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A Marine’s Baptism by Fire
WHY? What did Lance Corporal Anthony Melia, Sergeant Clinton Ahlquist and LCpl Steven Chavez die for? “Rage Company,” the call sign for Company F, 2d Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, is an intense, first-person narrative by then-First Lieutenant Thomas Daly in which he brings the reader into the Marines’ lives and attempts to answer that question. As the Rage Co forward observer, in charge of the company intelligence cell, Daly had a unique viewpoint and access to information that enables him to describe the complex issues of urban guerrilla warfare in a foreign culture.
“Rage Company” has a narrow perspective, in that it deals with the experiences of one company of Marines from November 2006 to March 2007. Even so, those experiences require Rage Co Marines to apply policies from the highest levels of the American government in making split-second decisions that decide the life and death of U.S. Marines, insurgents and Iraqi civilians.
It is no easy task, but Daly immerses the reader in the hot and cold, dust and mud, streets and homes, fear and pride, superstition and faith, and sometimes hourly experiences of the Marines, insurgents and civilians.
Although narrow in an operational and chronological sense, “Rage Company” is monumental in its description of the “Awakening of Anbar’s tribes against al-Qaida” and the role of the local Sunnis, known as Thawar Al Anbar, in the defeat of the insurgents.
The Awakening resulted in a dramatic change in attitude of the civilian population toward the Marines. To illustrate, on Nov. 26, 2006, during a night patrol, Daly describes interviewing a 60-year-old man in his home: “I became more frustrated. Through his fear, the old man was telling me that the insurgents were the obvious power in the area.”
A few short months later on March 25, 2007, while on another night patrol, “Julayba’s citizens met the Marines at the door, rather than hiding in a room and waiting for them to barge in. Interior lights were on; blinds were open. Families gathered in living rooms. A sense of normalcy that none of the Americans had previously seen in Iraq seemed to be taking place.”
The difference? Previously on Jan. 27, 2007, the Awakening scouts had questioned detainees and identified them and their families by name. “The scouts were informing them that their one advantage over the Americans was no longer in play. The shadow of anonymity surrounding the local militants was thrust into the light.”
The Awakening is only one of many episodes in “Rage Company” worthy of study. Embedded in Daly’s narration are opportunities for studies in policy, theory and leadership at many levels. Daly does not enumerate these “lessons”; he leaves it up to the reader to identify them. His approach is a strength that can generate numerous thoughtful discussions. But there is, perhaps, another benefit. It is difficult to explain to the parents of a Marine killed in action why his comrades may have been prevented from returning fire due to rules of engagement. Some insight into that perplexing situation can be gained by the reader.
The overall value of Daly’s work is his contribution to the study of leadership and insurgent warfare in an urban environment. It joins books from another era such as “A Rumor of War” (Philip Caputo), “The Village” (Bing West), “Fields of Fire” (James Webb), “Village at War” (James W. Trullinger), and it recalls the issues raised in “The Ugly American” (William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick). Students can take such studies and extract policy and leadership principles that transcend the physical and cultural environments.
As Daly learned, “military tactics is an art, not a science. There is no set answer for battlefield problems, only principles to help you make up your mind.” For this reason, “Rage Company” should be read by noncommissioned officers and officers who are preparing for deployments involving insurgent warfare, and it should be considered for the Commandant’s professional reading list. Others will enjoy the book for its vivid description of heroic Marines engaged in the struggle to bring peace in Iraq.
RAGE COMPANY: A Marine’s Baptism by Fire.
By Thomas P. Daly. Published by John Wiley & Sons Inc. 384 pages.
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- Al-Anbar Awakening (Article)
- Senator's Son (Book Review)
- SENATOR’S SON: An Iraq War Novel (Book Review)
- An Interview with Thomas Daly, Author of "Rage Company" (Magazine Page)
- A Conversation and Book Signing with Dr. David Kilcullen (Magazine Page)
Today in USMC History
Historic Leatherneck Magazine Covers
Leatherneck Staff Artist, Technical Sergeant Robert Fleischauer, felt that our July cover should be commemorative of the Fourth of July. Since the members of the missile units are probably the Corps' best rocketeers, he picked them to perform a standard Fourth of July action. Whether or not the "Honest Johnny" is useful as a combat piece is a matter for debate, but you can't beat it for morale." [July 1957.]
“The Join Up on the Nick” by Major Alex Durr, USMCR, a member of the History Division, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.
Hospitalman Daniel T. Bobic, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3d Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, rappelled at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, in late April, 2002.
