in the Government Center in Ramadi of all sorts of insurgents and insurgent leadership, met with General Casey, [the fore runner to General Petraeus as the top US Commander in Iraq], [US] Ambassador Khalizad, LtCol Turner [the 3/7 commanding officer]. The insurgent leadership said, ‘I am sick of this Al Qaeda threat. I want to join the system. They asked for specific things. They wanted Sunni representation in the Iraqi Army in the 7th Division, which is the Anbar division. They wanted the head of the 7th Division to be a Sunni soldier. The demands were difficult, like reconstruction funds because the city [Ramadi] had been hurt so bad. The minute that these people come to us and say ‘we don’t want the insurgent process to continue,’ the United States wins that battle — [the Third Battle of Iraq].”

Quinn conceded that his narrative was a gross oversimplification. But it was still useful as a broad outline of the war in its main phases.

Summarizing the Third Battle of Iraq in the War According to Rory Quinn, “November 28 shows that their loyalty to Al Qaeda is not absolute. Al Qaeda has overstayed their welcome basically. They have asked for more than the populous is willing to give.”

“So, the population was kind of sitting on the fence at that point, teetering back and forth,” asked Halepaska.

“Yes,” confirmed Quinn. “In December of 2005, it was basically a peaceful month — even though Lima Company had an incredibly violent month.” And here again, we place a book mark in The War According to Rory Quinn, who becomes the Commanding Officer of Lima Company 3/7 for it’s third deployment to Iraq in the Fall of 2005. We will continue with Quinn’s six phase master tactical-strategic narrative of the Iraq War in Chapter 17 on The Aftermath of Lima Company’s First Deployment to Ramadi, in 2005-2006.

Quinn’s objectivity throughout his narrative is note worthy, however. He is not a detached observer — indeed, he will command Lima Company Marines during what he terms “Phase Three” of the six-part narrative. He will command the company during a period when Marines are killed and injured, yet in his re-telling of the war, he often speaks on behalf of the population, always careful to give their point of view, as in his progressive description of the homeowner taking return Marine fifty cal fire in response to insurgents who provoke the response. This trend towards reciting the perspective of the Iraqi population will continue and grow in the next three phases of the war. He will make statements like, “They just had to fight us for a while,” which is quite remarkable given that during the period he describes, he had Marines killed and maimed. Such detached objectivity — at least in one segment of a commander’s mind — seems to be an essential quality of a successful commanding officer in an advanced counter-insurgency.

Marine Battalions Start to Redeploy to the Same Towns

Battalion 1/7 followed 3/7 in Husaybah, and would again deploy to Husaybah for a second deployment — a trend towards deploying Marine Battalions in the same area on successive deployments, which certainly helped to further the trend towards distributed operations and Small Wars techniques like Combined Action Platoons (CAPs), which 1/7 used in its second deployment to Husaybah.

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Chapter 11 – Counter Mortar OP01 Feb

Chapter 11

[Section 1]

Carpenter: “I used to walk patrols by that house where Rick was killed.” … wanted to seek revenge, a theme. But restraint of that emotion is what won the war (a theme from Quinn). (minute 53)

“restraint… long war…” Bill Devine… (minute 54)

“very faithful” (minute 56)


[Section 2]

19 June 2004

In the months following the Battle of Husaybah on April 17, Lima Company continued patrolling and conducting observation posts in the town. The enemy continued to mortar Lima Company at Camp Husaybah, however. The main purpose of these attacks was harassment. The Marines and the insurgents observed each other and adapted. By the Summer, Lima 3 was assigned the mission of conducting a counter-mortar observation post (OP).

Lima 3 conducted a highly effective “Covert OP.” Moving in fire team size units, the Platoon conducts a covert infiltration from Camp Gannon (formerly Camp Husbayah) to a structure known as the Mansion to the North East of the town. Lima 3 steped off at 2 AM and arrived by 4 AM. As with patrolling in the city, the platoon uses handheld Garmin Rhino GPS systems (which can transmit a GPS location along with a voice communication to another similar unit) to effect this movement. (Sgt Milinkovic bought his for $250, and most of the team leaders in 3d platoon have also bought these units. They said that the PR — personal radios — that are carried by most Marines are ineffective, particularly in the urban environment, where the power lines interfere with their ability to talk.) The Company had been mortared heavily in the last 2 weeks. Lima 3 had been “fragged” (given a fragmentary order) by the XO (Executive Officer) to do an OP (observation post) at the mansion, the name given to a structure which they had occupied before. During the movement, the platoon successfully avoided disturbing the dogs in the area, quite a feat. The Marines noted that the insurgents did not operate at night, thus, 10 PM to 5 AM there were zero attacks. By 4 AM, Lima 3 had occupied the OP. At 7 AM, insurgents not 150 meters away started firing into the base, which was several kilometers away. Lt Watson immediately sent out “all of my squad leaders — not exactly the preferred course of action.” Cpl Mejia fired a M-203 grenade launcher at the enemy mortar position, immediately stopping the firing. Lt Watson called “incoming” to the base, before the counter battery mortars could pick up the incoming projectiles. Speed and surprise were the key to the success of this operation by Lima 3. Lima 3 rounded up 5 to 10 insurgent suspects, who tested positive for firing mortars with scientific testing procedures. Corporal Bellmont found the ordinance being fired at Camp Gannon.

“How did Lieutenant Watson and you squad leaders intend to exploit the enemy’s weakness or vulnerability?” I asked Link and Bellmont.

“In that situation,” replied Link, “the enemy always had observation, always knew where we were at all times. As soon as you walked out that gate, you were observed. We can’t hide. The fact that we snuck out at night [on the counter-mortar patrol and OP], went out a secret gate that lead into the open, and then managed to move through the canals — we actually got wet a little bit — didn’t take any bridges, snipped fences, and went through fences instead of going around and in front of the houses. Right there, you took away the enemy’s ability to observe. So, the next morning, he wakes up, and he doesn’t know that you are sitting right next door to him. No one gave him a call last night [referring to a network of Iraqi tipsters in the population].”

Link describes the way that Lima 3 moved during that patrol: “We moved in one huge column, but everyone stayed at rally points, then didn’t move until they got to another rally point, then clustered up. The first team [of 4 Marines] snuck through real slow, and radioed for the next team to move. [This movement technique, a type of overwatch] paid off.”

“They were located in the middle of a pear orchard,” recalls Bellmont. “They had a little canal that they built up so that they could pump water from the river so that it would flow over the orchard to grow their crops. The canal was built up so that was their vantage point. They could get up on the canal and actually see our base, so they had a perfect aiming point. They had three [mortar] tubes.”

“Three rounds per tube, and rockets,” added Link.

I asked what was the enemy intent?

“Harassment,” replied Link. “Just to disrupt the plan of the day. We always got mortared. They had probably 4 major harassing fire positions that they used every other day. Right on time, the same time [every day]. Late in the morning, or before dusk.”

“We knew when the mortars were coming in too,” added Bellmont, looking at his watch to emphasize the regularity of the attacks. “Better get inside. We’re going to get mortared in a little bit here. But, they had their [mortar position] in a good spot. There were six-foot tall weeds there. They just hid the [mortar equipment] right in the weeds when they were done using them. We had to trip over [the mortars] to find them. I knew roughly where it came from. But when the echo of the mortar going off bounces, it might change the sound. Well, I got lucky. We had just patrolled out there, and I decided, we are going to search this area very thoroughly. So, everyone went off on their own while we were close together. Rigoli happened to find a mortar container with a live mortar round in it. From there, we thoroughly searched the weeds, and that’s when we found everything.”

Almost everything about this particular patrol and observation post operation went right. This was the result of accumulated observations about the enemy over months. Lima 3 went out at night when the tipsters in the population were not active, and the insurgents did not operate. Lima 3 left by a “secret gate” where they would not be observed. Finally, the platoon moved through the country side in such a way that they did not tip off the population or the enemy. I asked, “was there anything that the enemy did that surprised you?”

Link replied, “I walked up on these guys and they were ducked down like little sheep. I sent a fire team around one side. When we came out of the tree line, he looked in the direction of the fire team, then he looked at me, and sat down. They knew they were done, just got ghost faces on them.”

“So, in that situation, you surprised them?”

“Yeah,” confirmed Link.

Brad Watson recalled the following about that operation: “The day at the Mansion was a lesson in initiative. The entire deployment I had hoped to gain the initiative on the enemy. I knew that our efforts at presence patrolling were not effective and that our effort to deter enemy activity with ‘presence’ (an ambiguous term at best) was not enough to break enemy’s will to fight.
For the first time third platoon had the drop on the enemy. We spotted him before he spotted us and we fired on him. We proved the critics of the utility of covert inserts and observation wrong and opened up a new line of tactical thinking in the company that led to ambush Observation Posts. (This was later perfected and well implemented by 1/7).”

“What were the lessons learned from that?” I asked Bellmont and Link.

“You can move at night, tactically. You can do it with a platoon, you can damn sure do it with a squad. You can really do it with a fire team. Everyone says that Marine Infantry is big clunky, ground-pounders. But, a Marine is an all-around jack-of-all trades. You can do anything you put your mind to. Discipline is what gets you through moving at night like that.”

About Mejia, one of his squad leaders, Brad Watson notes: “Sgt Mejia’s first name is ‘Jose’ though I believe he prefers to be called just ‘Mejia.’ When he refers to himself in the third person he calls himself ‘Big Dog.’ He would probably rather die than let one of the other Marines in the company pin him in a martial arts drill. ‘Loyal’ and ‘fierce’ are the first two words that come to mind [when] someone mentions Mejia. At 3:30 in the morning when the other Marines in the ambush were starting to get bored or tired, like clockwork, Mejia’s voice would come over the PRR awake and at the ready. Great guy to have on your team. The kind of guy you don’t want the other team to have.”

“What was the unit’s strength in executing that patrol?” I asked Link and Bellmont.

“Discipline,” replied Link. “We also had eliminated some of the ‘cancer’ elements in our platoon from 3/4 [another Marine Battalion in 7th Marine Regiment]. We all came together again. The love to do it, the fun in it, made it so that we were out there stalking at night.”

“With our original platoon before Marines from 3/4 showed up, we were tight,” recalled Bellmont. “We would go out and party together as a platoon. These guys came in from 3/4 and kind of threw a wrench in our engine. Some guys got along with some of them, but it started to break down and form cliques in the platoon. A lot of guys started to get at each other’s throats, which was weird. These guys [from 3/4] left. And all of a sudden, we grew back together again, the way that we were before. That’s a big reason that we were able to operate like that. We were back to the old third platoon.”

Link’s quick to add, “We’re not saying anything about 3/4 or anything. Just using that as an example.”

Marine units are very much like small, Celtic villages where loyalties and relationships are very local. The 32 Infantry Battalions of the Marine Corps could be compared to the 32 counties of Ireland. County Kerry flies a flag when it plays in the National Football championship against County Galway. A visiting tourist who buys a Kerry flag for his car would be wise to hide the flag by the time he made his way to Galway. Bars in Killarney, in County Kerry, will be filled with fans who watch every play. Such are the loyalties of former 3/7 Marines who watch their battalion years later. Link, Bellmont and Mejia came into 3/7 and Lima Company at almost the same time, and developed a strongly cohesive platoon. The Marines from 3/4 who joined 3d Platoon interfered with that cohesion, though to the rest of the world, they would all appear as Marines, just as to the rest of the world, natives of Galway and Kerry would all appear as Irishmen.

On July 28, Captain Neal sent Major Schreffler, the Battalion S-3 Operations Officer, a message, which read, in part: “Sir. I have a couple of concerns that I wanted to discuss. The first issue is with the counter battery radar. While Blade 6 [Lt Col Lopez, the Battalion Commander] stayed at Camp Gannon, we sustained (1) 6-round mortar attack. During that period, CBR [counter battery radar] was not available. Based on the reporting from our patrols and OPs, we received traffic that the mortars were fired from the northeast in vicinity of the orchard. With out CBR [our] normal action was to hold tight in the camp. We are not going to go send a QRF [quick reaction force] unit out to chase insurgents shooting mortars at Camp Gannon. Up to date, I have placed multiple units up to platoon size in areas where we suspect insurgents may employ mortars in hopes to ambush them. 3d Platoon is the only unit that has been the closest to any mortar firing position.” So, the problem of preventing the enemy from firing on Camp Gannon with mortars persisted until the end of the Lima 3/7 deployment. Lima 3 had the greatest success, but it was the exception, not the rule. The rest of Captain Neal’s communication goes on to describe the challenges of not having enough troops for the tasks assigned, the challenges of operating with friendly Iraqi units without sufficient interpreter support, and the burden on his limited manpower created by having to provide security for the counter battery radar. Though the success of Lima 3’s counter battery mortar patrol was promising, the overall lack of sufficient troops, and the lack of the ability to leverage his Marines through the use of native forces limited Neal’s tactical options.

[Section 3]

[Section 4]

[Section 5]

[Section 6]

[Section 7]

[Section 8]

[Section 9]

[Section 10]

[Section 11]

[Section 12]

[Section 13]

...,1st Draft

Chapter 10 – Battle of Husaybah01 Feb

Chapter 10 – 17 Apr 04 Battle of Husaybah

[Section 1]



[Section 2]

In retrospect, a Lima Company Commanding Officer would be able to label the events of April, 2004, as the end of one phase of the Iraq War and the beginning of another. The juncture between these two phases would be apparent as one of several Tipping Points, in the phrase of popular author Gladwell, characterized by the accumulation of small factors which add up to a significant change. In this case, the small factors included the lack of socioeconomic programs to support the military victory in 2003, and the U.S. over-reaction to the killing of 4 Americans in Fallujah at the end of March, 2004. These accumulated factors together caused a tipping point after which the Iraqi population became generally supportive of the insurgents. But, at the time, the Lima Marines had not yet adapted, though, as we have seen, Rick Gannon — a scholar of warfare, and the son of a Marine Officer who had served in the Vietnam War — was amassing evidence in support of the view that the assumptions about the population and the insurgency were wrong.

