2nd Draft,Feb 2017 Edition Self Publish

Post 9-11 Authors30 Jul

The criteria I have as an American for “best writer of the post 9-11 era” is described by Chivers in his post, “one duty that remains is description, the duty of remembering, and listening, and trying to write it down in a fuller context — not the official way, not the pentagon’s version, not the bullshit presentations that get clicks or match what the worst editors play up, but through the minds and experience of the people who shouldered the responsibilities, and took the risks, and still carry the freight, and through their families, who paid too.”

On that criteria, I argue that the best writers of the post 9-11 era are:
1. Chris Christopher Chivers
2. Owen West, The Snakeeaters
3. Bing West, No True Glory, One Million Steps, and other books

Of these, West Jr. is the one who is actually out there doing it as a USG employee, as a ASD SOLIC.

In broad terms, the best guide to US Foreign Policy as it is now and as it would be in a near peer war are the 13 books of Bing West Sr and Jr for several reasons.

If we Americans and Westerners have to fight a full blown near peer war, or as is more likely, we continue to fight hybrid wars in the grey zone (reference, the economist special on the future of war, January 2018), the most important capability is that American “regular” infantry/ combat arms advise much larger foreign, allied forces, e.g., a USMC Infantry Rifle Squad advises a foreign battalion (which would normally be a special forces mission, but as of December 2017 according to DoD email releases, these are missions that “regular” American forces can do because of capabilities like UAV. Owen West’s The Snakeeaters focuses on the adviser mission, done by an ad hoc team of reservists; the long lineage of the West’s writing about distributed operations and COIN, starting with The Village about a CAP (Combined Action Platoon) in 1966-1968 supports West Jr.’s compelling book.

2nd Draft,Feb 2017 Edition Self Publish

Introduction August 2017 – Reverse Order of Chapters28 Aug

November 2017

“Pass in review!”

CHAOS stood at attention beside BGen Jurney, the former CO of 1/6 in Ramadi between 3/7’s two pumps when Jimmy Webb served like Webb Sr in a counterinsurgency fight. 498 young Marines, the honor man of each Platoon of 80 Marines wearing the Blue Dress uniform, marched past the de facto most powerful man in the world OCONUS, who in 1968 had enlisted, only to become an officer in 1971. Having stood post on the DMZ with his counterpart weeks earlier; having attended conferences with his counterparts in the Philippines where the ISIS squirters from CENTCOM had started a new fight in Marawi; having inspected NATO allied soldiers in Poland, CHAOS knew: in a new near peer war, we will do COIN again, but inkspot COIN, and we are going to need a lot more than the 10 divisions that America has on active duty; we are going to need to do the advisory mission that Owen West did in OIF, but we are going to have to be prepared to advise 50-100 allied divisions in SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM, PACOM, CYBERCOM across allied cultures primarily Hindu, Japanese, Latin American, African. Kaplan was right in Monsoon — the IO may be the most important body of water in the world in this century; whether his theories were politically correct, Huntington was right in Clash of Civilizations, as Wilson and Lind had predicted in the Marine Corps Gazette in their 4th Generation Warfare articles in the 1990s; Krulak Sr was right to focus on 3 block war with the strategic corporal in the littoral megacities in the 1990s. The key passages from 7000 volumes of books flashed through CHAOS brain housing group, as the Privates and Privates First Class, marched in front of CHAOS who never forgot where he started, modeling the humble but willful heroic leadership of a Jesuit General who put the good of his organization, America, under her Constitution, ahead of himself. Smiling broadly afterwards, he told the hats and the newly minted Marines to “call me Jim.”

August 2017

CHAOS returned to Iraq, looking at the world not as a General, but as a Mr, albeit a cabinet level Secretary. 1st Marine Division had been promoted through the ranks, with the the former 1st Mar Div Assistant Division Commander now Chief of Staff of the Jesuit educated President, who had been trained in college to follow the recommendations of the Priest-Professors at Fordham; Fighting Joe of RCT 5 was now again, Mattis’ main effort, patrolling the most danger AO, in the Pacific, sitting beside the head of state of a near peer, conducting diplomacy. Former 1stMardiv ADC Kelly had enforced staff discipline when a White House strategist had erroneously suggested that America might pull out of South Korea, which was not on the same sheet as DoD. “Beside you all, I’d do it again,” the words echoed through two decades, as the former Commanding General inspected Marines near Husaybah — still in enemy hands, but not for long — now manning distributed artillery, recon, and fire support units. Another early and effective COIN adopter, H.R. McMaster, of Tal Afar — not to mention 73 Easting in Desert Storm — had become the National Security Adviser, now the undisputed senior military strategic adviser to the President in JFK’s well disciplined White House; Top level Presdiential Dereliction of Duty of duty would be avoided in this now longest war in American history because McMaster and Kelly would apply the lessons of Vietnam, which had prevented Krulak Sr from earning his 4th Star and the title of Commandant of the Marine Corps, which would wait for his son, who would become the father of 3 block war and strategic corporals in the megacities. Bing West’s son, now the author of 3 books, the last one, The Snakeeaters, the definitive account of the advisor mission — was waiting for Congressional approval of his post as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Ops. Here I am again, thought CHAOS, surrounded by Jesuit educated Irishmen in a small command element, out on the edge of the Empire.