The oldest post of the Marine Corps, Washington, DC, is celebrating 200 years of excellence. Posed near the Barracks main gate were members of the official Color Guard of the United States Marine Corps (left to right): LCpl Joseph N. Keough, rifleman; Sgt Blake L. Richardson, Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps; Cpl Gerardo A. Guajardo, organizational color bearer; and LCpl Gregory A. Serwo, rifleman.
GySgt Verlando Frazier, East Coast Food Service Management Team, looked ready to dig into some of the new items included in MREs.
This photo by Sgt Earnie Grafton of Marines from Fox Co., 2/4 shows varied emotions as they greeted the coalition forces outside Kuwait city.
A fleet of trucks was needed to transport Dr. Felix de Weldon’s original model of the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue from the sculptor’s home in Newport, R.I., to the grounds of the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen, Texas. After the statue’s arrival, a nearly around-the-clock effort by skilled workmen was required in order to have the memorial reassembled and ready for dedication ceremonies on April 16, 1982.
In April this year (1981), two squadrons of AV-8A “Harriers” sailed for the Mediterranean aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau. Purpose of the cruise was to demonstrate the Navy/Marine Corps team’s capability to augment naval forces in any area of the World on short notice and to provide at-sea training for Marine Harrier pilots.
The cover of Leatherneck’s Bicentennial issue is an oil painting by the late Colonel Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. The painting depicts General George Washington’s Colonial troops at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Va., during the French and Indian War.
Sightseeing tours for the men of the Marine Barracks, San Juan, Puerto Rico, include a trip to the El Morro Fortress. San Juan is now retired as a Post of the Corps.
The Marines in Vietnam have found that the programs which work best are those which operate close to the people. Our July cover is a mixed media (acrylic and charcoal) by Art Editor James L. Hopewell. It catches the spirit of Marines who enjoy their relationship with the Vietnamese around them.
In Naples, Italy, Marines are responsible for the internal security of the Headquarters of NATO’s Southern European Command, while the elite Carabinieri Corpa provides external security. PFC Robert M. Mallard’s NATO shield was admired by a Carabiniere as the two men prepared to take up their side-by-side posts at the entrance of the imposing NATO Headquarters, which appears in the background of this cover.
"We've Fought In Every Clime And Place": Stamping out the Caco Insurrection in the Republic d' Haiti.
January 2002: The Marines engraved another mark in the rich history of the Corps when they came from more than 400 miles offshore to establish a forward operating base south of Kandahar in the war on terrorism. The Marine CH-46 helicopter on the cover, photographed by PH1(AW/SW) Greg Messier, USN, fought in the desert sand to land and resupply Marines such as the ones (inset) photographed by Sgt Joseph R. Chenelly.
January 2001: This firefight during the Frozen Chosin Reservoir Campaign of 1950 was painted by “Chosin Few” veteran Jack Cannon, who served with Company B, 1st Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment and resides in the warmer climes of New Mexico. The cover was part of Leatherneck’s 50th anniversary salute to the Korean War veterans.
January 1992: This cover photograph of runners during Marine Corps Marathon XVI in Washington, D.C., was photographed by Sgt Deirdre Hallett.
January 1991: This month’s cover by Ross Simpson captures the Marines’ waiting-but-ready posture in the Middle East.
January 1982: Participants in the Sixth Annual Marine Corps Marathon presented a colorful spectacle as they began the 26-mile, 385-yard run in Washington, D.C., November 1, 1981. The cover photo, by Tom Bartlett, was taken from a bridge overlooking Highway 50 about a half-mile from the starting line.
January 1981: Nearly 7,800 runners participated in the Fifth Annual Marine Corps Marathon held in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. The oldest finisher was 78; the youngest was 10. Leatherneck staffer Ron Lunn pre-positioned himself near the Nation’s Capitol to photograph runners during their 14th mile of the 26-mile, 385-yard course.
January 1972: This month’s cover, by Marine Combat Artist Peter Gish, shows members of the New Corps sightseeing in the Old World. While on liberty in Athens, Greece, the 3d Bn, Eighth Marines, were able to tour the Erektheon Porch and Cariatides. The water color is from the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Art collection.
Originally Published December 1983 -- Something tells us that we could date the cover without knowing when it was published.
Originally Published December 1972 -- We're not sure what's more interesting, Santa or the old style gas pump.
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This November 1992 article in the Marine Corps Gazette looked at the uniform regulations of 1859 and the attempt to standardize uniforms within the Corps. Read the story and see more pics.
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