0830 hours [dtg, grid]
“Lima 5, this is Lima 6,” said Captain Gannon to his second in command, First Lieutenant Neal over the Lima Company tactical net. “I got good news and I got bad news. The good news is we got the casualties onto the bird and we got them safe. The bad news is we’ve already lost one Marine. I’m going to go off freq to go develop the situation.”

At that point, Neal knew that most of the forces were pushed towards the Eastern part of Husaybah. Major Schreffler, the Battalion S-3 Operations Officer and the former Lima Company Commanding Officer, was popping in and out of the Combat Operations Center at Camp Husaybah. Schreffler was also going to his jump vehicle — a hummer equipped with enough radios to monitor all the available communications nets — so that he could talk to the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lopez, and the rest of the Battalion Staff. By that point, Schreffler was already developing a plan to have the Battalion reinforce Lima Company in Husaybah.

An hour went by. Usually, Captain Gannon habitually came up on the radio to give Lieutenant Neal a situation report every 15 minutes so that Neal could have full situational awareness, even though he was in the Combat Operations Center at the Lima base. Neal had only been on patrol in the city of Husaybah once or twice during the deployment so far.

Weapons Platoon had pushed deep into the East of the City, near the dividing line between Lima Company and Kilo Company’s respective zones of action. As it turned out, this was a seam in the Marine’s operational areas that the insurgents sought to exploit. For example, Medal of Honor recipient Jason Dunham, of Kilo 3/7, was mortally wounded in this seam between the two rifle companies three days earlier.

Neal noted that “company commanders have a tendency to think that whatever manuever element we are with, that’s our security, so we don’t bring security. [Captain Gannon] probably thought that same thing — that between where 3d platoon is and where weapons platoon is, it’s safe.” Weapons Platoon had cleared one building, and then hopped over to the rooftop of another building, not realizing that was another insurgent stronghold designed to be used as a fall back position for the coming attack to seize the Marine base. Captain Gannon, moving from 3d platoon to weapons platoon — to the point where he could best command his company, leading from the front as Marine Officers are taught to do — moved into the stronghold building with the Lima Weapons Platoon Marines on top. Captain Gannon was shot in that building.

Corporal Gibson, Smith, and Valdez — all of Weapons Platoon — notice the gunfire and move to link up with the Company Commander. Gibson, the first to enter the building, is shot too. Gibson reports that he has been hit over his PRR — personal radio for intra-squad communications. Weapons Platoon realizes that they have insurgents underneath them in the house. But, by that point, it’s too late. Smith and Valdez go into the stronghold house to pull out Gibson, but they are both shot too. Neal is monitoring this on the Lima Company command net, trying to figure out where the Company Commander, Captain Gannon is located. Lima 3, Brad Watson, hasn’t seen him. CAAT Blue Actual, Lieutenant Moore, hasn’t seen him. Captain Gannon had moved from where CAAT Blue had been hit and immobilized. Hours go by.

By 1200 hours, Lima Company and its reinforcements, like CAAT, are running low on ammunition in the town. Weapons Platoon, now reinforced by other elements from Lima, is fighting the insurgents in the stronghold house.

“Sir,” Lieutenant Neal says to Major Schreffler, “I don’t have a good feeling about this. No one knows where the six is. I can’t get him on the hook. Something is not right. I don’t like this at all.”

“Roger that,” replied Major Schreffler. “I am going to continue to work with Battalion. Continue to focus on the fight in your zone. Keep me updated on what the company is doing.” In the efficient language of a military unit in action, Schreffler, who was responsible for planning and operations for the 1200-Marine Battalion, could not lose his focus to become overly involved with Neal, who was second in command of the 150-Marine Company at one edge of his battle space. Neal had been one of Schreffler’s students at Infantry Officers’ Course, and Schreffler had commanded Lima Company in the previous year’s invasion of Iraq — and he was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — yet, all of that was kept below the surface of professional, mission oriented communications.

“Roger that,” confirmed Neal. “Good to go.” Neal had limited communications and situational awareness in the Command Post. But, he did know that Lima 3d Platoon, Lima Weapons Platoon, Broadsword [the call sign for the Recon Platoon], and CAAT [the attached heavy weapons platoon commanded by Lt Moore] have all consolidated on one position — the stronghold house where they worked together to kill the insurgents. Captain Sofka, callsign “2 Pam,” the FAC (Forward Air Controller) and Captain Hudson, the Recon Platoon Commander, known as Broadside Actual, were pushing Neal to get out into the town.

“We can’t really do much,” argued Hudson to Neal, who was technically junior to him, “But I got to get out there with my guys. I have a little bit more ass [combat power] that I can provide to them.” The Recon Platoon Commander was expressing the bias of Marine Commanders to be with their Marines, especially while in contact.

Similarly, Captain Sofka, who also outranked Lieutenant Neal, argued, “I can’t control air from where I am. I need to be up where Weapons Platoon is located.”

Neal rejected both Captains. “We have enough Marines out there forward. Let’s not send out more.”

Hudson and Sofka continued to prod Neal to go out into town, personally.

Neal finally relented. “You can head out if you honestly feel you can link up with Weapons Platoon and have a positive effect. But stay off of Market street [the main street out into town] because it is a hot spot. It has a lot of IEDs, I don’t think it has been cleared all the way through.”

The two Captains, who worked together often because the Recon Platoon had more Marines who regularly called in air support than the rest of Lima Company, headed out into town. Neal had made his cautionary point to Sofka, but Sofka didn’t relay the warning to Hudson. Five minutes outside the wire at Camp Husaybah, Captain Hudson’s vehicle was hit by an IED while he was traveling down Market toward the main elements of Lima Company — 3d Platoon, Weapons, Recon, and CAAT — out on the East edge of town. Fortunately, Hudson’s vehicle took minimal damage. Neal, however, was livid because he felt like his guidance was being ignored. He fumed, didn’t I tell you guys not to go straight through town. The word had not been passed from Sofka to Hudson.

In the surgical, antiseptic language of the military, the word that Captain Gannon had been killed in action filtered back into the Lima Command Post in Camp Husaybah with the word that Gannon was “routine.” If he was an “urgent” casualty, it would indicate that he was still alive and needed to receive medical attention right away. But instead, Lieutenant Neal and Major Schreffler were informed that Gannon was “routine,” that his body could be routinely moved through the military system to dispose of fallen Marines. Dominique Neal, a First Lieutenant and Second in Command of Lima Company had just become the first Marine Officer to assume command of a Rifle Company due to the combat death of the Commanding Officer since Vietnam. Neal immediately got onto the Tactical Radio Net and said, “Lima Five is now Lima Six.”

[look up Neal movie with this account]


Kurt Bellmont did not go out into Husaybah with 3d Platoon. He was sick in the early morning of April 17, but he started to feel better throughout the day. Staff Sergeant Wilder was in the living area, passing the word about the ongoing combat throughout the day. He came back into the squad bay, and asked Bellmont, “How are you feeling?”

“If I can, I’d like to get back out there,” responded Bellmont, who felt bad about abandoning his platoon while they were in combat.

“Lieutenant Neal is the new CO. Captain Gannon is KIA,” Staff Sergeant Wilder informed him. The news of Gannon’s death sank in. Wilder continued, “The new CO is about to go out. Do you want to be his body guard?”

Bellmont answered, “Yeah, absolutely.”

“OK. You’re going to be his RO [Radio Operator] and body guard all at the same time.”

Bellmont started to get his gear together. He was glad to be able to get back out into town since he felt worthless, sitting behind.

Kurt Bellmont’s desire to immediately get back into the fight alongside his unit is one of the characteristic qualities of Combat Marines. Another of those qualities of Marine Leaders was on display among the Company and Battalion leadership in reaction to Gannon’s death — a bias for action. Schreffler — who was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — and Neal — who considered Gannon a friend as well as a Commanding Officer — took almost no time for personal reaction when they heard the news of his death. Schreffler reportedly hung his head for a second or two, then continued to coordinate the battle via the Battalion Tactical Radio Frequency — he was third in command of the Battalion, and the primary plans officer for the unit. The Battalion staff passed word to Neal that there was an intelligence item indicating that another insurgent strong point house was located in the Southwest of the city. The Marine Base, located on the Northeast periphery of the city, was the target of a coordinated insurgent attack with multiple strong points to support hundreds of insurgents who had massed in the city amid the increasingly friendly population. Neal started planning for a 2-platoon attack on that insurgent strong point house at the Southwest of the city.

At the same time, Schreffler was coordinating Lieutenant Colonel Lopez decision to gather the rest of the Battalion, including 2 platoons from Lima, the CAAT Team and the rest of Kilo Company, on the Eastern edge of Husaybah for the purpose of conducting as sweep from East to West through the town. First, however, Battalion was setting a cordon around the city with, among other units, Recon in order to seal the city and make sure that no insurgents escaped the pending sweep. Lieutenant Colonel Lopez would sweep East to West with two Rifle Companies on line and the CAAT Vehicles moving down the roads. Lieutenant Neal, now Commanding Officer of Lima Company in Camp Husaybah, would conduct an immediate 2-platoon attack by moving South out of the Camp through an area that the Marines had termed, “440 Area” — basically, one story homes — then West to the insurgent strong point house that had been recently identified. In other words, the Marines would have what they called a “Geometry of Fires” problem — in plain English, Neal would be attacking towards the West, while Lopez would be attacking to the East, through the same city, separated by only several kilometers — and by time. This is why in Neal’s immediate attack, time was of the essence.

“You’re going to need a medic,” Schreffler noted to Neal. Schreffler was fighting the Battalion, moving units around to set the cordon, answering up to Lopez, confirming the placement of support for the sweep. But, he was also an experience Company Commander who had commanded Lima for a year before Gannon took over. Neal got Doc Purviance, a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Headquarters Platoon, while he briefed Lima 2, commanded by Lt Awtry, a Mustang (former Enlisted) officer, and Kilo 1, for the coming attack. These two platoons were the last Rifle Platoons left in the base. When they emptied into town, the entire base would be out in town, in the middle of the fight.

Second Platoon under Awtry lead the 2-platoon column Southward out of Camp Husaybah. Neal, with his small command element of Bellmont and Doc Perviance, traveled between the two platoons. Second Platoon moved South of Route Train — literally a railroad track that ran the entire length of the Southern edge of Husaybah, and started to turn to the West, aiming for the target house. As Second Platoon’s lead fire team crossed back North of Route Train, the 4-Marine Team was hit by small arms fire from insurgents in the target house.

Bellmont describes what happened next in among the leadership element with Neal and the Corpsman: “We were crossing a big open area, a big danger area. This is something that always gets me. When an officer is moving in a formation, they usually just float around… well, they always end up at the front because they are moving individually because the rest of the squad is doing their bumping and bounding and they take a while to move. Well, he kept making his way to the front, and I kept trying to hold him back because all right that first team goes across then the bad guys know we’re there, second team goes across, that’s when the bad guys ready to start shooting. Well, he managed to work his way all the way up to being the second team. And I was with him. It was myself and Doc and the CO. The first team went all the way across, not a problem. And I was like, ‘well let’s hold back a little bit sir.'”

Neal, the former Naval Academy sprinter and Sacred Heart High School cornerback, responded, “No, we’ll go on this one.”

Bellmont continues his narrative, “And we started running and we got about halfway across a 250 meter danger area. And about half way across we started getting shot at with rounds ricocheting near our feet. And they were behind me, so I looked back, and they were both laying on the ground so I hit the ground too. I ran behind what little micro terrain there was, which was a 4 inch curb, so I went and laid by that curb which was where they were laying. I threw a couple of rounds in the direction of where it was coming to suppress their fires. And then I yelled for the team in front of us, and the team behind us was not shooting and I could not understand why, so I yelled for both teams to suppress for us, then I had Captain Neal go first, then Doc, then they suppressed for me while I finished the way across.”

Neal and his command element pushed along with the Kilo platoon following in trace of Awtry’s Lima Two. Tracing a map of Husaybah, Neal recognized the island where he and Bellmont had been pinned down by enemy fire. “While we got pinned down,” he says, “that was enough fire for Second Platoon — because they were also taking fire from this general position [from insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], from the position [of the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city], and down this axis [parallel with the Western edge of the city].” Awtry’s Lima Two, in other words, was pinned down by insurgent fire from three, mutually supporting positions.

“When we took the brunt of the fire [from the insurgents on the Western edge of the city],” continues Neal, discussing the command element crossing the danger area that Bellmont described, “it allowed [Second Platoon] to gain fire superiority [against the insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], and fire superiority here [at the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city,] calling in mortars [to hit the target house].”

The Marine Corps defines “combined arms” as using one weapon to make the enemy vulnerable to another weapon system. What happened at this juncture of the attack is probably why Neal would rank Awtry as his top Lieutenant in fitness reports evaluating all of his direct reports. Awtry, an experienced former Enlisted Marine who became an officer — a Mustang — had several injured Marines in his lead fire team, and he was under fire from three positions. One of the insurgent positions, however, began to fire instead on Neal and his Radio Operator and Corpsman. Awtry immediately called for accurate mortar fire from the Lima Company 60mm mortar section located in Camp Husaybah.

Awtry would have moved up from his position, possibly behind his first squad, also with his radio operator near by. He would have called for fire:

“Lima Mortars, this is Lima Two, adjust fire, over.”

“Lima Two, this is Lima Mortars, adjust fire, over.”

He would have given the Mortar section a grid, or more likely, called the mission in from a pre-registered target point.

