View Full Version : We need more of these "strategic" Lts...

02-09-2007, 04:59 AM
Thought you'd be interested in an AAR-type discussion with a Lt recently back from Ramadi.

- What was your billet?

Response: Initially I was the 4th Plt Cdr/Mobile Asslt/QRF Plt Cdr for
my company. I held this billet for 2 months until taking over a
rifle platoon. I held this billet for 5 months.

- What was your AO?

Response: Initially the NE sector of Ramadi, but as my company had
success our AO expanded to where we had most of the area N of Rte Michigan and some parts S by the time we left.

- What do you mean by success? My perception is that many folks think
all Iraqis in Ramadi hate Americans. Is this true?

Response: Initially my company had a rough time and minimal positive relations with the people. This changed though right around the 2-month mark as we began using less aggressive tactics. For example, while serving as the MAP Plt Cdr, I executed most of the raids for the company. At first our TTPs involved locking the target area down and then going into the building hard, sometimes using an explosive breach. After a while though, I/we began to realize that our intel was rarely 100% correct and even when it was we almost never found anything of significance at the target site or we messed up doing site exploitation/filling out paperwork. So we'd end up detaining a bunch of military age males w/ little evidence to justify detaining them only to have them released and back at their houses days or weeks later.

At about the 2-month mark, my company changed tactics. For example,
unless given very specific intel that described an immediate threat,
whenever conducting a raid or cordon and search, I'd still lock the
target area down, but rather than kick down the door, break/blow open
the gate, rush the building, etc., I tried knocking on the door and
waiting for the family to answer. After all, I had the objective
isolated and also had a lot of Marines/firepower with me. Once the home owner came to the door I asked to come in, took off my helmet and shook hands and then began asking him questions. Sometimes I spoke about random things for 5-10 minutes just to get a feel for whether the intel was legit. If yes, after 10 minutes I'd have my interpreter explain that I had to detain him for questioning from higher. I also calmly explained what was happening to his family.

- Did you search the houses?

Response: At first yes, but after doing so many times we realized the
insurgents aren't stupid; rarely will you find illegal weapons, IED
making material, etc. in a house. They know by now to hide this stuff
elsewhere. So, again, after the first 2 months we stopped searching houses for the most part. My thought process was for the 1 in 100 houses where we would actually find something chances are we'd piss off the other 99 families and thus create more enemies.

- How bad was the IED threat?

Response: You're going to start noticing a trend. First 2 months real
bad. Lots of QRF missions for casevac. The IED threat significantly
decreased when we started doing things differently. For example, when I got the rifle platoon we generally operated out of a company firm base located in the middle of the town. From this position we were almost always out as individual squads or 3 squads operating separately doing ambush ops IVO known or suspected IED/ambush locations. This played a large role in reducing the IED threat.

- Please explain urban ambush ops more. What'd they look like? How'd
you occupy? What'd you bring with you?

Response: Depends on whether going in an abandoned structure or a house with a family inside.

Abandoned structure: stepped off on a foot patrol in the dark and didn't occupy until late at night. Once inside we'd clear using NVGs only IOT maintain element of surprise (white light=immediate compromise) and then establish eyes-on with a fire team, 1 team would be responsible for security and 1 team on rest. We rarely occupied a platoon-sized ambush position. (After he said this I asked him about distributed ops and whether he had multiple squads out at the same time and if yes how they communicated). We often had squads occupying different buildings because angles in the urban environment usually only allowed Marines to observe an NAI from 1 or 2 windows. By occupying multiple squad-sized ambush sites that mutually supported each other, the platoon had much better observation. Each squad had plenty of comm. Once in place we stayed for at least _ days.