In the Corps, Neil, now a Lieutenant Colonel, and Mejia, now a Gunnery Sergeant, continued to apply the lessons of Husaybah and Fallujah to ever more challenging Ukraine scenarios. The M27IAR had replaced the heavier, hard to maneuver in trenches M249 SAW, now with a suppressor and ACOG, the same optical scope that the Lima 3/7 Marines had relied upon in their 2003-2007 fights. HK’s more reliable gas system and meticulous German craftsmanship had replaced the M16 gas system originally designed by Eugene Stoner in the 1960s to result in a more accurate and reliable weapon, which was becoming the Corps’ de facto designated marksman rifle, to include a suppressor in experiments with Battalion 3/5, and likely in the future for every Marine. Now that every Marine was on the way to being armed with the same weapon that a Navy SEAL used to kill Bin Laden, so too every “regular” Marine and Army unit was on the way to being a possible advisor to a foreign unit in the model of Lima 3/7 from the 2007 Ramadi deployment, following the doctrine-literature of West, The Village (Vietnam), The Snakeeaters (Iraq). Most experienced American JTACs had experience calling for air from a mixed section of AH-1s/ UH-1s, or a General Atomics Predator with the long loiter time and highest in Department of Defense reliability rate, carrying the Lockheed Martin Hellfire or a family of increasingly small weapons like the Raytheon Griffin, based on the Javelin anti-tank missile which filled the sweet spot where Special Operators loved to carry the tank killing weapon with a fire and forget warhead with a portable, highly useful optical package. Most of the Lima 3/7 Veterans had left the Corps, but the ones who stayed, were, like their Small Wars veteran counterparts of post Nicaragua, Haiti, and Dominican Republic the living conduit of lessons learned for the majority of new Marines just making their first deployments.



2nd Draft

2nd Draft – Afterward – 17 July 2010 – Inkspot COIN & Entrepreneurship to heal civ-mil divide18 Jul

One of the enduring problems in American society is a divide between the military and civilians. This topic flared up in the aftermath of the relief of General McChrystal by the National Command Authority in late July 2010. The founder of IAVA, Paul Rieckhoff, (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) highlighted the issue on his facebook page, and in interviews on cable TV with Rachel Maddow. Rieckhoff posted a link to a New York Times article titled, “Is a Culture War Between American Soldiers and Civilians Inevitable?” Rieckhoff also posted a link to an article titled, “McChrystal’s Disdain: Symptom of a Mercenary Force With Few Ties to Civilian Leaders” by Frank Schaeffer, who wrote two books on this topic. On his appearance on Cable TV, he hammered home much the same point — on the same day that the President changed his Generals in Afghanistan, in moves that recalled Lincoln’s aggressive shifts in top level leadership to shape wartime leadership. At the same time, the IAVA leader was posting about the new GI Bill. In response to these themes, I wrote:

“i think that counterinsurgents would make excellent entrepreneurs. this is an idea that i think should form an important subset of this generation’s GI Bill; and it is different from the WWII era (no COIN in that war).”

“good article. one of the original sources on this is Fallows, “What Did You Do in The Class War, Daddy?” Washington Monthly, Oct 1975; and Webb, Fields of Fire, draws a not so thinly veiled character based upon that article, and it is a major theme of that novel. Interestingly, some of those people who crossover from the civilian elite to military service become successful authors (Fick, a graduate of a Jesuit prep, and Dartmouth before writing, One Bullet Away; Gallagher, son of two lawyers… before writing — blogging — Kaboom; Bing West, graduate of a Jesuit prep and Princeton before writing The Village and a bunch of other stuff). Also, it may be that some of those who cross that divide from “civilian elite” to military are also some of the best COIN service-members.”

“and to connect this article to another article you linked to: this is the reason that veterans are at 15% unemployment. if you take the idea from gladwell, outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient in a skill, then take the higher complexity of military skills, and of civilian skills, this is why it is very difficult for exiting service-members to transition.”

While there is an enduring civilian-military divide that cannot be healed quickly or completely, there are distinct, small-scale steps that can be taken to heal that divide which will benefit both the military and the civilian spheres in the United States. This essay is about the positive effects of the counterinsurgency as entrepreneurship theme in several specific examples for both the military and the civilian world in the United States.

First, the civilian. The major challenge for the United States as I write this in mid-July, 2010 is economic. Unemployment is at 9.5%, despite several stimulus programs, the last dating back to early 2009 when a new President successfully asked Congress to inject enough money into the economy to prevent another Great Depression. Most of this money was injected in a top-down manner, which the Chairman of the Fed once described as raining money from a helicopter. Yet, the Kauffman Foundation showed in a recent research report that “newly created and young companies are the primary drivers of job creation in the United States.” The best answer to the economic problems that confront the United States is not to pour more money (after bad?) into large companies that are considered “too big to fail.” Rather, for real, new job growth, the country is best served by a wave of entrepreneurial start ups. The question is, where to find entrepreneurs?