Neal describes the effect of the mortar mission called by Awtry: “It hit right on that building, and it went up in smoke. The fire ceased [from the target building]. So, we were able to maintain fire suppression [on the insurgent position South and outside of Husaybah].” Part of Awtry’s Second Platoon would be firing their M-16A4 Rifles, M-249 SAWs, and M-203 Grenade Launchers at the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah near the train station. The direct hit by the mortars called in by Awtry seems to have tipped the balance of the attack in favor of Lima Company in the first combat action commanded by Neal as Commanding Officer.

After the mortar mission scored a direct hit on the insurgent target house, resulting in a smoke plume, Neal and the Kilo Platoon moved along the road on the Southern edge of Husaybah towards the target house. The combination of the mortar mission and the continued suppressive fire from Second Platoon toward the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah “gave us enough umph, or clearance, through the MSR [Main Supply Route on the South of Husaybah], literally going from house to house, shooting and moving from house to house.”

“We fired up in here,” Neal continued, pointing to the road on the Western edge of Husaybah. “And when we got closer, we took a few more shots from buildings in here,” Neal points to buildings in the city, immediately adjacent to the target house, which was already burning from the mortar mission. “And we did fire back. Battalion was still working on sweeping through,” Neal motions across the town, indicating the on-line movement by several platoons from East to West, which Lopez was planning on the opposite side of town.

“Now, after the mortars ceased here — after the fire ceased here,” Neal points to the target house, which had been hit directly by Awtry’s mortar mission, “That’s what allowed [the Kilo platoon and Bellmont and the Corpsman and me] to go up close because this whole building was definitely smoking. Just to make sure we killed everything in that building, that’s when Lt Fleming [commanding Kilo 1], said, ‘I’m going to put two SMAW HE rounds in there, and I am going to put two AT-4 Rounds in there.’ A SMAW is a “Shoulder Mounted Assault Weapon” designed to be used against bunkers and light armored vehicles. It fires an 83mm rocket with a dual fuze, designed to delay if it hits a soft target, like a bunker. AT-4s are the standard, 84mm anti tank rocket carried by Marines. The Marines were applying combined arms in the situation by using the effects of the mortars to make the enemy vulnerable to the rockets.

“That’s exactly what they did,” recalls Neal. “I stayed close in this building where I could get eyes on,” Neal points to a building almost adjacent to the target house. “I saw his Assault guys fire into those buildings, then we pushed up.”

Neal then ordered Kilo 1 to cease fire while maintaining observation towards the surrounding building in Husaybah as well as toward the threat areas South and outside of Husaybah, since they had seized the target house. When Kilo 1 and Neal occupied the target house, Awtry’s Second Platoon collapsed his support by fire position South and outside of Husaybah. Awtry’s Marines moved into the target house too, while still maintaining observation south of Husaybah, the areas where they had received fire from as well.

Lieutenant Neal, Staff Sergeant St Pierre, the Lima 2 Platoon Sergeant, and Lieutenant Awtry met briefly. “We were happy to see each other,” recalls Neal. “That was pretty interesting,” Neal remembers saying. The Marines continued to sweep through the adjacent buildings, rounding up casualties. “We put so much overwhelming firepower in this small complex here, keeping our fires oriented South, that some of the local Iraqi civilians actually gave up some viable intel on where the insurgents were hiding out. So, essentially, the locals there, the fence sitters, dimed out some of the insurgents. We picked up 5 insurgents and brought them back with us.” Neal’s description of the the locals as “fence sitters” — recorded years apart from an interview with an entirely different Lima Commanding Officer who characterized April 04 as a tipping point — reinforces the idea that the Lima Marines were, in fact, fighting a tactical action amid a Tipping Point in which Al Qaeda was being accepted more broadly by the Iraqi population in Anbar.


* * *

Gunny Vegh had run out into Husaybah with Gannon. Vegh always saw himself as the primary tactical adviser to the company commander, not as the company logistician. “I have a police sergeant for logistics,” Vegh told me. Vegh, a school-trained scout sniper, was among the most proficient Marines in Lima Company, and he coordinated the evacuation of casualties in Husaybah on that hectic day when Gannon was killed. At one point, he came up on Link’s squad, which was held up near the Baath Party Headquarters on Market Street by a sniper.

“A sniper had started taking fire at us,” recalled Link. “We were moving into the Baath Party house. We had security outside. That’s when the sniper started taking shots at us. He hit a 7-ton [truck] driver. He was trying to shoot at us. We were pinned down, trying to see where it was coming from. I sent Sergeant Soudan out to the building where it was coming from to take an AT-4 [rocket] shot, but then the sniper moved positions. All of a sudden, Gunny Vegh is just standing there, and the rounds were dinging. [Vegh said,] ‘You guys scared to meet Jesus… Let’s fucking go.’ I took off running, Parker [the first fire team leader in Link’s squad] took off running. Then the whole squad took off running. [It was one of those situations] where that was enough leadership until we got to the house [where the sniper was]. Then, I said, ‘First team do this,’ but that initial run up there was just a matter of ‘everyone, who’s coming with me.’ [The house that they assaulted was] 150 to 200 meters [away from the position where Gunny Vegh came up on Link’s squad].”

When I asked Gunny Vegh about this incident, he said only, “I’ll let the Marines talk about that,” and “It’s one of those things that Gunnies do.”


[Section 3]

[Section 4]

[Section 5]

[Section 6]

[Section 7]

[Section 8]

[Section 9]

[Section 10]

[Section 11]

[Section 12]

[Section 13]

[N 29 14’4.2″ E 47 58’22.44″ Kuwait International Airport]
2400 Local GMT 17 April 2004

Staff Sergeant Carpenter arrives in Kuwait, after the delay caused by his baggage being lost.

After getting oriented on the ground, Matt Carpenter calls his wife, Beth.

“Matt, Lima Company had a really bad day,” said Beth. By that point, Matt Carpenter already knew that Wasser had been killed in action. He knew it was imperative to get up to Lima Company as soon as possible.

“What are you talking about?” said Carpenter. He had a suspicion that Rick Gannon was gone.

“There’s been a bunch of guys — some of your guys — were killed today,” replied Beth, referring to some of Carpenter’s Weapons Platoon Marines.

“Like who?” asked Carpenter.

“Valdez, Gibson, Smith, and,” Beth paused. “I can’t remember the last name.”

“Don’t tell me it was Van Leuven?” For whatever reason, Carpenter picked the name out of a roster in his brain.

“Yeah, that’s the other Marine,” confirmed Beth. “And Rick.”

“Rick!” Carpenter was shocked.

“Yeah, Rick was killed last night.”

Carpenter started yelling into the phone. Beth put Sally Gannon on the phone. Sally was cool and calm.

“Hey Matt, how are you?” asked Sally.

“Jesus, I am so sorry,” said Matt Carpenter.

“Matt, I don’t want you to worry about avenging Rick. I want you to just take care of Lima, just take care of the guys.”

After hanging up the phone, Staff Sergeant Carpenter went straight to the 1st Marine Division Representative, a Master Sergeant. “I need to get in country, like now,” Carpenter told the higher ranking Staff NCO.

“Well Devil Dog, there’s nothing going in until tomorrow, and you’re on the list. It’s kind of first come first serve, and rank dependent,” replied the Master Sergeant.

“I don’t give a fuck, you put me on a goddamned convoy. I don’t care what it takes, I have got to get into Al Qaim,” said Carpenter. “My guys just took some heavy fucking hits and I am not sitting in this fucking camp in Kuwait any more.”

“Well, you’ll just have to wait until the next flight,” said the Master Sergeant. Livid, Carpenter was ready to punch the man, rank or threat of court martial be damned.

“Well, what time do I need to be here so I can get fucking signed up on this list?” asked Carpenter.

“You’ve got to be here at zero-eight,” said the Master Sergeant.

“Roger that.” Carpenter didn’t sleep at all that night.

N 34 23’45.24″ E 40 58′ 31.08″ Camp Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 18 April 2004

Major General Mattis, the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division, surveyed the map as 1st Lt Neal briefed him on the previous day’s fight. Mattis then addressed the Lima Company Marines, and asked them, “Is there anything that you need?”

Several of the Weapons Platoon Marines responded, “Yeah, we want Staff Sergeant Carpenter up here, our Platoon Sergeant. He’s been sitting in Kuwait for 2 weeks.” They didn’t know that his bags never arrived. They thought Carpenter was sitting in Kuwait.

Mattis looked over at his Aide, and said, “I can do that.” The Aide-de-Camp, a field grade officer, typed an email to expedite Carpenter’s passage to Husaybah shortly thereafter.

[N 29 14’4.2″ E 47 58’22.44″ Kuwait International Airport]
0700 Local GMT 18 April 2004

Carpenter was standing at the door to the Master Sergeant an hour before the appointed time.

“Staff Sergeant, could you come here a minute?” The Master Sergeant, who had been obstinate the night before, was a little sheepish.

“Yes, Master Sergeant,” said Carpenter.

“Staff Sergeant, do you know General Mattis?” asked the Master Sergeant.

“Yeah, who the fuck doesn’t know General Mattis?” replied Carpenter.

“No, like do you know him?” asked top.

“Like a drinking buddy?”

“Yeah,” asked the Master Sergeant.

“No,” replied Carpenter.

“Well, that’s interesting.” The Master Sergeant slid his laptop around to show Carpenter the screen, which read: “Top, Staff Sergeant Carpenter and First Sergeant Martin [the Weapons Company First Sergeant, who had broken his ankle] from 3/7 will be on the next flight into Al Qaim. No one below the rank of 0-6 Colonel will bump them from this flight. Mattis.”

Holy shit, thought Carpenter to himself. He made the flight into Al Asad,

N 33 46’41.7″ E 42 26’6.9″ “The Cans” Al Asad Airbase
1100 Local GMT 18 April 2004

At Al Asad Air Base, Staff Sergeant Carpenter linked up with the 1st Marine Division Chaplain, Father Bill Devine, a Catholic priest who had been 7th Marines chaplain and who Sally and Rick. Devine was on his way to Al Qaim to spend time with the units who had just suffered casualties. Devine was a wreck, as was Carpenter. They both spent the night at Al Asad, then took a flight of Marine CH-53 Helicopters to Al Qaim the next day.

N 34 22’9.3″ E 41 05’39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 20 April 2004

After the helicopter flight, Carpenter took a convoy from Al Qaim into Husaybah. The Lima Marines were there to meet and greet Carpenter.

He got to Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, and discussed the events of the last few days. “I’d never seen guys who just seemed like they were gutted,” recalled Carpenter. The loss of the 4 Marines from Weapons Platoon as well as the Company Commander, Captain Gannon, was the first large loss of Marines killed in action that most Marine units had taken up to that point, with the exception of 12 Marines killed in action in Battalion 2/4 in Ramadi also in the month of April 2004.


34 23’45.06” N 40 58’28.74 E elev 179 meters Camp Gannon, Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 24 April 2004

Carpenter remembers Rick Gannon as a very down to earth kind of guy who gave a shit about the Marines. These are high compliments for a Marine Infantry Officer. Gannon’s death resonated through the entire Battalion.

Staff Sergeant Carpenter was walking through the Camp. He looked at the lone figure of a Marine from 2nd Platoon, a hard nosed Marine who had been in the first deployment with Lima Company. The lone Marine seemed a little depressed.

Carpenter sat beside the Marine, asking, “Hey, what’s going on buddy?”

“Staff Sergeant, I am just thinking about Captain Gannon.”

“Yeah.” Carpenter didn’t have to say very much.

“My dad didn’t play a big role in my upbringing,” continued the younger Marine. Carpenter took it in. It was uncharacteristic of most Marines to show very much emotion. But the feelings about Captain Gannon’s death rippled through the unit. “The first real father figure that I had was him,” continued the 2nd Platoon Marine. “I remember Captain Gannon coming out when I was on fire watch, like zero-two-hundred. He was just shooting the shit. He must have stood post with me for two hours asking about my family, where I was from.”

Carpenter had heard the story before, from many of the Lima Marines. In fact, he had grown to know Gannon from one of those conversations out in the Soccer Stadium in Karbala, when Gannon expressed a relentless, but sincere, interest in all of the Marines in Lima Company, regardless of rank.


N 34 22’9.3″ E 41 05’39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 25 April 2004

Carp is down in Al Qaim with his Weapons Platoon. The platoon is torn up emotionally. He is going through that with them. He gets the word from 3 runners to get on the satellite phone to Lima Company. He turns down the request. Then he gets called by Major Schreffler, who orders him up to Husaybah to take over Lima 1 because the platoon commander and the platoon sergeant were relieved. (45 minute)


The Battle of Husaybah, unlike the First Battle of Fallujah chronicled in accounts like West’s No True Glory, was conclusive. There were very few reporters, and no politicians micro-managed Lieutenant Colonel Lopez’ decision to clear the town through two sweeps through the town on April 17 and April 18. Whereas Fallujah caused Major General Mattis to fume that he should have been allowed to “take Vienna” in a historical allusion, Husaybah was cleared decisively. In the weeks after the Battle of Husaybah on April 17 and 18, Captain Neal would observe a marked decline in insurgent activities in his zone of action — but it was not to last.

In the larger picture, a future Lima Commanding Officer, Rory Quinn, marks April 2004, as a transition point between two major phases of his account of the entire Iraq War. April 2004 was a tipping point, and moreover, it was a Black Swan event. In the financial world, the events of a month like October, 2008, are a Black Swan event. Black Swan events are large-impact, hard-to-predict events that we try to rationalize in retrospect. 9-11 was a Black Swan event. In the Iraq insurgency, April 2004 was a juncture where the Iraqi population tipped in its support towards the insurgents, lead by Al Qaeda cells, and away from the Americans. In Quinn’s estimate, the major achievement of the Marines during the long phase that commenced in April 2004 was simply not to lose. This is consistent with the non-defeatist attitude which is an integral part of the Marine Corps culture.