If occupying a house with a family present: much like lessons learned
from above, we would still occupy late at night but do our
best to quietly get through gates before quietly knocking on doors and
asking/politely telling owner that we were coming in. If lights were
off in the house, we'd only use NVGs to do a cursory search before
occupying. Again, 1 team eyes-on, 1 on rest/engaging family w/ squad
leader and interpreter (critical asset that we didn't always have), and
1 on security. At first we separated the family and forced them to stay in specific rooms and also prevented them from going to work, school, etc. After a few days though we realized this wasn't helping our cause so we simply explained the ground rules and then let the family go about its normal life. My logic was let the father go to work. Chances are he's not going to tell the enemy that we're in his house b/c he doesn't want his family caught in a cross fire and/or house destroyed. Plus, by not letting parents work and kids go to school you're automatically raising suspicion levels. Worst case, someone tells that we're in the house so insurgents don't plant an IED or we get attacked while we're in a position of advantage. In a sense this is still a win for us.

- How'd the people respond to your living in their houses for multiple days?

Response: We never had a problem. In fact, in every case the family
offered us food and plenty of Chai and eventually my Marines not on
security or maintaining eyes-on the NAI ended up having conversations
with the older males and playing with the children. Operating in this
way proved to be a great way to get to know the people and to build
relationships with them. (As he said this he remembered one particular
ambush op....) One night we occupied a little early, call it around
2000-2100. As I walked in the house I looked into a room and saw 30-40
middle aged to older men. Initial thought was what have we walked into! After having a short discussion with the home owner I found out that the men were in the house because they had just returned from a funeral. As I was expressing my sorrow for the loss the men began to explain that an IED had inadvertently killed a member of their family. Through sheer luck or simply because I treated them like human beings, the men then told me where 2 other IEDs were located and also who was responsible for planting them. I quickly called EOD and they eliminated the IEDs. We also detained the guys who set them up. Big picture this taught me that the average person in Ramadi is fed up with the fighting and will help us if we give him reason to.

- Did your company ever kill/capture insurgents laying in IEDs or other
types of ambushes?

Response: Yes, I don't recall exactly how many but at least 3 or 4
insurgents. As we did these ops though fewer and fewer IEDs were set-up
in our AO so the opportunities decreased. That said it's critical that
you do everything possible to maintain the element of surprise
throughout the operation.

- What gear did you bring with you on these patrols?

Response: normally 80-90 pounds of gear. Operated a lot in the summer
so we needed lots of water, enough food for 3 days, ammo, night optics,
digital cameras, IR marking devices, radios and extra batteries and we
also often took 40-50 lbs pieces of ballistic glass (HMMWV windshield
glass) with us. I had to force my Marines to take the glass initially
but when we were compromised once and a sniper hit the glass directly in front of 1 of my Marines, the complaints ceased. Also it's extremely important that you mark your position at night using devices that can be seen by PVS-7s/14s/15s/17s and also thermal optics. I almost got shot by an Army M1A1 b/c he thought we were insurgents.

- After observing a recent DO comm training package where Marines were taught to take pictures with digital cameras, download on small toughbook computers and then send imagery over their radios, I asked if he had this capability and if not would he have wanted it IOT get imagery/data to higher ASAP?

Response: No we didn't have this capability. And, yes I definitely
would have wanted it. There were multiple times where I/my squads had
pictures/other intel that we wanted to get to higher but didn't want to leave the positions in daylight or before mission completion.

- Did you ever use claymores on ambush ops?

Response: Sometimes. We always brought them and very often emplaced on
stairs aiming downward when occupying abandoned multi-story structures.
We never did when in someone's house though, but definitely would have
benefited from doing so on a few occasions. (I then asked when/why).
He explained that after being compromised a few times insurgents
attempted to throw IEDs or to hang an IED over the home's gate. In one
instance, the IED failed to detonate so the insurgent came back IOT try
and troubleshoot. He then said that if he had to do it again he'd
probably set-up claymores on the friendly side of locked gates in (some

I was equally impressed with the Lt's ability and willingness to adapt, understanding of the nature of the fight, etc., as I was disappointed that we keep learning the same thing over and over again—at great cost. Success in COIN has proven in so many ways nothing more than understanding human relations 101.

02-09-2007, 02:17 PM
That sounds like a very wise LT. It seems that the marines are getting more aedaptive in this new war environment. It's good tio see the other side of the fence fighting a good fight, as well. We were in Tikrit, on a trailblazer mission, so we didn't interact AS MUCH with the COB's. When we DID have contact, we treated them with as much respect as we could given the situation. we still searched their house/ property, but did it in a respectful manner, explaining as we went along.