While these economic problems were building from 2005 to 2008 — when a crash occurred — another branch of the Federal Government was training and incubating entrepreneurs. The US Department of Defense was adopting counterinsurgency (COIN) in response to the growing Iraq insurgency. COIN requires an intense selection process at the small unit level, such as a Rifle Company of 150 men. The majority of service-members were not suited for COIN, and were shuffled into roles such as Quick Reaction Force. A typical Rifle Company may have created seven teams of 5 to 10 men, known as A-Teams to join together with foreign military units, including Iraqis but also other foreign militaries such as Estonians, to form Joint Security Stations (JSS) where the American service-members were in the minority. A typical A-Team of 7 Americans might join 100 Iraqi Police to control a district with 10,000 Iraqis. The 7 Americans were selected because of their talent at cross-cultural communication, in addition to their normal military skills. My observation is that those particular American service-members who were thus selected for the hardest COIN mission are also extremely well suited to be entrepreneurs. Why? For one, having taking the physical risk of relying on foreigners for their safety in their mid-20s, these particular individuals are probably able to withstand the uncertainty in cash flow, marketing, compliance, and other mental gymnastics that are required in entrepreneurship. For another, with a shrinking world where the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) (and emerging second-tier BRICs, like Indonesia, Turkey, and other) countries are both important end markets, and ahead of the US in innovation, cross-cultural communication will be absolutely required of entrepreneurs. Finally, these Americans should be encouraged to pursue entrepreneurial ventures in what the military calls “unit integrity” — ie, in the teams in which they operated in the JSS locations in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans from “Band of Brothers” in World War II to more recent conflicts build up detailed knowledge of how their peers think, and this leads to the ability to operate together in a business environment.

On the civilian side, my policy recommendations are relatively simple to state:
1. Private companies (entrepreneurship think tanks like Kauffmann, finance companies, venture capital firms, clean energy companies, and technology companies) should back COIN veteran entrepreneurs, either in separate entities, or in entrepreneurial divisions of established companies.
2. Government information resources (eg, Department of Defense, or VA data-bases) should be used to data-mine for COIN veterans, especially in unit integrity for such backing
3. New Webb GI Bill resources should be directed towards COIN Veterans to promote entrepreneurship through appropriate academic content (for example, entrepreneurship, accounting, and finance classwork at an MBA or Business program)

Second, the military. On the military side, there are benefits in the most likely operational environment for the coming 10 to 20 years for a robust cross-seeding between civilian entrepreneurship and military COIN. First, a word about the environment that is likely. In an article published in May, 2010, “US Mulls Value of Major Counterinsurgencies,” budgetary constraints were cited in limiting future counterinsurgencies. Andrew Exum, a leading COIN theorist and blogger at CNAS, was quoted as follows, “[COIN] is a good way to get out of a situation gone bad, [but it’s not the best way to use combat forces]… I think everyone realizes counterinsurgency is a losing proposition for U.S. combat troops. I can’t imagine anyone would opt for this option.” Going forward, though, there are many places — Somalia, Yemen — where a type of Inkspot COIN (for regular infantry) together with CT (for special operations and intelligence assets) might be the preferred operational profile. For example, in Somalia, the US might respond to a failed state harboring an Al Qaeda organization with CT alone (such as the SEAL raid in recent years), or with 2000 Marines (a Marine Expeditionary Unit) building an Inkspot COIN footprint at Baidoa and/ or Mogadishu from which SOF teams conduct CT. This type of footprint might be the profile which is the long-term model for US involvement in Afghanistan after the July 2011 deadline to reevaluate the mission; as well as for the other failed- or semi-failed-states where Al Qaeda organizations will continue to metastasize.

In the specific geographic locations where American chooses to plant an Inkspot COIN center, it will be very useful to show that the economic benefits of siding with the Americans are disproportionately favorable to the locals who are within the American security umbrella. This might be 20,000 or 30,000 locals in a few districts at the outskirts of a city of 500,000 or 1,000,000. An American infantry company can establish security in a relatively short period — several weeks. To accelerate economic development within the Inkspots, there are probably no better civilian organizations to draw upon than entrepreneurial ventures in the areas of finance, clean energy, and technology. The Economist recently noted that emerging markets finance may be ahead of its Western peers in many respects; that global entrepreneurship is thriving; and that immigrants to America contribute disproportionately to American entrepreneurship. Notably, American small unit leaders often turned to immigrant service-member disproportionately when staffing up the A-Teams to occupy JSS locations because of their cross-cultural skills. When American troops prepared for COIN, they often did ride-alongs with American police, and they were assisted in Iraq by police trainers to develop the appropriate skills in their Iraqi Police counterparts. Similarly, it will be useful for future American infantry soldiers tasked with a COIN mission to have a network of entrepreneurial organizations to draw upon in conducting economic development in future Inkspot COIN locations. A US service-member who separated in 2008 after two tours in Ramadi leading the successful implementation of the Mattis/ Petraeus COIN doctrine might return to society to get his MBA, start a small, growing company that adds positively to American GDP, and in periods of severals weeks in the coming decades assists future Company-grade American non-commissioned officers and officers in implementing the economic aspects of COIN in strategic ink-spots. The former service-member/ entrepreneur might host a Sergeant in his company for 2 weeks, and then fly in to advise the same Sergeant for 2 weeks in a JSS/ Combined Action Platoon (CAP) on the outskirts of Baidoa (in a Somalia Inkspot COIN scenario), supplying economic connectivity through money, information, energy, or other vital business resources.

Personally, I have seen several examples of individuals who cross the so-called divide between “civilian elites” and the military. While the general rule is that there is a troubling divide between these two spheres which is toxic for American society, the exceptions to the rule provide some of the most promising and interesting examples of how America can benefit from a systematic effort to cross the divide on a personal and team level built upon turning former COIN veterans into entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams.