Lima Company remained in its based in Camp Husaybah, patrolling and conducting observation posts (OPs) in town. As Bing West will observe in his later book, The Strongest Tribe, the far reaches of Anbar, such as Al Qaim and Husaybah, will see faster progress than cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. This faster rate of progress may be due, in part, to the decisive action taken by 3/7 in April 2004 whereas a decisive assault on Fallujah was not conducted until the end of 2004, immediately after the American presidential election. Back in the States, the unit that would replace Lima 3/7 — Bravo 1/7 — observed the actions in Husaybah, and trained accordingly, as we will see. 1/7 would begin two important patterns in the coming years in Al Qaim. First, 1/7 would make repeated deployments to the same area, thus increasing the familiarity of its key leaders with the physical and human terrain; and the battalion would start using Combined Action Platoons by its second deployment to Al Qaim. But, at the end of April, 2004, these were still trends which would take years to evolve. At the end of April 2004, Lima Company still had a rising counterinsurgency to fight.

...,1st Draft

Chapter 5 – Karbala01 Feb

Chapter 5 – Karbala


1987. “You want to be a grunt?” asked the recruiter. “If that’s a grunt, that’s what I want to be,” said Sandor Vegh, a high school wrestler, pointing at the picture of a Marine in combat gear against a jungle backdrop. He had taken some steps towards going to the Air Force Academy. When he asked the Air Force recruiter, “how do you defend yourselves,” the recruiter answered, “that’s what Marines are for.” He walked over to the Marine recruiter shortly thereafter.

His father defected from Hungary in the ‘56 revolution. He and a few of his buddies made their way out of Hungary during the war into the Czech Republic. They got onto a barge and made their way into the United States, through Ellis Island. They went through West Virginia, and found his grandparents, aunt and other extended family who took them in. His grandmother taught them how to read and write, and got them started along the way to being productive Americans. His family members were masons, architects, and construction workers. Each started their own businesses after they worked their way up through the company. They moved to Ohio, and started their own village. They had a combined garden. He was raised as a Hungarian child, but definitely to be American first.

He found that the Hungarian immigrant values of hard work and discipline translated well into the Marine Corps. “If self discipline didn’t work, you always had father discipline,” he recalled. His father would put popcorn kernels on the floor, and have him kneel on two piles of pop corn and have him kneel with head on the floor. “Some people think that’s horrible,” he says. When he went to sniper school, though, this discipline helped him to graduate. Those disciplinary techniques translated very well into certain training in the Marine Corps, especially sniper school.

According to Sandor Vegh, Sniper School teaches everything necessary to live in the field. As a two-man team, you are taught to do everything that an infantryman needs to accomplish. “It is difficult to simulate what is going on in Iraq,” notes Vegh who is one of those not-so-rare, true philosophers about the Art of War that one finds in the Marines. “The Marine Corps does not do sniper on sniper training until the advanced course. We set up pins and steel targets right next to where the observers are, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether you hit the target. That’s as much as we can do in peace time training.”

Gunnery Sergeant Vegh joined Lima Company, 3/7 in Karbala and would become one of its most capable leaders. As he notes, “my fitness report doesn’t say anything about my being a logistician.” His official billet for much of his tour with Lima Company was Company Gunnery Sergeant — a role primarily designed as the chief supply Staff NCO for the Company. At the same time that Gunny Vegh joined Lima Company as its Company Gunnery Sergeant, First Lieutenant Dominique Neal joined Lima Company as the Executive Officer.

[Section 2, 3]




1990. Irish Pride! The ethos of Sacred Heart Football, emblazoned on the t-shirts of students and players alike on the t-shirts worn by students at the San Francisco, Catholic college prep didn’t sound so great just now. Coach Lee made the whole team do an extra, punishment workout on the Polo Grounds in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park when one of the players blew off a bus driver. Dominique Neal paid for his buddy’s misconduct along with the rest of the team in another endless round of up-downs, monkey drills, and Alamo runs – and whatever else the coach could dream up. He’d never quit, never let it get him down, and he’d always come back from adversity. That lesson would stay with him later through the US Naval Academy and Marine Basic School because they were heavily academic environments where he struggled – but he would never quit. That lesson would stay with him too at Marine Infantry Officer’s Course (IOC), where he struggled with operations orders, but excelled in relationships with fellow Student-Lieutenants with whom he got along great. His heart and attitude were fully committed to success at IOC, which made up for any initial proficiency short falls. He remembers it as a 180 degree turn around from The Basic School — the 6 month course that all Marine Officers, regardless of specialty attend. As Neal went through IOC he became more confident, and felt that he became part of a brotherhood — at home in the Marine Infantry community. Major Schreffler was an adviser at IOC when Neal attended the course. Neal recalls that Major Schreffler reprimanded him during a urban operations exercise when Neal was in a Platoon Sergeant’s billet. In the coming year, Major Schreffler’s praise for Neal’s performance would mean a great deal to him because of the length of the relationship in different roles — instructor/ student at Quantico; and then S-3/ Lima Company XO in the fabled Fleet Marine Force. According to Neal, Marines would always feel a sense of ease because of Schreffler’s presence. Both Schreffler and Rick Gannon were team builders.

From November, 2000, to May 2002, Neal commanded 2nd Platoon, Lima Company. There he established relationships with many of the key Marines in Lima Company. Sergeant Wilder, one of his squad leaders, lead the “Super Squad” competition squad which prevailed at higher echelon competitions and provided superb training to the Marines, like Peter Milinkovic, who were in the squad. After command of 2nd Platoon, Neal was transferred to the S-3 Operations section of the Battalion Staff. A Battalion Staff is comprised of several sections, or S-Shops, including the S-1 (Administration), S-2 (Intelligence), S-3 (Operations), S-4 (Logistics) among others. Among these sections, the S-3 and the S-2 must work hand-in-hand in warfighting tasks in the field. The S-3 is lead by a Major, who is senior to the other heads of S-Shops, and includes the Battalion Gunner (a Chief Warrant Officer) or Weapons Expert, a Chemical Weapons Specialist (also a Warrant Officer), as well as several assistant S-3 Officers, or S-3A, sometimes know as “shitty little jobs” officers.

While in the S-3 Shop, Neal was the Officer in Charge of Super Squad. In that role, Neal was able to observe Staff Sergeant Wilder’s training and Milinkovic’s performance. Super Squad (along with Crew Served Weapons competition) are unit competitions for competence in basic infantry skills such as marksmanship, map reading, and executing orders which are held at the Company, Battalion, Regimental, and Division level. Marines place a high premium on such accomplishments. Neal even has the Super Squad badge and Commandant’s coin as proof of his involvement.

But the administrative aspects of the 3-Shop were more of a challenge for Neal. Neal felt like he was being inundated with tasks beyond his competence in that job. It was really a billet that required the training that Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS) provided to more senior officers. Yet, Neal never gave up – it was just like football. His experience in the S-3 would prove invaluable later when he returned to Lima Company. Captain Rick Gannon, noticing Neal’s unease in the S-3 assignment, came up to him one day and offered him the job of XO of Lima Company.

“Take a few days to move your stuff over,” Rick Gannon said.

“I was over there in 25 minutes,” recalled Neal.

Dominique Neal would fight for the respect of his fellow Marines. He would fight for the respect of his peers in Infantry Officers Course and Basic School. At root, he would fight for the respect of his friends from Navy Track, and Irish Football. He would fight so that he could return to bars with names like Yancy’s and Kezar Pub and Larocca’s in San Francisco. In the insular world of the Catholic prep schools in San Francisco, the Scots-Irish emphasis on the value of military service endured. The Sacred Heart Irish played Saint Ignatius every year for the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy, a prize named after two alumni who had died in World War II. Whether Operation Iraqi Freedom represented 4th Generation Warfare was an academic question. Whether Dominique Neal did his duty as a Company Commander in a combat environment was a more elemental question that involved the pride and honor drilled into him from the early stages of high school football. Dom Neal would have to carry the flag for Lima 3/7. He was also carrying on so that he could tell a good story at Yancy’s to guys like Paul Bugler – a graduate of Saint Ignatius who served in the Corps and coached at Sacred Heart – and Ed Cota – a graduate of Sacred Heart who was a SFPD Lieutenant who coached at Saint Ignatius.


[1994]. Finish the Race. Rick Gannon was disappointed that his father stopped due to a pulled muscle three quarters of the way through a marathon, but he ran the last 6 miles of the marathon by himself. This quality of endurance would characterize Rick Gannon throughout his Marine service, up to and including his final hours in Iraq. He had been born into a Marine Corps family. His father served as a Marine Officer in Vietnam. In fact, his father was a Lieutenant and Platoon Commander in 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (1/7), which is one of the other Infantry Battalions with 3/7 in 7th Marine Regiment. Brigadier General Michael Neil remembers sitting in a foxhole as a Lieutenant with Richard Gannon, Sr., in Vietnam.

A native of Escondido, California — a suburb of San Diego — Gannon studied political science in college and had already served a tour as a Rifle Platoon Commander. He was married with [number] children, and Schreffler was the Godfather to his [son]. He had served as company officer at the US Naval Academy and is remembered as .

While Lima 3/7 was in Karbala, Captain Gannon assumed command of the Company. [He interviews all Marines in company.]

[Section 5]


32 26’26.7” N 43 44’33.9 E elev 47 meters Karbala, Iraq
Local GMT 4 May 2003

Carpenter was angry. The new skipper, Captain Gannon, wanted to talk to every Marine in the Company, and to spend time talking to every Staff NCO and Officer in Lima Company. Gannon had come from Headquarters and Service Company. Carpenter admired Captain Schreffler, who had been moved to the Battalion S-3 Operations Section, largely due to reasons of seniority. Blade 6 and Blade 3 were transitioning out of the Battalion, and George Schreffler was next in line to assume the role of Battalion Operations Officer, the 3d ranking officer in an Infantry Battalion.

Carpenter was avoiding the new skipper around the Lima Headquarters in the Soccer Stadium in Karbala. “I wanted nothing to do with the guy,” said Carpenter, recalling his initial reaction to Captain Rick Gannon.

Gannon went about his task of meeting and learning as much as possible about every Marine in Lima Company with persistance.

“Staff Sergeant Carpenter, got a sec?”

“Yessir,” replied Staff Sergeant Carpenter, one languid night in the Soccer Stadium. Carpenter was still Weapons Platoon Sergeant. Lima Company had chosen the Soccer Stadium as a Headquarters because it had 15 foot high walls and was somewhat fortified. Lima further hardened the site by building guard posts around the Stadium.

Gannon engaged Carpenter in one of his trademark conversations, getting to know another vital player in his new command. Gannon was known to walk post in Lima Company and talk with many of his Marines late into the night, asking about where they came from, their families, and their experience prior to joining the Corps. Carpenter recalls Lima Marines who thought of Gannon as a father figure who filled a need for such a role model.

As Gannon and Carpenter talked, they found that they had much in common as the basis for a long term friendship. Gannon had 4 children, and Carpenter had 7. They were both Catholic. They belonged to the same Catholic church. Their youngest children were around the same ages. Carpenter’s wife, Beth, would become friends with Gannon’s wife, Sally. Sally and Beth were close from church, and Sally was very active in the community.

“One of my ambitions, one of my goals, when we get back off of this deployment” continued Gannon as the two Marines talked in the Soccer Stadium, “is that I want to be a better father.”

“Yeah, me too,” replied Staff Sergeant Carpenter. “But I say that after every deployment.”

“I have too in the past,” said Gannon. “But, you know, my dad was a great father. My father provided for us, my sister and I. I always knew that my dad loved me, never any doubt. My dad always did a lot of stuff with me. My dad was a hard working guy.”

Carpenter didn’t know exactly what to say.

“I want to be a fun dad,” continued Gannon.

“Really?” Carpenter didn’t quite understand what Gannon meant.

“I don’t just want to be a hard-working, providing father, who tells my kids I love them all the time,” explained Gannon. “I want to be fun to be around.”

Carpenter was a hard customer, having grown attached to Schreffler, but Gannon’s persistence, as well as his quality as a Man, leader and Officer won him over.

Over the coming months, 3/7 along with other Marine Battalions in Iraq were extended by decisions taken by the highest levels of the Department of Defense. 3/7 was not slated for another deployment for a year at that point. Marine Battalions 1/7, 1/4, among others were extended in Iraq during the same time while they were waiting for the Army to back fill their assigned areas. Marine Battalion 3/4 left from Iraq to the United States in April 2003 immediately after The Push ended because 3/4 was slated for UDP [Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa, Japan] in December 2003.

32 26’26.7” N 43 44’33.9 E elev 47 meters Karbala, Iraq
24 April 2003

Major General Mattis flew into Karbala, Iraq, to deliver the bad news in person. Wiry, and be-spectacled, the lean, thin 2-star General who was widely admired among the Marines, took it upon himself to give the Marines no reason to blame any of their intermediate leadership for the news that Battalion 3/7 would remain in Iraq longer than expected. The Push had succeeded, 3/7 had fought into Bagdahd along with RCT-7, but its turn to return to the States had not yet arrived.

All of the 3/7 Marines were gathered together for a series of talks from General Mattis, who made a point to deliver the word personally. General Mattis’ pre-war letters have been widely circulated, and his speeches on top of trucks to thousands of gathered Marines have been widely covered, but these direct communications of bad news were no less important as acts of leadership by the Division’s Commanding Officer.

“He was the bearer of bad news everytime,” recalled Carpenter. “He would not allow a Battalion Commander to tell us. General Mattis would tell us.”

32 26’26.7” N 43 44’33.9 E elev 47 meters Karbala, Iraq
13 May 2003

Mattis. Again.

Marines muttered, fucking asshole, when are we going to get the fuck out of this country?

