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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Owyhee County, Idaho
Marine demands equal Time
A Good Marine Demands Equal Time
Janar Wasito | June 19, 2006
On April 8, 2004, a platoon of Marines from Lima Company, 3d Battalion, 7 th Marines moved down the main street in the Iraqi town of Husaybah, Iraq. The platoon was hit with a series of IEDs which injured the platoon commander, 2ndLt Bradley Watson and Lance Corporal Samuel Dial, both of who had to be medevaced. Lance Corporal Marshall Rigole and Sergeant Dusty Soudan were also injured but Sergeant Soudan did not have to be medevaced and he took command of the platoon.
Less than 15 minutes later, another IED exploded south of the main street, wounding Lance Corporal Christopher Wasser, who would later die of his wounds. The same IED also seriously injured PFC Kevin Rumley. North of the main street, an IED went off injuring PFC David Palmer. Corporal Peter Milinkovic, the non commissioned officer who led the squad north of the main street, had been using “satellite patrolling” in which his squad of 14 Marines had broken down into smaller elements by using GPS devices purchased out of their own funds, which lowered the effectiveness of the IEDs.
The Marines wanted to exact immediate revenge on the Iraqi population in retaliation for the series of IEDs, which were placed throughout the town and initiated by trigger men probably mingled among the population using cell phones. But Marine NCOs like Soudan and Milinkovic kept control of their men and followed the rules of engagement. The insurgents did not combine small arms fire with the IEDs -- that would come just weeks later. The Marines had no targets that they could confirm. Soudan and Milinkovic organized a hasty perimeter and evacuated their wounded, then returned to the base at the edge of town where Lima 3/7 was garrisoned.
Have you read about Lima 3/7 in Husaybah? Have the headlines, “Marines follow Rules of Engagement” or “Marine Sergeant Steps Up and Fills Lieutenant's Job” been trumpeted through all of our national news magazines? Has Lima 3/7 in Husaybah achieved the same national prominence as Kilo 3/1 in Haditha?
A few weeks later, Lima 3/7 fought responded to an attempt to seize their base by sending three of their four platoons into the town, during which the company commander, Captain Richard Gannon was killed while trying to assist three of his Marines who were critically injured inside of a heavily fortified insurgent house. The Company Executive Officer, 1stLt Dominique Neal, took over the company in the heat of battle and led it through the rest of the deployment.
In mid April, one of the platoons in Lima 3/7 snapped the following pictures as evidence of bomb making materials that it found in a house in Husaybah. The insurgents regularly hid caches of weapons and bomb making materials among the population and threatened death to civilians who did not cooperate. The first picture shows an Iraqi household seated in front of bomb making materials found in their home. The next two pictures are close ups of those materials and clothing worn by the Mujahideen fighters.
Just as 2 nd Lt Ilario Pantano was tried by media publicity before he was exonerated, the Marines of Kilo 3/1 have been tried by a barrage of one sided media publicity prior to charges even being filed. If the Marines from Kilo 3/1 are charged, they will be able to present mitigating evidence of insurgent tactics, such as the photographs above, which will be relevant in determining whether they had the mental state required for the charges which have been so widely publicized.
Haditha has been widely compared with My Lai. However, there are other parallels with Vietnam which we should consider. First, the entire Haditha episode has the potential to become the equivalent of the Tet Offensive in 1968 in which the Vietcong was defeated on the battlefield, yet achieved a public relations victory because of the perception of surprise. Like Vietnam, the goal of the insurgents in Iraq is to separate American soft power (economic development, our history and culture, particularly democratic values) from our raw military power. One of their main ways of achieving this is to mix with the local population and to provoke the Americans to use too much force, which in turn alienates the population. This is the background for the incident in Haditha.
Second, Iraq, like Vietnam, is a Small War in the context of a larger, global rivalry. During the Vietnam War, the global rivalry was with the Soviet Union; now, it is with China. China previously supported Libya, Pakistan developed its nuclear capability with China's help, and China sponsored a coup attempt in Indonesia in 1965. Draining American resources in Iraq and Afghanistan isolates the United States diplomatically while China continues towards its goal of being the dominant economic power by 2020. Regardless of the merits of invading Iraq, succeeding in Operation Iraqi Freedom now has far reaching global implications for both the Middle East and the World.
Third, as in Vietnam, the United States Military has been slow to mount an effective counterinsurgency. Cobra II, a recent popular book which has been seized upon by critics of the Bush Administration, points out that certain infantry focused units like the Marines and the 101 st Airborne met with early success in counterinsurgency in Mosul, Tikrit and Najaf, but these efforts were frustrated by micromanagement by officials with no background in counterinsurgency, or by replacement with mechanized units with an emphasis on firepower. The Marines have a Small Wars Manual dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, which is being updated by lessons from Iraq. In 1965, Marine LtGen Victor Krulak, Sr., advocated the use of the Combined Action Platoon (CAP) in the economically valuable coastal villages in order to deny the enemy a source of support. But, General Westmoreland favored a firepower centric approach and the CAP program was only employed to a limited degree, but it was successful in the areas where it was used. (see Sheehan, Bright Shining Lie; and West, The Village) In 2006, we may have a situation in Iraq which is similar to Vietnam in 1968. America is growing weary of the cost in blood and treasure of the war, but the war is not lost. It is a question of political will in the United States, and procedures in Iraq. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor (Counterinsurgency strategy: staying put, June 8, 2006) states “A group of … marines and a unit of Iraqi soldiers live in a small compound in the center of New Obeidi, a town in Qaim.” This is the same part of Al Anbar Province as Husaybah, where Lima 3/7 fought in 2004. Moreover, this is the second time that 1 st Battalion, 7 th Marines (1/7) has deployed to Qaim. These are signs that the US Military is beginning to effectively employ Small Wars techniques like the CAP technique. This marks a significant move forward in our military capabilities. In Operation Iraqi Freedom I, Regimental Combat Team 7 moved as a single maneuver element in the 21 day “March Up” to Baghdad. In 2004, 7 th Marines rarely operated as a single entity, except in Fallujah, and instead deployed its companies, like Lima 3/7 into bases on the edge of major cities, like Husaybah. Today, 14 Marine Rifle Squads from 7 th Marines are operating independently with units of Iraqi soldiers.
Special Forces combining precision bombing with boots on the ground to successfully kill Zarqawi, and the independent deployment of squads of Marines into the neighborhoods in Al Anbar province mark the adaptation of the American military from large scale combat operations to successful counter insurgent operations. Within this context, it is a huge error to focus too much attention on Kilo 3/1 in Haditha. Rather, we need to pay more attention to the great job that Marine small unit leaders like Soudan and Milinkovic are doing. Those NCOs carried the heaviest part of the burden through the start of our counterinsurgency operations in late 2003 and early 2004, and we are going to need Marines like them if we are going to succeed in the revival of effective Small Wars techniques like the CAP program.
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