First, Owen West. Owen is a former Marine who served as Recon Marine Officer in the mid-1990s, then attended Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) in the late 1990s. By the 2000s, he was a successful trader at Goldman Sachs, and a family man. Yet, he left his lucrative job to serve two tours as a Marine in Iraq, including one as an advisor during a volatile and dangerous period as the Iraq insurgency raged, and before the widespread success of COIN during the Surge. During his advisory tour, Owen used his finance training to organize a small piece of battlefield innovation — a mobile fingerprinting device enabled by the rapid supply of appropriate technology from a fellow Stanford GSB graduate, Jim Hake, who had founded an organization, Spirit of America, after a successful entrepreneurial career of his own. The device aided West’s team in census tasks which deterred insurgents in his area, an episode which is recounted in Bing West’s books on the Iraq War.

Second, Jim Hake. Hake founded Spirit of America (SoA) after a successful business career. SoA as a private organization was perhaps able to make up for in speed what it lacked in bulk in comparison with government agencies. Reacting quickly to a national need that he perceived in the aftermath of the first months after 9-11, SoA supplied US Service-members with donated resources like school books, soccer balls, radios, or the technology to implement the finger-printing device that Owen West used during his advisory tour. (Having known West from college and graduate school, I put West in touch with SoA, when Owen was sending around emails in preparation for his advisory tour.) SoA is a non-profit that is run with the transparency and accountability that Hake learned in his business career and through his MBA program.

Third, Luke Larson. Larson served two combat tours in Ramadi, Iraq from 2005 to 2007, which spanned the period when COIN was widely implemented through the so-called Petraeus doctrine. He saw both the frustrations of attempting to fight and insurgency with traditional fire-and-maneuver operations such as a city-wide sweep in October 2005 during which he saw fellow Marines wounded for poor reasons, and he saw the successful implementation of COIN in 2007 when his Rifle Company (he was 2nd in command as executive officer during his second tour) broke down into 7 A-Teams located in 7 dispersed JSS locations where the teams of less than 10 Marines relied on the 100 Iraqi Police at their location for their ultimate protection. What Larson experienced in his Rifle Company is the micro version of what hundreds of thousands of American infantrymen experienced in their own COIN experience. Larson wrote about this in a historical novel, Senator’s Son; similarly, Matt Gallagher wrote about this COIN experience in a memoir, Kaboom, which grew out of a blog.

Larson’s novel and Gallagher’s memoir can be compared to two Vietnam era works — Jim Webb’s Fields of Fire, and Bing West’s The Village. Senator’s Son begins with a fire-and-maneuver sweep through an insurgent held area, just as Webb’s novel ends with a similar operation. But, in the An Hoa basin of 1969 where Webb’s real-life Delta Company, 1/5 operated, COIN techniques like CAP were a minority of operations that had been tried on a limited basis only and rejected by top level Vietnam War commanders, as John Nagl recounts in his book, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Larson’s novel can be compared to Webb’s novel because both authors drive home a moral lesson: veterans are best equipped by their experience to make the call about when to commit Americans to a COIN war. But, whereas Webb’s novel ends with a fire-and-maneuver operation that illustrates the failure to implement COIN, Larson’s novel ends with the successful transition from fire-and-maneuver operations to successful COIN.

Gallagher’s memoir of 2008-09 COIN at the outskirts of Baghdad is comparable to Bing West’s memoir of 1966 COIN in a South Vietnamese village. But, again, as Nagl’s study points out, COIN techniques were not widely adopted in Vietnam through a failure of the US Military as a “learning organization.” Perhaps this is why West gave Gallagher’s work such a compelling review. By the time that Gallagher’s armored recon platoon, and later his company, operated in their zones North of Baghdad, Nagl and West’s books had contributed to the US Military becoming a “learning organization” that successfully adopted COIN in time to prevent another period of post-Vietnam doctrinal wandering which Nagl warns about.

I succeeded in connecting Larson with a local Stanford GSB and Stanford alumni chapter, where he will speak about his novel and Iraq COIN experience in late July 2010. Larson — who is now getting his MBA at Thunderbird, and who has been accepted by Oxford for another MBA — will speak at an event billed as “A Unique Form of Entrepreneurship – A Marine’s Lessons from Iraq” by the local Stanford GSB club president. Further, the local Stanford GSB chapter president wrote in the copy for the event: “Come listen to Luke Larson’s perspective on Operation Iraqi Freedom and the counter insurgency techniques that the Marines used in the most decisive event in the turnaround of the Iraq war: the Sunni Awakening. Larson was awarded the Bronze Star with V for valor on his first tour…. Now pursuing a MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he has translated his unique entrepreneurial training on the ground in Iraq to a counterinsurgency doctrine that has soldiers acting as stakeholders rather than warriors.” Also in attendance at the event will be another of Larson’s fellow Marines, Mauro Mujica-Parodi III, who served in the same two combat tours with Larson, and who is now getting an MBA from Kellogg.