But there he was, microphone in hand.

“Men,” Mattis would begin. “I am here to tell you in person that your Battalion has again been extended in Iraq.”

Marines left thinking, I never want to see that guy again. But they never faulted General Mattis. At least the Man had the decency to tell us the news in person.

“That was his style,” remembered Carpenter. “He would be there to tell us in person. He flew in in April to tell us we were extended to May. Then he flew in in May to tell us we were extended through July. ”

32 26’26.7” N 43 44’33.9 E elev 47 meters Karbala, Iraq
10 July 2003

Mattis. Oh shit. He is just going to be the bearer of bad news.

Don’t even fucking tell me I am staying here another month. Fuck this. Marines circled around their General again, who, for a third time had the decency to deliver the word, man to man. At least the Man is still here, if I have to stay in this shit hole.

Despite his other duties as the CG, 1stMarDiv, Mattis again thought it was enough of a priority to tell each Private First Classs, Lance Corporal and above that he would have to remain in Iraq longer than he expected.

Finally, the Bulgarians and the Poles RIP-ed [conducted a relief in place] with the Lima 3/7 Marines in Karbala.

32 26’26.7” N 43 44’33.9 E elev 47 meters Karbala, Iraq
18 July 2003

The AllMar — All Marines Communication — was missing a name: Carpenter. The official bulletin of all Staff Sergeants (E-6) selected for promotion to the next grade, Gunnery Sergeant (E-7), was a closely watched piece of career news within the Marine Corps community, not only by Staff Sergeants like Matt Carpenter, but also by their seniors, in particular, who might use the news item as an essential opportunity in the continuous process of team building. Carpenter had been passed over for promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.

“Look, Matt,” said Captain Gannon one day out in the Soccer Stadium as Lima Company counted the days to returning to the United States. “I’m heartsick that you were passed over for promotion to Gunny. I can’t think of a Staff Sergeant in this Battalion who is more qualified for promotion.”

Carpenter was taciturn. “I appreciate that,” he said with no emotion.

“I don’t want you to go over to Weapons Company where you would probably be a Section Leader in Heavy Guns. It would be a waste of your talents. I want you to stay on in Lima Company and be my Company Gunny.” It was a ploy, and Carpenter knew it. Gannon knew it. But in the fraternity of the infantry, it was also a sign of respect, and Carpenter accepted it, since he had grown to like the man.

Carpenter had his heart set on going to Weapons Company since he arrived in 3/7 from Bridgeport because he wanted to be a Gunner, which was his long-term aspiration. In order to be considered for the Gunner program, a Marine needed to have Weapons Company experience. All of Carpenter’s time had been spent in Weapons Platoon in Lima Company, a Rifle Company. He needed to get some Weapons Company experience to be considered for selection to Gunner.

Therefore, Captain Gannon’s ploy was really a tall order. This is the biggest thing that anyone has asked me to do, thought Carpenter. I really want to go to apply for the Gunner program. This will really end up fucking me.

Gannon dropped the subject for the day, but brought it back up shortly. He pressed his case.

In the end, Carpenter agreed to be the Lima Company Gunny, however. “Why? Well, he’s just that kind of guy,” recalls Carpenter. “I never, ever, wanted to be a Company Gunny because growing up [as an Infantry Marine] Company Gunnies were nothing but water and chow guys, running log[istics], and in my mind, I did not want to be out of the fight, taking me away from the boys. But very few Company Gunnies are the tactical adviser to the commander, but it is all based on personality.”

A few days after their first conversation on the topic of Carpenter taking the job of Company Gunny, Gannon revisited the subject.

“Matt, have you thought about being Company Gunny?”

“Sir, here’s the thing. I want to be a Gunner. That’s my long term goal. So, I need to get over to Weapons Company. I need time in Weapons Company to be eligible for the Gunner Program.”

“Yeah. I understand,” replied Gannon. “But, I am asking you to take the job of Company Gunny. I will be up front with you. I need you, and the Company needs you. Look around. We are going to be losing alot of senior Marines when we get back to the Stumps. It would make a big difference to Lima, and I am asking you as a personal favor to be Lima’s Gunny.”

“OK, Sir. Let me think about it.”

“Sure,” replied Gannon.

Carpenter stayed on with Gannon as his Company Gunny, mainly as a favor to his new Company Commander. He realized that he could have the type of impact that he wanted as the Company Gunny. As a Staff Sergeant (E-6), Carpenter filled the role of Company Gunnery Sergeant, a billet normally assigned to an E-7.

...,1st Draft

Chapter 3 – The Push01 Feb

See the following highlighted section — Douglas

Chapter 3 — The Push

The initial task organization of 3/7 was fully “meched up” as the Marines put it. By itself, 3/7 consists of 3 Rifle Companies with 180 Marines each, as well as a Weapons Company and a Headquarters Company. Attached to 3/7 were a series of other combat units: a Company of 14 M1-A1 Main Battle Tanks — 70 ton vehicles with a 120 mm main gun and 3 machine guns; a Company of Amtracs, which could “mech up” several of the rifle companies, as well as command elements from the Headquarters Company; a platoon of Combat Engineers, who would be responsible for clearing obstacles; artillery spotters; a signals intelligence team; an interrogation team (Human Intelligence Exploitation Team); a detachment of British chemical detection troops; a detachment of British signals intelligence vehicles; and embedded reporters.

On March 17 at 10:30 PM, the warning order was issued and 3/7 began immediate preparations to move to the dispersion area. It was during this time that Staff Sergeant Carpenter and his Weapons Platoon, Lima 3/7 missed the last chance for a shower that they would have in weeks, maybe months.

On March 18, 3/7 was up and preparing for movement at midnight. 3/7 departed LSA-7 to the dispersion area (DA) at 9:00 AM. Two hours later, 3/7 arrived at the DA and set in security. In the early afternoon, the Heavy Machine Gun Platoon from 3/7 Weapons Company, under the command of 1st Lieutenant Kevin Shea dealt with repeated incidents of civilian vehicles stopping along a nearby highway to observe and photograph the Marines in the DA. The Machine Gun Platoon consists of almost a dozen armored Hummers — “gun trucks” to the Marines — each of which carries either a M2 .50 caliber machine gun or a Mk-19 40mm fully automatic grenade launcher, as well as lighter weapons, and a crew of 3 Marines.

On March 19, at 3:00 AM, the weather worsened. Visibility was limited due to a significant sand storm. At 11:00 AM, 3/7 received a fragmentary order to take over border security from the Kuwaiti Border Guards. 3/7 tasked Company A, 1st Tank Battalion, with this border security mission. With its 14 M1-A1 tanks, Company A would have had the longest range weapons in 3/7 — the 120mm main guns of the tanks which have a classified maximum effective range and powerful optics. As well, at least some of those tanks had Forward Air Controllers (FACs) in one of the crew positions, such as the loader’s position. Putting a FAC in the Loader’s Position would have allowed the Pilot to observe potential targets through the tank’s powerful optics, to use the tank’s robust communication gear and to employ his own specialized communication gear, and to be in the most well armored position in the entire battalion. The Abrams tanks were secure against almost all enemy weapons. From the Loader’s position, the FACs, together with the Company A Company Commander, could control the border many kilometers North of their position.

At 2:10 PM on March 19, 3/7 received a report of a SCUD missile attack from Al Basrah. 3/7 executed its standing operating procedure and began to to disperse. Corporal James Brenner of 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, India Company, recalls the incident as follows, ““It was the last day at our dispersion area, and we were awaiting our first mission when we had the SCUD missile alert. I’ll never forget it because one of the Marines in our squad was over at the straddle trench going to the bathroom during the time of the alert. While I was crouched down in the fighting hole, I just remember seeing this Marine running back from the straddle trench, which by the way was about 150 meters away, with his pants around his ankles.”

At 3:00 PM on March 19, Team Alpha (Company A with its attachments) pushed its TOW Platoon forward to screen along the international border with the remainder of the Company in tan [Janar, what is a tan attack position?] attack position about 3000 meters to the South. The TOW vehicles would have had the ability to observe several thousand kilometers to their front while the tanks could overwatch the TOW vehicles which were within the tanks’ maximum effective range. The 81mm Mortar Platoon, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Jeremy Graczyk, established a firing position in support of the screen line. With the longer maximum range of the medium mortars, the 81mm Mortars would have been able to perform covering, screening, or target-marking missions.

For the rest of the day on March 19, from 5:00 PM to Midnight, Team Alpha’s attached TOW Platoon received sporadic direct and indirect fire from across the border. The TOW Platoon Commander, 1st Lieutenant Christopher “Buster” O’Brien inserted a sniper team into a Kuwaiti Border Guard tower to watch for the source of the enemy fire.

[Janar, I think it best to cut the following highlighted section ,since it has been covered in better detail elsewhere in this chapter — what do you think? It doesn’t flow very well in my opinion. Douglas 07/06/08]

The following day the company moved out of the dispersion area and up to the border. There Carpenter saw a platoon of Marine M-1 heavy tanks, and he could see that Weapons Company had been bounding back and forth from the border for the last day. “Our [3/7] Fire Support Team was already on the border calling fire from, I think was, a U.N checkpoint tower (close air support and artillery) onto the little town of Safwan; it was around 2200,” recalled Carpenter.

A curious geological feature outside of the town of Safwan, Iraq was a very large hill. On the desert plains of Southern Iraq this hill resembles more to a mountain, since there is no other terrain feature to compare it with. Safwan hill was the key to success in Southern Iraq, if the American Military was going to capture the city of Basrah. The hill was covered in Iraqi defensive fortifications, and also had towers used by artillery forward observers. Both the Marines and the Iraqis understood the importance of this hill, but it was the Marines who had the overwhelming superiority in firepower. The hill was alight with artillery impacts and strafing aircraft. Cobra attack helicopters were making passes firing a combination of Hell Fire missiles and 2.75 inch rockets, followed by attack fighter/bombers dropping various types of bombs.

However, this superiority in American firepower was also double edged. The commander of the attached M-1 tank platoon found his tank victim to one of the first friendly fire incidents of the war. It is believed that a Cobra helicopter mistook an M-1 tank for an Iraqi tank when the pilot saw this Marine tank heading south towards friendly troops, and fired a Hell Fire missile. The missile struck the tank and destroyed it. To the surprise of those who witnessed this friendly fire incident watched in relief as the tank crew bailed out. The commander of the tank would fight the remainder of the war in a Hummer.

The next morning the Marines of Lima loaded onto their AAV’s and began to move across the border. In support of the Marines was a British artillery battery firing on Safwan hill. While training in Kuwait the Marines would, on occasion train with their British cousins – Carpenter believes these artillerymen were from the Black Watch Regiment. Under this protective artillery fire 3/7 headed towards its first objective of the war, which was the base facilities of the 51st Iraqi Mechanized Division. “We were pretty amped-up, we had just crossed the border…………

...,1st Draft

Chapter 18 – Training and Deployment for Ramadi 201 Feb

Chapter 18 — Training and Deployment for Ramadi 2

“When you’ve lived through a war, you never forget. Memories haunt you.”
– Barbara Mujica, Frida

38 15’49.41″N 119 14’09.17″W elev 1977 m Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, CA
Date June 2006

Lt Col Turner had made a major decision. The Battalion would go back to the basics. The Battalion went back to Korean War table of organization. It went back to conventional training at Bridgeport, California, a high mountain training center where the Marine Corps maintained the only working mule course in the entire Department of Defense. There were no vehicles. The Marines walked. The Marines got back into the best shape. The Marines worked on marksmanship. The Marines honed their light infantry skills. Between August and November, 2006, the Battalion focused on Fire Support Coordination Exercises, and excelled at the basics of 3d Generation, Manuever warfare.

LtCol Turner switched the battalion’s focus to 4th Generation Warfare tactics after November, 2006, only after establishing a strong base of 3d Generation Warfare skills. The logic behind LtCol Turner’s progressive training schedule between Ramadi 1 and Ramadi 2 was that he felt that a unit had to master 3d Generation Warfare skills before moving on to 4th Generation Warfare tasks. In order to succeed in 4th Generation Warfare, the Marines needed to be absolutely proficient in 3d Generation Warfare skills. As Major Quinn, who had been promoted and who moved to the billet of Battalion Executive Officer put it, “can you be secure enough to not kill?” In the subsequent deployment to Ramadi again (“Ramadi 2”) in 2007, Doug Halepaska would take photos of Major Quinn, dancing, arm in arm with Iraqi Police with Glock pistols in their hands, fingers wrapped around the trigger (the only safety on a Glock is a small indent on the trigger). In this and so many other countless ways, the Marines high level of confidence and competence in basic weapons skills would make them “secure enough to not kill.”

As the months wore on in the last half of 2006, Lt Mujica-Parodi reflected critically on his experience in Ramadi 1. He wrote an article for the Marine Corps Gazette’s Chase Essay Contest, entitled, “The Conduct of War,” which was published in the April 2007 Marine Corps Gazette. In the article, Mujica wrote that, “The insurgent’s center of gravity is his capacity to camouflage himself within the general population and therefore dictate the tempo of battle.” In Manuever Warfare, the “center of gravity” was the aspect of the enemy’s coalition that held everything else together. In the last half of 2006, as Lt Mujica assumed command of another platoon, and command of Lima 3/7 changed from Captain Quinn to Captain Lewis, and Lt Lars0n moved up to be the Company Executive Officer, Mujica delved deeper into the literature on counterinsurgency. He read about Mao and Che Guevera, and studied the structure of Army Special Forces A-Teams.

