Part III: “Right Encrypt, Authenticate Down”

by the Staff, Marine Corps Gazette


It has been three days since a patrol from your command, A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines reinforced with a MUGA Commando Platoon, occupied the four-story building immediately west of the Al Mumeet Mosque now known to your Marines and Sailors as “the Ritz.” Since occupying this building there have been no IDF attacks originating in the mosque neighborhood, overall IDF attacks on the battalion FOB have been reduced, and the local residents are demonstrating support for the Marine presence.

However, the entire JTF has been operating with degraded communications since the incident at the mosque. While your patrol made contact with a well-trained sniper team, the JTF networks were penetrated by malicious code downloaded through a “Trojan Horse” attack on one of the numerous commercial-off-the-shelf “tactical tablet” computers in use across the force. In addition, localized jamming of GPS satellite signals has rendered systems employing GPS time inaccurate and/or inoperative. USCYBERCOM, DISA, and the relevant agencies of the coalition partners have taken measures to contain the effects of these attacks to the operational networks in theater while the JTF and subordinate forces work to reestablish their networks. National intelligence analysis of these sophisticated attacks indicates likely support from the People’s Republic of China to one or more of the local mining syndicate’s armed gangs.

Communications are now limited to unencrypted, frequency static, voice-only radio, wire (analog field telephones still common among members of the coalition and MUGA forces), and of course couriers. The commercial Ouadiyyan telecom enterprise (landline and cellular) is also functional although typically unreliable and obviously unsecure. You have sufficient radios to maintain a company tactical radio net, one battalion tactical net, and the infantry battalion mortar net. Your JTAC team have also uncovered UHF radios to coordinate RW CAS and medevacs.

Given the present situation, you have decided to retain command of the company minus/reinforced at “the Ritz” while your XO, 1st Lt Espinoza, and the remaining elements of the company continue to secure the eastern entry point into the battalion FOB. In establishing your hasty defense you have negotiated with the two families of squatters in “the Ritz” through your interpreters and the Elder of the Al Umm family. The families have moved into the most secure rooms of the building. Your Marines and the Commando Platoon are dispersed throughout the building in combined living areas/fighting positions as shown in Figure 2. (See on next page.) Your squad leaders have already conducted short duration local security patrols in the neighborhood.

You have the following attachments and supporting arms available:

• 1 Machinegun Section (-) (4x M240B 7.62 machineguns).

• 1 Assault Squad (2x SMAW 83mm rocket launchers).

• 1 Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC) Team

• 2 Interpreters

• 1 MUGA Commando Platoon: 40 Commandos total, equipped with AK-47 rifles, rifle grenades, and is reinforced with an RPK Machinegun Section (4x RPK 7.62 machineguns)

Fire support is currently limited to the battalion’s organic mortars and Marine rotorary-wing CAS on alert +15 at the battalion FOB.

The battalion’s alert +5 section of medevac helicopters has a dedicated radio net. Response time is less than 10 minutes, and the JTF Level III treatment facility is 45 minutes flight time.

Your battalion commander is on his way to your position in a motorized patrol with a resupply of ammunition, water, and MREs as well as additional communications equipment and a “tiger team” to provide refresher training on the Automated Communications Electronics Operating Instructions (ACEOI) including Authentication, Alphanumeric Call signs, Encoding/Decoding Grid Coordinates and Scheduled Frequency Changes.

When he arrives, he will assess the situation and give you his intent and orders.


1. What is your recommendation to your battalion commander? Do you hold “the Ritz,” and if so what reinforcements do you need? Do you withdraw back to the battalion FOB?

2. What recommendations do you have regarding communications?

3. In the meantime, what are your priority of work and deliberate defensive plan for “the Ritz?”

Include an overlay sketch and provide a brief discussion of your rationale. Submit your solutions by email at or to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG 04-17, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish solutions in an upcoming issue.

>Editor’s Note: References 1 and 2 were provided by Maj Paul Stokes, USMC(Ret), Operations Officer, Future Operation/Plans Officer, MCCES, Twentynine Palms, CA.