Larson and Mujica-Parodi are examples of the former COIN service-members that I believe should be given special assistance by American private organizations, with informational (but not financial) support from the US Government in forming entrepreneurial ventures. There are at least 5 to 10 other Marines in their Rifle Company that they would probably take with them into such ventures, including a Sergeant frocked to the rank of Lieutenant because of what KilCullen expresses at “Rank is Nothing; Talent is Everything.” For the 10-20 best COIN Marines in Lima 3/7 as entrepreneurs, there are a similar set of 10 to 20 COIN service-members as future entrepreneurs in the hundreds of Infantry Companies that served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to present. Decades after the events of 1941-45, Major Winters worked in business with comrades from the Easy Company of “Band of Brother” — yet, World War II saw little, if any, examples of an Infantry Company that transitioned from fire-and-maneuver against another state-sponsored military to sustained COIN. Similarly, veterans of the Iraq and Afghan COIN operations will likely remain comrades for life — but their COIN experience will be directly relevant to entrepreneurship in particular. So too, COIN veterans maintain a connection to their units, just as Gallagher recently expressed in a blog post. As COIN veterans like Larson and Gallagher succeed in their civilian ventures, it will be quite normal for them to contribute to the active duty military units who may be the core of security and economic development in Inkspot COIN operations.

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2nd Draft – Afterward – 4 Jul 201004 Jul

I am shamelessly copying the outline and some of the topics for this little essay from Andrew Lubin’s 4 July piece, here.

My parents immigrated to America a year before I was born in 1969. My mom, Erika Hartgen Wasito, worked in a commercial bank in Hamburg, Germany, where she met my father who was a radio operator on an Indonesian merchant marine ship. When they arrived in San Francisco, CA, they rented an apartment from my future Godparents, LtCol (Ret) Joe and Nina Robustellini, at 1401 Diamond Street in Noe Valley, a San Francisco neighborhood. My father left when I was four, leaving my mom to raise my sister and me as a single, working mother. We moved across the street to 1424 Diamond. Joe became a de facto father to the Wasito kids, and my German grandparents came over for 6-months at a time.

Joe played baseball with me, played chess, and I read National Geographic and World War II history incessantly. With the support of my Godparents I attended the local Catholic school, Saint Phillips, and then the San Francisco Jesuit College Prep, Saint Ignatius. When we were growing up, my Godparents always took the position that all Americans, regardless of origin, should speak and write English first. I grew up speaking German too, but never really saw the need to become proficient. As a young girl in Hamburg, Germany, my mother had watched Hamburg burn during US Air Force (Army Air Corps at the time) fire bombing; Joe Robustellini, as a young officer, had served in the 8th Air Force in England at the same time (though not as a bomber crew member). But, in the 1970s, as the Wasito kids grew up, my mom, Joe, Nina — and sometimes my German Grandparents — celebrated holidays together.

Joe Robustellini had been a Sergeant in the US Army in 1940, having enlisted in the mid 1930s. He came from Northern California, where he has kin to this day. At the outset of World War II, Joe went to Officer Candidate School, was commissioned, and served in a Heavy Bomb Group near Cambridge, England, during World War II. Joe married Nina during World War II, but they could never have kids due to health issues. Joe retired with 20 years at the rank of LtCol in the mid 1950s. Then he worked another 20 years in a Federal job at Letterman Army Hospital in the Presidio, San Francisco, CA until the mid 1970s. At the age of 65, with a total of 3 government pensions, he went to Accountemps to stay active. Soon, a law firm hired him full time, and he worked almost until his death at the age of 88. On weekends, he would collect aluminum cans decked out in his Army issue utilities from decades ago to fill up the time with something of social and economic worth. But, like all things, he did not just idly collect cans — he did so with a system, and Saturday mornings would find my Godfather and me stomping them into bright, shiny discs, shoveling them into a large container, and taking them to the recycling facility where we collected a few dollars.

Too, he paid for good grades. So, I collected high grades. My sister would end up a so-called Double Domer — Notre Dame and Notre Dame Law. I graduated from Harvard and Stanford Law. Joe Robusellini attended all of those graduations, though my mom and Godmother did not survive until the last diplomas were collected. A picture of Joe Robustellini, my sister, me, Nina Robustellini, and my mom, below:

At Harvard, I studied American History and Literature, with an odd focus: The early Puritans, and the Vietnam War. Inspired maybe by the Jesuits, I was interested in the original ideas of “A City on a Hill” of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which was a joint stock company and a religious endeavor, all rolled into one. But, having studied about the American military in a successful “big war” by going through Joe Robustellini’s collection of World War II histories, I also wanted to study why America lost a more recent war against something called guerillas. For the longest time as a child, I thought news reports referred to American soldiers being killed in the jungle by gorillas. I was curious about why American technological dominance did not result in a win during the Vietnam War. I ended up taking classes on the Vietnam War with Eliot Cohen, as well as foreign relations classes with Sam Huntington. I wrote my thesis at Harvard on James Webb’s novel, Fields of Fire.

Among other sources, Sheehan, Bright Shining Lie and Krulak, First to Fight, pointed the way towards a technique that would work in counterinsurgency (COIN) — the combined action platoon or CAP. Yet, in Vietnam, the CAP program was a small minority of operations. When I asked James Webb in a phone interview what he thought of CAP, he said that such a small outpost would have been run over by a NVA main force unit in the An Hoa Basin where his Marine Company operated in 1969. Years later, I would find these same sources quoted by John Nagl in his influential work, Learning To Eat Soup With A Knife. In the Iraq War, the US Military did in fact adopt COIN techniques like CAP (aka, JSS…) in the Surge of 2007 lead famously by General Petreaus.