34 14’00.00 N 116 03’19.07″ E elev 562m 29 Palms Marine Air Ground Combat Center, 29 Palms, CA
Date December 2006

By December 2006, 1st Lieutenant Mujica had developed his understanding of counterinsurgency into a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation. He knew from experience that if he was going to make his case to his Marines, he would have to be prepared. He had to know his material, backwards and forwards. Moreover, Lt Mujica was intentionally developing talent within his platoon — not just for the normal infantry missions which might be appropriate for 3d Generation War, but rather for the 4th Generation counter insurgency missions which he sought to excel in. Among his Marines, one stood out — Corporal Brandon Humphrey. At 26, Humphrey was older than Mujica. Humphrey had been to college, with a few years of coursework before he enlisted. Humphrey had humility, an essential character aspect if Mujica was to thrust more authority upon him. In time, Mujica would note that Humphrey “was better than me” as a platoon commander. Mujica wanted Humphrey to be prepared to take over the platoon because he recognized that either he could be killed, or the platoon would be split into smaller elements to function in a counter insurgency environment. Mujica began to read intently about a concept called, “distributed operations,” in which a Marine Company of 180 was spread out over a large geographic area into teams of 13 Marines. Those smaller teams of 13 would be self-sufficient to a higher degree than the current practice.

34 14’13.38″ N 116 03’18.73″ W elev 572m Officer’s Club, 29 Palms, CA
1230 Hours Local 15 Jan 07

Lt Mujica-Parodi invited his squad leaders, including Corporal Humphrey to lunch. The NCOs had assigned readings which they had to write reports on. Corporal Humphrey’s publication outlined insurgency from the 1880s to the 1930s. The other NCOs had similar readings which addressed other historic insurgencies. The assignments were not optional, but the conclusions and the convictions with which they were held were each man’s. The lunch was somewhere between a college seminar meeting and a required training session. Corporal Humphrey took the lead. He grasped the material almost immediately, and thoroughly. His broader pre-Marine Corps education, as well as his greater maturity — again, he was older than Mujica-Parodi — gave him the perspective to understand the importance of understanding counterinsurgency.

Over the coming weeks, Lt Mujica-Parodi would brief his 100 slide PowerPoint presentation to the entire platoon. Lt Mujica-Parodi had to have the support of the squad leaders and NCOs if his plan to execute A-Teams — he hated the term, “augmentation team” because he felt it was not “sexy” — was to bear fruition. His company commander, Captain Lewis, however was not in support of the A-Team concept. So, Lt Mujica-Parodi briefed his plans to Major Quinn. Like Dick Winters in Easy Company in Band of Brothers, Rory Quinn had made the jump — a rarity — from Rifle Company Commander directly to Battalion Executive Officer. Yet, Quinn was still a confidant of his two combat veteran platoon commanders, Lts Larson and Mujica-Parodi. Lt Mujica-Parodi briefed Quinn because he wanted “top cover” — in case he needed support from a more senior officer for his plan to deploy in dispersed A-Teams. At the time, in January 2007, he still did not know the extent to which the Iraqi Police in Ramadi had changed.


Marcus Mainz was a collegiate champion wrestler, who competed at a national level in the mid 1990s. He went to Officer Candidate School in July 1995, and immediately “fell in love” with the Marine Corps, the team work, the selfless-ness. It was an organization that was similar to his wrestling team in the emphasis on physical fitness, and dedication to certain principles which he aspired to. He completed the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) program, one of several OCS options, and went through Marine Basic School and Infantry Officers Course in 1999, where he met Captain-Instructor George Schreffler, who became a role model.

Mainz was assigned to 2/7 at 29 Palms from 1999 to 2002. He commanded a Combined Anti Armor Team (CAAT) Platoon, which consisted of both heavy machine guns and TOW, long-range anti tank missiles. He would go out to the training areas aboard 29 Palms and use Soviet vehicles for training. In exchange for doing maintenance on the threat vehicles, he could use the actual vehicles that his men were training to kill. He knew the base intimately, and he knew weapons. His platoon developed a high level of decentralized execution based on “commander’s inent” — to the point where his Marines knew which enemy vehicles they could engage without positive authorization from their platoon commander. He credits his commanding officer with setting this climate, and the common theme of the impact of 29 Palms itself runs through this description of a decentralized command climate. Mainz thrived on the expansive base, which allowed for junior officers to exercise extensive initiative. This view on mission orders stayed with Mainz as he progressed in his career. Mainz was one of those officers who read the manuals of all his weapons — how to set the head space and timing of a machine gun, how to do preventative maintenance on a hummer.

“I’m a books guy,” says Mainz. “I read the doctrinal publications. I read the technical manuals. I’m the guy who will read the technical manual and take the pain up front.”

Marcus Mainz was promoted to the rank of Captain and went back to Quantico, VA, for his “b-billet” at The Basic School, where he helped train new Marine Lieutenants. Then he was assigned to Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS). While at EWS, Mainz also was involved with several seminars. One of these seminars was lead by William Lind, a defense policy intellectual and think tank member who had gained some notoriety as one of the proponents of 3d Generation, “manuever” warfare. Lind had been a driving force in the Marine Corps’ adoption of Manuever Warfare in the late 1980s, and early 1990s. Manuever warfare grew out of the work of a Colonel Boyd, USAF, who had a number of “Acolytes,” among them Chet Richards, G.I. Wilson, and a number of others who had helped to champion important weapons systems, like the F-15, F-16, and A-10. Another seminar that Mainz entered was Quatrofoil 2, which was lead by a retired Marine General Droudy. Through these seminars, Mainz met and interacted with another Marine General Van Riper, whose son served with 3/7 in the early 1990s, and who himself served in 3/7 during Vietnam.

In these seminars and reading, Mainz came to understand counterinsurgency doctrine, but also to realize the short comings of the current publications. “Here is the conundrum that we were in. The Small Wars Manual has some good stuff, but it was designed for how to come in and take over a small, jungle-like country, but it wasn’t giving me what I needed to turn the corner. Some of those things [from the Small Wars Manual] are enduring, but they are not as enduring as we want them to be. It’s just that it was the only manual. Now, I would say, the Small Wars Manual is the most quoted, least read book, especially in the Marine Corps. The Small Wars Manual was like the Bible — you couldn’t say anything too [critical] about it.” Mainz wrestled with these limitations while an instructor at TBS then IOC at Quantico, all the while participating in semi-formal seminars lead by veteran Marines like retired General Droudy.

“The turning point book for me was War in the Shadows, a 3000 page book — a book about how counterinsurgency is the prevalent form of warfare. If you pair that up with Max Boot’s The Savage Wars of Peace, you come away understanding that America has been fighting counterinsurgency more than we will ever really know — or at least Small Wars.” Mainz goes on, “we are so JV [junior varsity] studying the big battle.”

“If I could sum up what any officer does, I would sum it up as risk-gain assessment, then acts,” says Mainz. “If you look at the percentage of all wars fought, probably only 20% of the time it has been the big, pitched battles with tanks and manuever, but 80% of it has been this Small War, nip-tuck, hit here, hit there, fighting the insurgency.” This was Mainz’ “a-ha” moment in his military education. “I’ve been spending 90% of my time on the thing that is least likely to happen.”

“General Droudy taught me that training is education for the known, like learning to shoot a rifle,” explained Mainz. “Education is preparation for the unknown. For example, you read something from Max Boot’s Savage Wars of Peace, for ideas about how techniques from the Small War in Nicaragua in the 1930s might apply to Iraq 70 years later. How do I get to the right guy in Iraq, pin him down, let him know my eyes are on you.” Captain Mainz describes how to influence the critical individuals — what Tipping Point author Gladwell calls the mavens and connectors — in order to tip an insurgency. “Once I understood that I was reading to understand patterns that would apply on another battlefield, that’s when it all snapped into place for me. I was going to have to train my Marines, but I was going to have to educate my NCOs, Staff NCOs and officers. I pushed really hard for education myself at that point.”

During Expeditionary Warfare School (the Marines’ Captain level career school), Mainz particularly focused on his education. Halepaska, the former 3/7 machine gunner and military historian, asked, “Is this when you started studying Scharnhorst?”

“Ah, Scharnhorst is the Prussian military theorist who basically describes why our military looks like it does today. He came up with the idea that officers need to be broadly educated, and he came up with the military education society that met socially over wine to discuss a variety of military topics. There was one of these seminars, Quatrofoil, going on at Quantico. It was started by Van Riper, and other generals. Van Riper is a guy who made a huge impact on me,” recalled Mainz. “He’s one of the most educated officers I know, and he’s an out of the box thinker. He’s the one who started mentioning Van Creveld, and that we are going towards this other form of warfare [4th Generation Warfare, which depends in part on several of Van Creveld’s books on generations of war].”

“One of the things that [Van Riper] taught me is, ‘quit looking for order.'” Mainz had met Van Riper at EWS and the seminars at Quantico. “Van Riper was against the military going towards effects based operations.” In the best selling book Blink, Gladwell devotes an entire chapter to Van Riper’s leadership both as a company commander in 3/7 during Vietnam, then fast-forwards to the General’s leadership of Red Forces in a 2002 wargame, Millenium Challenge, during which Van Riper defeated the Blue Forces, who relied on an effects based approach to fighting. “His approach was, ‘Oh hell no, it is never going to happen that way twice.’ You have to be so flexible — make a decision, re-assess, make a decision, reassess — Boyd’s old theory. The OODA [observed, orient, decide, act] loop is the only way. You’ve gotta be adapting continuously, you can never stop changing yourself to model on the enemy. [Van Riper] taught me that type of theory. And in a counterinsurgency, it is worse, because you are not trying to affect his tanks, you are trying to affect his mind.”

In fact, Mainz was familiar with Blink which he noted as a “brilliant book,” and he had talked to Van Riper about the lessons described in the book several times. Mainz noted that in the Millenium Challenge exercise, Van Riper did exactly what would be the most dangerous course of action for the Blue Forces — and when that succeeded, they cut him from command.

Mainz credits the advanced warfighting seminar lead by William Lind as the “best thing at EWS.” In the course of these seminars, Captain Mainz undertook the project of writing the 4th Generation Warfare Tactical Decision Game (TDG) manual together with a group of other Student-Captains who met every Friday in the early morning. “That was all driven by Bill Lind. TDGs are how you get someone to think differently.” Lind and others had written a new field manual for 4th Generation Warfare. While Manuever Warfare was the accepted doctrine of the US Marines, 3d Generation Warfare and 4th Generation Warfare were not accepted Marine Corps, much less Department of Defense, terms. But, these terms were widely discussed among Marine Officers. Lind’s 4th Generation Warfare manual, therefore, was a piece designed to elicit discussion and change. “Lind will be the first to admit, 4th Generation Warfare is a title designed to get people to talk.” Mainz wanted to know, how do I apply these materials? This lead him to the work of writing the 4GW TDG manual. This exercise lead Mainz to a emphasis on the populace. He also read books on the rise of Small Wars, such as War in the Shadows and Max Boot’s The Savage Wars of Peace. Mainz was familiar with the Combined Action Platoon concept (in which a Marine Rifle Squad of 12 Marines joins at least 2 indigenous Rifle Squads to form a “combined action platoon”). Mainz read about this during Vietnam in books like Bing West, The Village, and he knew that the CAP concept dated back to the Banana Wars of the 1920s and 1930s (Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic). Mainz wanted to know, however, how do we do Urban CAP? To answer this, he read about the example of Uruguay in the 1970s. He found a manual written for the Uruguyan insurgents who operated primarily in urban areas. The manual advised that the primary goal was simply to create chaos. In that insurgency, a very small group of insurgents created so much chaos that the democratic government over-reacted, thus alienating the populace. “They robbed banks, they shot politicians, they attacked the police. So the democratic government became more and more oppressive.” I this environment, the insurgents presented the alternative — communism — as a appealing alternative. Armed with this background, Mainz returned to “the Fleet” in late 2006.

34 14’44.76″ N 116 05’25.99″W elev 569 Base Housing, 29 Palms, CA
Date Dec 2006

“So what are you going to do?” Mainz wife wanted to know? Captain Mainz was sure to pick up a rifle company. 3/7 was going back to Iraq. Men had lost their lives, and others had lost their limbs in the last deployment. She wanted to know what her husband would do when he picked up his Rifle Company.
In response, Marcus Mainz went to think for an hour — a challenge since he had 4 young, active sons running around the house.

“Find my own bad guy,” said Marcus Mainz to his wife. “That’s going to be my focus, the idea that I take from all these courses and seminars at Quantico.”

Uh huh, OK, sure, thought his wife.

34 13’57.66″ N 116 03’14.71″W elev 565 Change of Command Ceremony, Lima Company Barracks, 29 Palms, CA
15 February 2007

Captain Marcus Mainz grasped the Lima 3/7 guidon firmly as Captain Lewis handed it to him, then he returned the colors to 1st Sgt Lanpolsen. He made certain remarks, then the company returned to its routine, with a new skipper. Lt Larson had been doing the jobs of 3 men, including that of the Commanding Officer. Captain Lewis joined a Military Training Team or “MiTT” of 12 Marines that would assist an Iraqi unit — an important mission, but the truth is that LtCol Turner had decided to put Captain Mainz in charge of Lima Company because of Captain Lewis’ short comings. In any case, Lima Company, along with the rest of 3/7, was set to deploy again in perhaps 60 days. There was little time for the new commanding officer to take charge of the unit. Captain Mainz gave the Marines a brief speech, then he started a timer on his oversized GShock watch, which would run continuously throughout his tour as Commanding Officer, marking his time in command down to the day and even minute.

Captain Mainz — a solidly built, former college wrestler — sought out the toughest Marines and challenged them to man-on-man combat in front of the entire unit. He wrestled Sgt Mejia — maybe the best ground fighter in the company first. A series of other Marines followed. Captain Mainz had a philosophy that training was what Marines did for the known, and education was for the unknown. He immediately wanted to know the status of weapons proficiency for every Marine. Finding that the Marines had not battle sight zero’ed or qualified on many of their basic weapons, he ordered a 9-range, basic weapons qualification package.

