Strategic Corporal, Nogales, Arizona, February 1994

Strategic corporal

Nogales, Arizona, February 1994

Chris Shimp and his vehicle team of 3 Marines and Doc Parr, a Navy Corpsman stood outside their vehicle, a high back hummer on the US/ Mexican border. Zero Dark Thirty. 0243 to be exact. In the company CP, ten clicks North Captain Blau stood watch with Gunny Renna. In the way that all Marine skippers and gunnys were, the two talked shop, drinking coffee. The CP was a GP tent with half of Lima 3/7, the other half up at Huachuca, AZ, a US Army calvary post turned intel hub and de facto counter drug ops center in the War on Drugs that was head quartered at JTF-6, Fort Bliss, TX, the location of EPIC — The El Paso Intel Center.

“Radio Check,” a voice crackled in the CP.

“Good check,” Renna keyed the Mic. On the other end, under the ROE, the Posse Comitatus in CONUS, the Customs and Border patrol agent copied the reply.

Renna had tatoos the length of his huge biceps, and reveled in owning a garage full of harleys that he rode with fellow 3/7 NCOs to the annual festival up in the Black Hills of the American West. The NCOs, SNCOs and junior officers traded Texas westerns, just now Lonesome Dove; fighting indians in the expanse of the desert of North America was a timeless continuity for these men.

Renna would pick up a SAW at Range 400, the graduation exercise for a Rifle Company, and empty most of 200 rounds of 5.56 link into a bunker, setting the example for E2s fresh from the Depot; Renna himself had been a Sergeant Instructor not just at the Depot but at OCS, and he looked on Lieutenants with skepticism that came from having made them Marines in the first place. Renna liked Sabino, who had 2nd Platoon and who rode harleys with the 3/7 SNCOs.

Blau, long angular and blonde, cut a figure out of a German officer ideal; laconic, even keeled, and a natural athlete, the Lima Marines lobbied to keep their skipper for years under several BCs — Robert E. Lee, Jr; and a few after that.

A drunk man on the Mexican side of the border approached the barbed wire fence that marked the border, pointed a small caliber revolver at the 4 Marines and Sailors, and fired — a round impacted within a foot of Shimp’s foot, and near Parr as well. Four M-16A2s were leveled, rounds chambered, and fingers tightened on the triggers as the Grunts waited for Chris Shimp to give an order, then —

Chris Shimp focused on his front sight post, which was huge and centered on the figure that had fired the rounds, and said

“Get back in the vehicle.”

Parr, and the other Lima Marines mounted the hummer, covering each other, never losing a clear view of the man on the Mexican side of the border. Shimp went last, into the a-driver’s seat, and keyed the mic

“Maverick, this is post 2. We have taken fire from a man on the Mexico side of the border. We have no casualties. We are exiting the area, driving South on border.”

“Good copy, stand by for instructions.”

Renna called the Border Patrol while Blau looked on. Blau got on the net with Shimp, and monitored the situation.

The report went up the chain quickly. FBI and DEA informed Lima that they had been chasing the suspect across the South West.

Chris Shimp, Doc Willis Parr, and the other two Lima Marines — as individual service men, or as a Fire Team Leader — were well within their rights to have fired on the man, who was less than 50 meters away.

That they didn’t — and that the media never covered this incident — one among hundreds in the era between the Vietnam War and 9/11 are what make Chris Shimp a “Strategic Corporal.” We — the Lima leadership, SNCOs like Renna and junior officers like Kirk Blau — later made Chris Shimp a MECEP — Marine Enlisted Commissioning Program — and he went on to retire as a Major, having commanded a LAR Company.

Strategic Corporals — not to mention the Strategic Lance Corporals, Strategic Privates First Class, and Strategic Hospital Corpsmen — are what prevented that incident, one among hundreds, if not thousands, from becoming potential media clusterfucks that could seriously screw up the foreign policy of the United States. Just weeks later a Medevac flight on call for Lima — an Army H60 — made a practice run towards the Lima pos on the US-Mexican border and….

… flew over the international border into a sovereign nation, and….

all hell broke loose, within minutes. The incident was briefed up to the White House, or at least top leadership in the Department of State. Lima Company broke down its tents as if the Commandant himself was personally supervising. Back aboard the Stumps, RCT7 CO, Jim Mattis, probably got the call, along with LtCol Robert K. Dobson, the 3/7 CO, and Kirk Blau confirmed the orders, to move all of Lima back to Ft Huachuca while American diplomats and law enforcement de-escalated the situation. Lima Marines, all the while, sang “from the halls of Montezuma” in their hearts while breaking down their gear in the early morning hours — you know, if you lads really want a fight, bring it on. The desert in the early morning is beautiful, serene, toned with a million shades of light across each color of the spectrum. “Fucking idiot Army pilots… ” Lima Marines fumed to themselves, following orders.

But, on that night, weeks before, Chris Shimp and his Team prevented a media circus. Strategic Corporals and Marines were the result of a generation of sustained coaching by Krulak Jr, Gregson, Zinni, Bing West Sr, a generation of Vietnam Marines who looked ahead to Three Block Wars in MegaCities on the Littorals.


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.