After Harvard, I went into the Marines. I went through Marine Platoon Leaders Class (PLC), one version of Marine Officer Candidate School (OCS) that did not give me any money for college, but did not require any drill during the school year. I boxed for four years, after playing a year of football, and participated in the Golden Gloves my senior year. In the Fleet Marine Force, I was a Rifle Platoon Commander, Weapons Platoon Commander, Rifle Company XO, then had some Operations Section assignments at Battalion and Regiment. Without a doubt, the best thing about the experience is the people — the high quality, lifelong friends are the best reward. My co-author on a book project about Lima 3/7, for example, was a machine gunner attached to my Rifle Platoon, then one of my Marines in Weapons Platoon, then my driver on the staff. On deployments, or drives up to Ft Irwin for cross-training with the Army, we would talk military history for hours. Years later, when he had completed his degree, we became friends, and then started to collect interviews for this book project. Below are photos of my squad leaders and me in Thailand; and photos of me with a Kuwaiti counterpart officer at a peacetime exercise in Kuwaiti.

Now, as I work on a book about a Marine Rifle Company during 4 Iraq deployments from 2003 to 2007, I have come upon a thematic intersection with Andrew Lubin’s terrific post, above. As the Rifle Company of about 150 Marines sought to optimize its teams for the Combined Action Platoon mission in Ramadi, 2007, the leaders found that the best Marines were not American-born. Rather, they found that the best Marines to interact with the Iraqis were often immigrants — for example, from central Asian republics near Russia; or Marines who were married to a Brazilian wife. Out of 150 Marines, the Rifle Company organized 7 teams comprised of no more than 10 Marines each for a total of 70 Marines to be embedded with much larger Iraqi Police units in dispersed districts in Ramadi, 2007. The remaining Marines would form a centralized quick reaction force. Below is a interview with two Marines, one a Lieutenant, and the other a Sergeant (frocked to Lieutenant), talking about how they selected Marines for the CAP mission in Ramadi, 2007:

And so, on 4th of July 2010, I end my reflection on what it means to be an American. Lubin has it right. The best Americans all along have been those who come to this country, and are therefore aware of the great benefits of being a citizen. Too many take it for granted. The leader of the Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans has been posting on his facebook page about the divide between the small minority of Americans who do serve in uniform, and the great majority who do not. It makes it harder to get employment for veterans. But, those Americans who do wear the uniform for at least a few years have gained much more, I think.

As a Rifle Platoon Commander — even in peace time — I developed a very close relationship with the fire support within the Rifle Company. Our particular mortar section leader used a call sign, “Thumper.” In live fire exercises such as at Range 400 at 29 Palms, I would call for fire from Thumper, dropping 60 millimeter mortar rounds 100 meters in front of my platoon — well within “danger close.” Thumper was absolutely competent, well regarded through the company. A Filipino-American Marine, “Thumper” walked ahead of my Rifle Platoon on a company hump in Thailand during Cobra Gold 93 (picture below). His name was Corporal Taliban.

2nd Draft

2nd Draft – Afterward – Counterinsurgency is Entrepreneurship29 Jun

In the course of writing a book about a Marine Rifle Company during 4 deployments to Iraq from 03 to 07, I have developed a certain idea. The idea is that Counterinsurgency is Entrepreneurship.

1. The Problem: Veteran unemployment. IAVA Founder, Paul Rieckhoff posted this on his facebook page. In response to this post, I wrote, “[the divide between civilian elites and the military] is the reason that veterans are at 15% unemployment. if you take the idea from gladwell, outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient in a skill, then take the higher complexity of military skills, and of civilian skills, this is why it is very difficult for exiting service-members to transition.”

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the 10,000 hours required to become proficient in any job. He cites the Beatles working in Hamburg nightclubs from 1960 to 1962 as an example. I was having lunch with a hedge fund manager yesterday who cited the 10,000 hour rule for proficiency in describing his own professional indoctrination in a college economics department and investment bank before launching his own fund. I responded to him, “well, maybe I can cite my skill in calling in close air support to possible future investors in my firm, since my first job after college was a Marine Infantry Officer.” He laughed and said, well at least you stick to the prospectus that you lay out for clients, which is better than many managers these days. I try to use my military background, as well as related coursework in college with leading political scientists as a basis for having a “GlobalMacro” view — but since very few financial professionals also have a military background, this aspect of my sales pitch is usually not very compelling. With 1% of Americans serving in the military, something like 80% of my clients have some military connection.

The rule of 10,000 hours for proficiency in an area works against military veterans in civilian employment in two ways. First, in the military, a service-member must spend the 10,000 hours developing a skill set — say in calling in close air support — that is absolutely vital to that particular job. Those protocols stay with a person for life, but they are not usually the basis for a civilian career. Second, in a civilian career, a person must spend 10,000 hours acquiring a set of skills — say mastering securities law — to be proficient in another area vital to that job. When a person tries to transition from the military to a civilian career, there is a gap represented by the 10,000 hours to acquire the military skills, and the 10,000 hours required to acquire the civilian skills. In a nutshell, I think that is why the veteran unemployment rate is closer to 15% while the national unemployment rate is closer to 10%.