34 18’20.27″N 116 07’06.24″ W elev 559m Range 109, Marine Base 29 Palms, CA
19 February 2007

Lima Company was cycling through 9 ranges on “range road” North West of the main base. Captain Mainz had a philosophy that training was for known threats, and education was for the unknown. He was one of those officers who read the technical manuals. When he first took command of the company, he found that most of the Marines were not currently fully qualified on their weapons. This two day training package was designed to remedy that situation. The unit was able to order large allocations of ammunition for qualification. For example, in order to qualify the company’s 27 M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) gunners, Lima had 20,000 rounds. The machine gunners stitched tight patterns across paper qualification targets. Each range had multiple lanes, expertly organized by Lt Larson and the Lima Company leaders, most combat veterans.

At Range 109, Lt Larson and Lt Mujica — the two combat veterans among the Lieutenants — approached Captain Mainz. They had a tactical problem for their new commanding officer. The two combat veteran Lieutenants initiated a conversation with Captain Mainz about their perspective on counterinsurgency operations from their tour in Ramadi 1. They asked him what he would do if he encountered a house occupied by insurgents.

“Well, gents, I’d manuever to isolate the house. Manuever itself is a weapon,” replied Captain Mainz.

Lt Larson and Lt Mujica argued against taking any kind of threatening action against a house with known insurgents because the secondary effects outweigh killing the enemy with any kind of weapon, especially a large weapon. Mujica and Larson were suspicious of their new Company Commander because, although he had clearly studied counterinsurgency at Quantico, they had in fact been in the middle real engagements in Ramadi during the same timeframe. Larson argued that the Marines in the scenario should never enter into a building with a known enemy because the cost-benefit is not worth it.

“If you enter into the building,” said Luke Larson, “Marines get killed, and maybe you kill a few enemy and, in the end, the status quo remains largely the same. The best answer would be not to go in to the building at all, and hand out soccer balls.”

Captain Mainz, a muscled wrestler who had a combative streak from before his Marine service, was trying, maybe, to provoke a more aggressive response. “Wouldn’t you suppress the house with small arms, maybe hit it with a thermobaric SMAW, then call in a LMAV,” referring to a laser guided Maverick missile from a AV-8 Harrier.

Larson and Mujica didn’t take the bait, and declined to be the straw man to Mainz’ invitation to overreact. “No, Sir. Bad idea,” Larson stood his ground, Mujica nodding his agreement.

“OK, right. If you LMAV the house, then you are doing what the insurgents want you to do — you are overreacting. You are playing their game,” replied Capt Mainz. Marcus Mainz’ extensive education in counterinsurgency in Quantico was consistent with the real-world, hard-won experience of his two senior Lieutenants, who declined to make the case for using overwhelming, kinetic force in the environment to which they would soon be returning.

Captain Mainz’ education at Lind’s seminar on 4th Generation War, and his involvement in the Quatrofoil seminar, now came into play. Although he was himself an imposing physical presence, and he was a stickler for weapons proficiency, Mainz knew that restraint was the key to winning a counterinsurgency. In a sense, he had an advantage in advocating restraint over his two combat veteran Lieutenants because they had developed muscle memory in the expert use of combined arms in an urban environment during Ramadi 1. Both Lieutenants had lost Marines and friends to death and catastrophic injuries, like Lt Hendricks — a good man, they regarded as a friend and brother.

Mainz had in mind his reading on the question of how to extend the idea of Combined Action Platoon (CAP) to Urban operations. In Uruguay, a relatively small number of operatives — 1000 to 3000 — had started to provoke the national police and army into over reacting against not only the insurgents, but also the people. The people had, in turn, turned against the government.

“Gents,” said Captain Mainz to Lt Larson and Lt Mujica, “you always have to be primarily concerned about 2nd and 3d order effects of using the LMAV. Sure, we can level the house. But if we kill or shock the people, then we have accomplished the goal that the insurgents are trying to accomplish.”

Over the coming days and weeks, Captain Mainz briefed Lima Company on a “Commander’s Intent” based on a modified version of Maslow’s Need Heirarchy — a pyramid describing basic human needs through several stages, culminating in “Love” and “Self-Actualization” at the top of the pyramid. Captain Mainz modified the lower parts of the pyramid to include topics that were more appropriate for counter insurgency operations — Security (the base of the pyramid), Civil Military Operations, Economic Development.

Mainz reduced his intent to a PowerPoint presentation which described his intent, and he disseminated the presentation among Lima Company. He also disseminated a “Ten Commandments of Lima Company” which summarized his command philosophy:

You are the chosen ones of the Marine Corps. You will seek combat and train yourselves to endure any manner of test. You are the Marine warrior incarnate. To you battle shall be fulfillment.

1.Make your self hard to kill. This occurs every day in and out the combat zone but the methods are the same. Your focal points should be Physical, and Mental toughness, along with Technical and Tactical Proficiency.

2. Cultivate a true brotherhood, for by the aide of your fellow Marines you will conquer or die.

3. Men act while boys chatter about past actions and bravery. Chatter with out action may bring you to the grave.

4. Be calm and prudent, strong and resolute. Valor and the enthusiasm of an offensive spirit will cause you to prevail in the attack.

5. The most precious thing in the presence of the foe is ammunition. He, who shoots uselessly, merely to comfort himself, is a man of straw who merits not the title of Marine.

6. Never surrender or let the fear of death override your duty to your fellow Marine. To you there are worse things than death.

7. You can triumph only if you can kill the enemy. See to it that you submit yourself to this law; I will care for and master first my weapons, my gear then myself.

8. You must grasp the commander’s intent of every mission, so that if your leader is killed you can yourself fulfill it.

9. Complacency kills. Never let yourself or your fellow Marines fall into the death trap, that you are already ‘good enough’. Find and fix every flaw and be ever vigilant against laziness.

10. The enemy is always watching. Make no plan, no action, and no movement that does not deceive him to your true course of action. Through our use of cunning and deception the enemy will fear to make any move against us.

For Captain Mainz, the most critical elements of winning a counterinsurgency were commander’s intent and the OODA loop — Colonel Boyd’s terms for Observation/ Orientation/ Decision/ Action. Captain Mainz had expressed his commander’s intent through the modified Maslow pyramid of human needs, and he was ready to make fast adaptations of his company to the situation that he found on the ground. Mainz evaluated the human talent in his unit, and made certain appropriate assignments and modifications to the usual table of organization. Lt Larsen, he knew, had been operating at or very near the capacity of a human being to function over the previous 8 months — in effect triple hatted as not only the XO, but also the CO and maybe the Company Gunny as well. He wanted Larsen to embrace his commander’s intent and implement it, and Larsen showed signs of doing just that, quickly.

Mainz summarized Lt Mujica’s personal qualities with three broad strokes. First, Mujica was a rogue — this was a reputation that was already established among the Lima Marines. Second, Mujica was well educated — his Georgetown degree in political economy was the perfect background for the kind of insurgency that the unit expected to fight. Third, Mujica had a sense of divine right — if Mujica decided to do something, he would not be dissuaded. It was as if the Jesuits at Georgetown had blessed Mauro Mujica-Parodi with some kind of divine privilege to buck the system towards whatever ends he wanted to pursue. Accordingly, Captain Mainz assigned Mujica to be the A-Team — or Augmentation Team — platoon, in case the conditions in Ramadi favored the use of this technique.

Captain Mainz assigned Sgt Mejia to be the Police Sergeant, which is normally the assistant to the Company Gunnery Sergeant. But, in this role, Sgt Mejia’s role, in effect, really became that of Company “Gunner.” He was the designated Marine in charge of internal security for the Lima Company positions. He maintained the weapons discipline among the Lima Marines. With Mejia’s long-standing relationships among the Marines in Lima Company, as well as his high degree of professionalism, Mejia was extremely well suited to be the Company’s equivalent of a weapons expert.

34 13’59.94″ N 116 03’20.01″ W elev 561 Lima Company Offices, 29 Palms, CA

1900 Hours 5 March 2007

Corporal Brandon Humphrey asked for the meeting. Over the past month, he had come to be a strong advocate of the counterinsurgency education that Lt Mujica was force-feeding to the leadership in the platoon. Corporal Humphrey thought that if he and the other NCOs went in to Captain Mainz and showed that they understood and supported the distributed operations ideas that Lt Mujica had, it would send a much stronger message to Captain Mainz than if Lt Mujica went in and made the case by himself.

Four Marines filed into Captain Mainz’ office — Lt Mujica, Corporal Humphrey, and the other two squad leaders in the platoon.

All the counter-insurgency theory that Marcus Mainz had wrestled with at Quantico, however, could not be immediately applied as a Rifle Company commander. The CAP program would be described by Captain Mainz as an outsized risk for the reward from the normal military perspective. “When you put a CAP out there, you are trying to win the war,” noted Mainz. With the sensitivity to casualties, Mainz noted, “I could not get my mind around who was going to let me put small bands of Marines in the city…. I could never solve that problem in my mind.”

“So, what’s on your mind, gents?” Captain Mainz asked. Captain Mainz was looking at Lt Mujica, waiting for him to begin.

“Sir,” said Lt Mujica. “Corporal Humphrey has a few thoughts about how we operate in Iraq, when we go back in a few months.” Lt Mujica turned to Corporal Humphrey, and nodded.

“Sir,” started Corporal Brandon Humphrey. “We want to live with the Iraqi Police. We want to brief you on our thinking on using the technique of combined action platoons — CAPS — in the urban setting in the pattern of distributed operations. We have been reading some items supplied by Lt Mujica in our platoon. We believe that we can execute distributed operations. We want to organize as A-Teams of 13 Marines, and task organize with several squads of Iraqi Police or Army.”

Humphrey went on for several minutes, laying out the training that 1st Platoon had been executing. The platoon had been drilling urban combat skills — MOUT, or Military Operations in Urban Terrain, as the Marines called it — early in the mornings. The NCOs had been reading Lt Mujica’s assigned readings on counterinsurgency. Humphrey and the other NCOs could speak knowledgeably about different examples of counterinsurgency.

“Well, Gents, I appreciate your reading, study, and thinking,” replied Captain Mainz, studying the men. “But I can’t approve your plan at this time.” Every commander constantly makes a risk/ reward calculation. Is the possible gain worth the risk that I am taking? I could benefit from having a squad of Marines with each Iraqi Police station. On the other hand, I could have an entire squad of Marines killed or captured without being able to support them. In March 2007, the information that Captain Mainz was getting from Ramadi — where he had friends, who emailed him regularly — still indicated that the environment was too hostile to put squads of Marines outside the safety of Marine bases — the Marines called them “firm” bases.

Looking back on the pressure from Mujica-Parodi and his squad leaders to use the CAP technique, Mainz recalls, “I knew that what I needed was social power, not military power. I knew the Augmentation Teams greatest strength — if they worked — was going to be social power. ”

During the rest of March, Captain Mainz was closely monitoring the situation in Ramadi. Battalion 2/5 was supposed to relieve Battalion 1/6 in Ramadi, but that plan was changed and Mainz received detailed information from the advance party from 2/5 about Ramadi. He knew that that the situation was “non-kinetic” in the language the Marines.

34 14’50.57″ N 116 01’19.90″ W elev 619m Mojave Viper Non Live Fire Combat Town

2200 20 March 2007

Lima 3/7 was rotating through Mojave Viper — the Marine Corps’ training program to prepare every deploying infantry battalion for service in Anbar Province, Iraq. On the other side of the ridge from “mainside,” Gunner (retired) Tim Gelinas had built an Iraqi town out of connex boxes, buried tubing to create sewer systems, and plywood. The town measured 800 meters by 300 meters, with several districts. A Company could walk to the town in under an hour, on the way to Range 400. During Mojave Viper, the town was occupied by real Iraqis, who spoke their native language. Marines were evaluated on their ability to interact with the population, using their language and cultural training as much, or more so, than their weapons training.

Lt Mujica was on the radio, controlling Corporal Humphrey in the town. Corporal Humphrey was in command of an A-Team. Lt Mujica created an impossible situation — Corporal Humphrey’s Marines were injured, and the trucks sent to evacuate the injured Marines failed. Then, Mujica put the handset on a table, and laughed at his “aide de camp” — as he had designated Corporal Humphrey.

Humphrey’s fist clenched white around the hand set, as he almost shouted into the black, plastic radio handset. “Lima 6, Lima 6, this is Lima 1. The trucks are non-operable. Request medevac.” Humphrey sent the call out over and over.

5 minutes passed, then 10 minutes.

Finally, Lt Mujica came back on the net. “Helicopter CASEVAC available,” he informed his frustrated Aide De Camp, whom he was intentionally training to be a platoon commander.

Corporal Humphrey called in a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) request for a helicopter from memory — Lt Mujica had drilled all of his NCOs on certain procedures, including call for fire, close air support, and MEDEVAC.

The Battalion staff monitoring the exercise were not pleased with the episode. Lt Mujica was criticized for it. But he had his own plans for Corporal Humphrey, and this episode was one of many in which he was grooming Brandon Humphrey to step up beyond his current rank and billet.

34 14’50.57″ N 116 01’19.90″ W elev 619m Mojave Viper Non Live Fire Combat Town

0300 21 March 2007

A hand clasped over Brandon Humphrey’s sleeping face while he was inside his sleeping bag. He woke to a rushed whisper in his ear: “Get your gear on, now.”

30 seconds later, he was running behind Lt Mujica. Mauro Mujica-Parodi’s sister was a medical professional who had helped him to develop certain theories about sensory overload and deprivation in relation to combat stress and effectiveness. Mujica believed that it was either the overload of sensory input or the deprivation of sensory input that lead a leader to fail to function. Some of the training at Infantry Officer’s Course had reinforced this belief.

