Coca Strike

by Capt James R. Finley

The Situation

You command Company K, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. As part of a multinational operation, you are patrolling a rural area in the nation of Generica with the intent of destroying the local cocaine-trade infrastructure. Company I is patrolling 20 kilometers to your east. The rest of the battalion is aboard the USS Tarawa 10 kilometers offshore, 40 kilometers west of you, with Company L in heliborne reserve.

You are reinforced by the battalion air liaison officer, an intelligence officer/linguist from the Defense Intelligence Agency, a Generican Marine officer with a bullhorn, and a radio operator with an AN/PSC-3 satellite radio providing UHF communications with the Tarawa. At the Generican Government’s request you are on foot, but you have an AN/MRC-138A radio vehicle for HF communications with a Generican Marine company patrolling 20 kilometers west of you.

Your mission is to destroy coca crops and processing facilities and capture traffickers while avoiding collateral casualties and damage as far as possible. No artillery or fixed-wing air support can be used. Four AH-1W Cobras armed with miniguns, rockets, and Hellfires are on strip alert at a FARP (forward arming and refueling point) 25 kilometers south of you. You have first priority for their support.

Moving north along a dirt road, you stop at 1300 as you emerge from moderately dense forest to check in with battalion. A steep hill mass is ahead; your map shows that the road leads to a village in a saddle on the hill mass, but you cannot see it from where you are. The battalion commander tells you real-time satellite imagery shows about 20 people loading cargo onto a large airplane at an airstrip near several sheds amid coca fields northwest of the hill mass. You know the traffickers usually take off at dusk, about 1730. People are also in the village, in the fields of potatoes, corn, and sugarcane southwest of the hill mass, and on the road west of the village.

The battalion commander orders you to capture the plane with its cargo if possible and destroy it otherwise, capture any traffickers you can, and destroy the airstrip, processing facility, and cultivated coca. Because of the desire to show goodwill toward those uninvolved in the drug trade, you are not to fire any weapons in or at the village atop the hill mass unless fired on from the village, and under no circumstances may you use mortars or rockets against targets in the village.

The Requirement

Within fifteen minutes, prepare the fragmentary orders you would issue your company. Include plans for use of supporting arms, an overlay, and a brief explanation of your rationale.

Send your frag order and rationale to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #91-8, P. O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish the author’s and other solutions in the October issue.