My proposed solution to this is to build Counterinsurgency (COIN) veteran entrepreneurial teams in 3 areas: Clean Energy, Finance, Technology. The reason that these people would be particularly well suited to entrepreneurship is because of the personal qualities that they exhibited in a COIN environment — ability to manage complex financial transactions, while under constant personal danger, yet building and maintaining a team of Americans who were embedded in a group of foreign nationals who outnumbered the Americans by a ratio of 10 to 1. In my book, I have videotaped interviews which indicate some of these personal qualities. For example, interviews with Sayce Falk, Brandon Humphrey, Robert Werth.

The COIN veterans should be backed in entrepreneurial teams that use the skills — and teams — developed in the COIN environment. For example, in the interviews cited above, the two of the Marines — Falk and Werth — worked together in the same Joint Security Station in Ramadi. The relationship between those service-members will likely endure for life to the extent that if they worked together in a business, they would draw on many of the same shared experiences that may be applicable in the business. In Band of Brothers, which has become an iconic work about the so-called Greatest Generation, at least some of the former members of that Rifle Company go into business together after that war. IAVA has compared the new GI Bill to the old GI Bill, rightly so. But, there is an important distinction to be made: In World War II, Infantry Companies saw little or no COIN. I know of no Airborne or Marine Rifle Companies that went from high intensity, state versus state maneuver warfare to counterinsurgency where Marines were embedded with foreign police to maintain peace among a foreign civilian population. COIN requires a junior officer or NCO to be a “mayor, prosecutor, venture capitalist, financier, all in one… on some days you’re a mafia boss,” as Sayce Falk says of his Ramadi COIN experience.

Therefore, the New GI Bill program should be adapted and expanded to the different experience of veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan. The New GI Bill should be administered so that service-members with COIN experience are channeled into entrepreneurship programs in college and graduate school, and that the service-members are given entrepreneurship opportunities through Department of Defense, working in conjunction with civilian organizations like Kauffman Foundation, and venture funding organizations like Intel’s venture funding arm, or other corporate VC organizations.

2. The Deeper Problem: Divide between Civilian Elites and Military. IAVA Founder, Paul Rieckhoff posted this on his facebook page. Earlier he also posted this.

In response to Rieckhoff’s post, I wrote, “good article. one of the original sources on this is Fallows, “What Did You Do in The Class War, Daddy?” Washington Monthly, Oct 1975; and Webb, Fields of Fire, draws a not so thinly veiled character based upon that article, and it is a major theme of that novel. Interestingly, some of those people who crossover from the civilian elite to military service become successful authors (Fick, a graduate of a Jesuit prep, and Dartmouth before writing, One Bullet Away; Gallagher, son of two lawyers who went through ROTC before operating in a COIN environment as a Army officer, before writing — blogging — Kaboom; Bing West, graduate of a Jesuit prep and Princeton before writing The Village and a bunch of other stuff). Also, it may be that some of those who cross that divide from “civilian elite” to military are also some of the best COIN service-members.”

This divide between the military and civilian elites is something I have been acutely aware of since I was in college, where some of my closest friends were students who had decided to go into the Marines. One of my friends and I took a Freshman seminar on Vietnam, then a War and Politics class taught by Eliot Cohen, among other classes while at the same time going through the Marine Platoon Leader’s Class Program (different from ROTC in that we did not get scholarship money, and only attended during summers). I ended up writing my senior thesis on James Webb’s Fields of Fire, a classic novel of the Vietnam War. One of Webb’s major themes is the military-civilian divide, embodied in the character, Senator, who goes from Harvard to a Marine Rifle Company then back again to Cambridge to denounce his college peers in the last pages of the novel. At least 10 of my Harvard classmates, however, did go into the Marines (probably an anomaly before or after for decades) — and at least 4 of those ended up at Stanford for graduate school after the Marines. James Webb has written about this civilian-military divide in several Vietnam anthologies; and Frank Schaeffer has two books — AWOL and Keeping Faith — which update the theme in detail for the Iraq/ Afghan era.

My proposed solution to this divide is to supercharge COIN veterans in entrepreneurship in three areas — technology, finance, and clean power. So-called civilian elites are acutely focused on these areas because, in a word, of money. Venture capitalists, lawyers, MBAs, investment bankers, c-level executives — the so-called civilian elites — are working hard every day to carve out their niche in these areas to get rich or richer. On a national level, these three areas add to what political scientist, Joe Nye, calls “soft power,” which seems to have morphed into “smart power” under the current Department of State. The “Clash of Civilizations” construct of Samuel Huntington may or may not be considered useful by political scientists anymore (in a conversation with a political scientist at a recent Stanford Leading Matters event, I found that Huntington’s idea had largely been discarded). The rise of the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) — as well as the next tier BRICs, which may include Turkey, Indonesia, and others — certainly intersects with the areas of finance, technology, and clean energy. Brazil has been energy independent for decades. India is a leading country for outsourcing IT functions. Emerging Markets banks may be stronger than Western banks in many respects, as The Economist recently noted in a Special Report.

How would such an initiative be pushed out to the veterans community? Another posting by Paul Rieckhoff on the use of social media by veterans gives an important clue. In writing progressive drafts of my book, I am finding that linking to the Marines in the book on facebook, and the like, is a valuable tool for understanding the enduring relationships between these veterans. It is very clear that the relationships forged in combat will endure for a lifetime.