The two ran a mile into the desert. The blood worked into muscles which had, minutes before, been recovering from a day of patrolling in the heat and dust of the simulated, high desert, Iraqi town.

“Sit down,” ordered Mujica. Brandon Humphrey sat down, cross legged. Moments later, he could feel another back against his own. He did not know who it was. The two sat, back to back, for ten minutes. The desert is a place of extremes in temperature. It can get very hot — above 110 in the Summer — and it can get very cold, all in the space of a few hours. Unit leaders learn to start movements at 4 AM, and to plan to be in place by 8 AM, and under protective shade for the mid day heat. As the two sat back to back, the heat quickly dissipated from the suddenly inert bodies.

Equally suddenly, Mujica ordered, “Using the rules of Marine hand to hand combat, FIGHT!” Humphrey fought. The opponent was another Non Commissioned Officer from the Platoon. The two Marines grappled in the sand, dust and scrub pushed up into nostrils. The fight went on for 20 minutes — a long time for a fight at any time, but especially in the middle of the night.

“Stop!” Mujica shined a SureFire light into Corporal Humphrey’s eyes, dilating his pupils. Mujica grabbed Humphrey’s arm, and lead the Non Commissioned Officer to a ground mat with a disassembled radio on it. “Put it together! Now!”

His vision ruined, Brandon Humphrey assembled the radio by feel. He screwed the antenna onto the set. He replaced a battery.

“Call for fire,” promted Mujica.

“You this is Me, adjust fire, over.”

“Me this is You, adjust fire, out.” Mujica played the part of the mortar or artillery section.

“Grid 123456. Troops dug in. HE Delay in Effect. Over.”

“Grid 123456. Troops dug in. HE Delay in Effect. Out.”

“Direction three-two-hundred. Over”

“Direction three-two-hundred. Out.”

“Shot, over,” shouted Lt Mujica.

“Shot, out,” replied Corporal Humphrey.

“OK.” The test was over. “Not bad,” conceded Mauro Mujica-Parodi. He knew that what had just happened might be considered hazing. But, Corporal Brandon Humphrey did not consider it hazing. Indeed, Brandon Humphrey said as much when Lt Mujica recalled the incident as the two sat next to each other for an interview in February, 2008. But Lt Mujica was more concerned about whether his leaders could function under stress. Corporal Humphrey understood this, and accepted the test for what it was — a practical evaluation of his ability to function in certain combat related tasks under an intentional stress situation.

34 17’48.39″ N 116 08’50.90″ W elev 600m Lima 3/7 Bivouac during Mojave Viper, Camp Wilson, Expeditionary Air Field

0700 25 March 2007

Lt Mujica had left an article from the Marine Corps Gazette on “Distributed Operations” on Capt Mainz rack — his bed. Lima 3/7 was going through Mojave Viper and CAX. This was perhaps the most important pre-deployment training exercise for infantry units in the Marine Corps. Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) had been watered down somewhat since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom — did anyone know which OIF they were actually on? — by deleting the extensive desert, manuever portions of the exercise, but adding the Mojave Viper parts of the exercise in the simulated Iraqi Town. During CAX/ Mojave Viper, even the units resident at 29 Palms lived out in these camps next to the Expeditionary Air Field, where the transport helicopters and attack aircraft that supported the exercise operated from in Spartan, arid, desert conditions. Sometimes, exotic desert trucks and bikes used by allied forces, such as the British, showed up in the aluminum shelters nearby. Mujica was not subtle. The Marine Corps Gazette article laid out the concept of “distributed operations,” which argued that a Marine Rifle Company could be broken down into 13-Marine units and could operate over much larger distances than normal. Captain Owen West had written one of these articles, and Colonel Robert K. Dobson, who had commanded 3/7 in the mid-1990s, had written a thorough critique of the strengths and weaknesses of this concept of operations. The major advantages of “distributed operations” included the ability to cover a much larger geographical area, and the ability to fully use the ability of junior Marine leaders — such as Corporal Humphrey — to coordinate fire support. Captain West, whose father, Bing, had been involved in the development of independent Stingray teams in Vietnam, advocated the broader use of distributed operations based on the success of these independent, 6-Marine teams in Vietnam, and in the Marine Force Recon community. On the other hand, the disadvantages of distributed operations included the logistics obstacles to supplying widely dispersed elements of a Marine Rifle Company. Also, the risk was that a squad of 13 Marines could be over run more easily if it did not have mutually reinforcing Marine units nearby. The critics of Distributed Operations pointed out that Infantry Marines were not the equivalent of Special Forces soldiers. Lt Mujica thought his Marines could step up into a role close to — if not entirely the same as — the special forces soldiers who formed A-Teams. Indeed, he used the special forces manual to help train and develop his concept of A-Teams.

“Hey sir, did you see that article?” asked Lt Mujica.

Captain Mainz was multi-tasking at the rapid rate. “Yeah. Subtle. Noted.” He knew that Lt Mujica was a good writer, who had published an entry in a professional writing contest in the Marine Corps Gazette. Mainz wondered whether Mujica would be a good career officer. Then, he wondered whether what he really needed was good career officers, or a little bit of a rogue.

34 18’25.80″N 115 58’46.05″W elev 726m Range 400

1100 26 March 07

The attack was done. The Coyotes of the TEECG — Tactical Exercise Control Group — congregated on a road that ran down the middle of Range 400. The Company Commander, the Platoon Commanders, the Squad Leaders, the Mortar, Machine Gun, and Assault Section Leaders gathered around. The Coyotes wore protective vests identical to those that the Marines wore — except that their vests were colored bright orange. The Coyotes were all experienced Captains, Warrant Officers, and Staff Non Commissioned Officers from the Infantry Military Occupational Specialty. They all had one thing in common — they were good at using the Marine Corps’ infantry weapons — particularly in combination with each other. They were safety fanatics, always aware of Surface Danger Zones — the areas behind a target where a projectile could bounce and kill someone, often miles away.

As the Infantry Marines cycled through Range 400, which was part of CAX/ Mojave Viper, the Coyotes kept the Marines from killing each other with dumb, friendly fire. They graded the units on many aspects — the time that certain tasks required, the accuracy of the weapons employed, the ability to use certain weapons together.

“Gents, that evolution ranked in the top 5% of runnings of Range 400 we have seen. Here is what you did right,” the head Coyote — a Lieutenant Colonel — started. He read from his notes, and his experts who followed certain maneuver elements, or who supervised certain weapons like the mortars or machine guns amplified his points.

Corporal Humphrey had commanded 1st Platoon. Lt Mujica had run the Fire Support Team — known as the “FiST Team”. The entire Company had excelled. It was a solid performance. LtCol Turner had watched the attack, along with the Battalion Sergeant Major, from a perch high above “Machine Gun Hill” where the Scout-Snipers usually started the attack with precision rifle fire from their .308 and .50 caliber sniper rifles, while also calling in and adjusting the mortars.

The desert was a place not without its own arid beauty. The Marines had slept in their bivouac just south of the road that ran East to West at the South of Range 400. LtCol Turner had run Range 400 — like almost every Marine Infantry Officer in a few generations — as a platoon commander, and as a company commander. He had noticed the small things that Lima 3/7 did well, along with the Coyotes. As the sun rose, the mortars tucked into a fold in the earth across the box canyon thumped out their registration rounds. “Shot, over,” the mortar section intoned over the Company Tactical Net. “Shot, out,” acknowledged the Scout Snipers. Lieutenant Colonel Turner had watched the violent ballet from earshot of one of the snipers. Now, 3 hours later, he stood behind the Lima 3/7 staff as the Coyotes detailed what he had already noted in quiet exchanges with his Sergeant Major.

Doing well at Range 400 gave Lima 3/7 credibility in 3d Generation, Maneuver Warfare. Whether the Marine Corps was 3d or 4th Generation was a question for Bill Lind and a bunch of guys with no rank. But whether a Rifle Company could do well at Range 400 was what the business consultants called a “core competence.”

34 20’55.72″ N 116 03’09.86″ W elev 805 The Delta Corridor, 29 Palms Marine Base
0921 28 March 2007

The 26-ton Amtrac rolled up on a piece of high ground. Lt Mujica and his Fire Support Team un-assed the track. He had a commanding view of the next 7 kilometers, North from his current position, all the way to the Delta T, where the Delta Corridor ended. Between his current position and the Delta T were a series of intermediate objectives. Mujica had target reference points, artillery targets, mortar targets, and on-call close air support missions stacked up. North of him, and slightly below him, the rest of Lima Company pushed ahead into the attack.

There was a near and far ambush, then an assault on a town.

As Mujica ran the fire support, Lima Company rolled forward in the attack in the back of Amtracs. Sitting in the troop commander’s hatch next to the small turret with 1st Platoon was Corporal Brandon Humphrey, the 1st Platoon Aide De Camp — whatever the fuck that was. Humphrey was the platoon commander. As such, he commanded not only the three squads of 13 Marines each in the 3 Amtracs which 1st Platoon owned for this attack. He also commanded the 3 Amtracs, which had 3 turrets, each of which had a .50 caliber machine gun and a 40mm fully automatic grenade launcher. With the weapons on the Amtracs, Humphrey could hit targets out to 1830 meters — almost 2 kilometers, and over a mile away.

Lima Company again excelled in this brief mechanized attack (The CAX schedule prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom could include mechanized attacks lasting half a week, and extended to the full length of 29 Palms Marine Base, the largest base in the Marine Corps.) Lima Company took all of its objectives. More importantly, the execution of the attacks was efficient — the units did not get bogged down at any one objective. Humphrey, commanding a platoon, had done his job well. They were “getting out and getting some,” joked the Marines, in the parlance of the Grunt.

The Coyotes again noted the proficiency, as did Capt Mainz’ seniors in the chain of command. This gave Lima 3/7 credibility.

33 26’00.55″ N 43 16’33.23″ E elev 55m Ramadi, Iraq
1500 Hours 14 April 2007

Captain Mainz selected a non-standard advanced party — Mainz, Larson (the Executive Officer, who normally remained with the main body), Gunny Hatch (the company logistician), Sgt Mejia (the most proficient tactical Marine). Mainz himself went to a 5-day COIN School that was mandated by General Petraeus — a school that Mainz thought was excellent.

Back at the Stumps, Lt Mujica was the acting Lima Company Commander. He had been ordered to organize his 1st Platoon into a Mobile Assault Platoon or MAP. He was 3 days into the task of organizing the MAP. Corporal Humphrey had just come off of leave and expected to be boarding aircraft to Iraq in 8 more days.

Then, Marcus Mainz saw that the situation in Ramadi had changed — radically. He made a bold decision. In terms of the OODA loop — Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action — he cycled through the process of recognitional decision-making in a very fast time frame. Just 2 months earlier, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines (1/6) had turned a corner and started to occupy Joint Security Stations with Iraqi Police. For the first 5 months of their 7-month tour, 1/6 had battled Al Qaeda in Iraq just as kinetically as 3/7 had in 2005 and 2006. But then the situation changed, and became more permissive. Under the command of LtCol Jurney, 1/6 had re-occupied important locations within Ramadi, such as the 17th Street station. Captain Mainz and Lt Larson agreed: it was time to implement the A-Team concept that Lt Mujica had wanted to do. Instead of the plan that Lima 3/7 had developed back in 29 Palms, Lima 3/7 would organize according to the major 5 — and eventually just 3 — lines of operation or “loos.”

Captain Mainz emailed Lt Mujica over the secure miltary email: halt the current plan, organize the Company into A-Teams as you had planned. You are coming over, and bring Corporal Humphrey. Bring Lieutenant rank for Corporal Humphrey.

Two days later, the second advanced party from Lima 3/7 was on the flight to Iraq. Despite the fact that Humphrey was not expecting to deploy for another 8 days, he too was included. The second advanced party consisted of all of the remaining Lieutenant platoon commanders — and Sergeant Humphrey (he had just been promoted from Corporal to Sergeant). Around the world from March Air Force base, the chartered 747 flew. The Marines carried rifles on the flight, and stayed in segregated areas at airports when they stopped. They welcomed a stop in Shannon Airport, County Galway, Ireland, at any hour, for a last drink — a last touch of Western Civilization. Aboard trucks the Lieutenants and the Sergeant went. In Ramadi, Sergeant Brandon Humphrey became 2nd Lieutenant Brandon Humphrey. Mujica pinned the bars onto Humphrey’s uniform with some pride. Over the previous few weeks, Mujica and Humphrey had been “shedding bodies” in 1st Platoon — that is, getting rid of Marines who were overtly opposed to the counterinsurgency teaching that had been force fed to the unit, or who were judged to be not appropriate for operating in an A-Team. “They went to other platoons, and went on to do great things,” Brandon Humphrey recalled. The Marines who were shed to other platoons were not bad Marines, per se. They were just not the Marines who would do best in the A-Team mission. Mujica — an avid traveler himself — selected Marines with extensive travel or foreign experience.

“OK, Brandon, try not to totally fuck this up,” joked Lt Mujica as he admired the gold bars on his former Aide De Camp.

“Don’t worry, Mauro. I’ll try not to embarrass you,” replied Lt Humphrey.

Instead of “Lieutenant Falk” or “Sir,” Lt Falk became, simply, “Sayce.” Lt Humphrey called all the other Lieutenants by their first name.

Captain Mainz needed 7 A-Team leaders, which meant that he needed Brandon Humphrey to become “Lieutenant Humphrey.” 11 months later, Captain Mainz would describe Brandon Humphrey as “the best platoon commander in the battalion.” Like Lieutentant Neal stepping up to wear Captain bars upon the death of Captain Gannon, and like Gunnery Sergeant Carpenter commanding a platoon through most of the 2004 Qaim deployment, Sgt Brandon Humphrey stepped up to a new rank and billet.

Source: HumphreyMujica1.mov


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.