The LT interviewed by maximus shows the new breed of "intelligent" officers that (not only) the Marines need, but the Army demands. I wish we had more like him to call the shots. It would make my job 100% easier!!

Again, just another opinion from a lowly buck sgt.:)

02-09-2007, 02:49 PM
I wasn't in a CAP unit in Nam but my friend Bill was and he told me how things in his vill really turned around after he helped a farmer catch a stray pig one time. Simple things work. When we would convoy through a village we always knew by the kids if a vill was hostile or not. They would either give us the finger or come running yelling and smiling at us.The Public needs to hear more of this kind of stuff as reported by this officer. Smart, flexible and adaptable is what our military is but the Public isn't getting that message.

02-09-2007, 02:50 PM
Thanks for posting this AAR. I love reading on the ground (real world reports).That was a very smart idea about the Lt. taking his helmet off while talking to people. Almost everyday there is a picture in the newspaper of the military wearing helmets and alien eye sunglasses talking to the locals, that is a good way to alienate people:) . If it is tactically sound to do so taking of your helmet and sunglasses is a good first step in building rapport.

02-09-2007, 03:22 PM
Thanks for posting this AAR. I love reading on the ground (real world reports).That was a very smart idea about the Lt. taking his helmet off while talking to people. Almost everyday there is a picture in the newspaper of the military wearing helmets and alien eye sunglasses talking to the locals, that is a good way to alienate people:) . If it is tactically sound to do so taking of your helmet and sunglasses is a good first step in building rapport.

I agree 100% slapout,
rapport is crutial. Taking off your kevlar, and sunglasses while talking to someone is allwoing you to gain their respect. Noone respects someone if they act holier than thou. This LT has more than just a hat rack above his neck. again, wish we had more like him.

02-14-2007, 01:33 AM
Excellent interview. That Lt. definitely knows the score. And, as has already been said, I love that kind of boots-on-the-ground perspective. The average American needs to read more accounts like this one. I wish I could get my brother on this forum and have him share some of his experiences as a Marine infantry officer in OEF and OIF...

02-14-2007, 01:48 AM
Fantastic interview. Hopefully just one in a series of products we're beginning to produce in the Infantry and Armor BOLC III courses.

03-31-2007, 10:35 AM
This interview is consistent with the type of behavior I saw from my platoon commander and other junior officers in Iraq. Time and again they were not only able to assess a sitution from a tactical standpoint but also apply that assessment to a highly refined awareness of not just the enemies trends and TTP's but also the macro level affairs of geo politics.

A first lieutenant such as this is truly unstoppable when you consider he is probably leading and training a platoon's worth of the elusive "strategic corporal."

03-31-2007, 05:33 PM
Welcome Ender. Very glad to have you as part of the forum. Please join and add input to the Marine Corps Gazette forum as well (http://www.mca-marines.org/forum/). Lots of the same issues, but sometimes more focused on internal USMC "stuff". It's just getting started so please pass the word.

You couldn't be more correct on the need for "strategic" lieutenants to mentor/develop the hundreds of "strategic" lance corporals, corporals, sergeants, etc. in our Corps. I had lance corporals and corporals serving in most of my team and squad leader billets in my rifle platoon. Come to think of it, in my 60+ man CAAT plt, I had 1 Gunny, 3 Sgts, and 10-15 corporals and the rest mostly lance corporals. These are the warriors making the decisions, interacting with the Iraqis and killing our nation's enemies all at the same time.

Not a topic for this forum, but I'm definitely interested to hear why "future 0203" rather than aspirations to be a "future 0302".

Look fwd to reading your posts and learning from you. Semper Fi!

03-31-2007, 06:42 PM
Thank you very much Maximus. I have been looking for a resource like this very one for some time but was never quite able to articulate to Google what I was looking for. I think I found the site off of a MCWL link late last night before bed and six hours later I was still here so...yes, very, VERY glad to be here!

I look forward to learning from you all as well and sincerely hope there is some small part that I may contribute from my experiences in exchange for the miles of information that is to be gleaned here.