3. Execution. In outline, here are some thoughts on how this should be executed:

A) Get private money (eg, Kauffman Foundation, Defense Firms, Company Venture Capital Funds) to back COIN Veteran Entrepreneurs.

B) Get Government Organization and Support — but not actual money (after all Uncle Sam is pretty much broke, with 40 cents of every dollar spent borrowed money). For example, get DoD personnel lists to identify COIN veterans; reach out through veterans organizations like Marine 4 Life, IAVA, VA, etc.

C) Fund, mentor, etc through normal VC process.

2nd Draft

2nd Draft Ch 15 – 15 Oct 05, Elections31 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

He had a very loud ringing in his ears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Iraqis lay shell shocked not moving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Sergeant thought for a second.

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

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

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

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

[Watson] nodded his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two Lieutenants then started to wrestle while sitting down.

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

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

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

Larson5.mov [to do: pick up interview again at 5:15]


Larson6.mov [to do: whole interview]


Larson7.mov [to do: whole interview]


Chapters in Larson’s book – we hold these truths – 9 votes and a siren

2nd Draft

2nd Draft Ch 14 – 4 Oct 05, Sweep31 May

Late Sept 2005, accident near canal, almost 12 Marines drown, ambush attempted, but not successful, no Marines WIA…

General situation:

Deployment, RIP:

Chapter 14 — Ramadi 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd Draft

2nd Draft Ch 18 – Training and Deployment for Ramadi 231 May

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

2nd Draft

2nd Draft Ch 20 – May to Nov 07, Ramadi JSS Operations/ Realizing Success and Going Native31 May

Chapter 20 – Realizing Success and Going Native

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IP [Iraqi Police] Station Warar.

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

JSS Sabatash

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

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

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

IP Station Jumayah

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


IP Station Azzizziyah

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

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

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


Sayce Falk: It’s hard to say what made me want to join the Corps, but I knew for sure that I didn’t want to go work in some scumbag job after I graduated, and I didn’t know enough about what I wanted to do with my life to go to grad school yet. I wanted something that I would enjoy, something that would mean something, something that would give me something and also allow me to give something all at the same time, and by the time I had narrowed down all of those somethings – only the Marine Corps was left. So here I am.

OP Katanah

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

IP Station Thaylet

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

JSS Sharikah

“JSS Sharikah was run by Staff Sergeant Carlyle.”

Larson12.mov [done]
Larson13.mov [done]
Senator’s Son Chapter 14
Mainz4.mov, Mainz5.mov
Mujica interviews

2nd Draft

2nd Draft Ch 16 — 7 Dec 2005, IED Attack30 May

Nov 1 IED spotted, Frustaglio, or Green; Lanpolsean is out with Mobile section lead by Ledford;
SSgt Webb, Sgt Callahan
Multiple IEDs, phony, bait IED, jamming robots,
Callahan survived it
SSgt Webb survived
IED Hummer destroyed
Cpl Frag’s vehicle takes out 2 insurgents with M-240G
Webb burn and frag, melted uniform
Driver, corpsman killed instantly

Start of the Awakening, late November 2005:
Nov 20 – approach Col Turner, and Amb Khalizad (sp), Gen Casey, etc
Nov 28 – meeting in Gov center; demands, negotiation
Nov 29 – first day of deployment, no attacks
following days, much decreased activity, something notable is going on…
7 Dec 2005 IED attack is Al Qaeda last gasp to cause “accidental guerilla” blowback against Americans, due to Awakening initiative towards Americans

Dec 05, most peaceful month of deployment:
Jan 06 to … AQIZ becomes desperate; intense M&I; suicide vest bomb; Feb 14 to 18 – bomb Samarra Mosque (Iskaria, SP?)
In retrospect, 28 Nov, Awakening movement started
Tips, etc increase; atmospherics moving in positive direction
Sheik Sattar comes to prominence at end of 2006 after AQIZ murders relatives, desecrates bodies (Sattar calls it Awakening)
For Lima Co, worst attack happens on 7 Dec 05

Hourly Timeline 7 Dec 05
21 Nov – patrol report
aceteline; 3 x 122m shells
triggerman S of rd
2 liters, field expedient napalm

Exact sequence of events, Frustaglio and other drivers are mentioned:
Ledford behind 7 Ton wheel:
122m shell frag, diesel fuel accelerant
immediate impression of Marines
1st Sgt Lanpolsean, responds… medevac truck; after 2 ieds

Lanpolsean, Bronze Star with Valor, keeps pressing forward despite appearance of multiple IEDs, to assist wounded Marines from first 2 IEDs.
Doc V – Velasquez with Lt Mujica – comes on field of legless men, tourniquets all in 10 seconds –
Lanpolsean rolls up with high back hummer
Load Corporal Frustaglio, Corporal Bier, Corporal Cort, into high back
Lanpolsean takes off for Ramadi Medical, with guntrucks
IED detonates at 2026
Lanpolsean arrives Ramadi med, 13 minutes, includes him leading truck through
Frustaglio dies on table, surgeons start his heart again, difibrulator
Surgeons save other 2 lives too.
The Marines live because Lanpolsean got them there in 13 minutes

7 December 2005, [Hurricane Point]

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mujica-Parodi and Larson immediately looked at each other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mujica interviews


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.