Part IV: “Should I Stay, or Should I Go?”

by the Staff, Marine Corps Gazette


Your command—A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, aka “Red Death”—has been occupying and improving a combat outpost in “the Ritz,” a four-story building west of the Al Mumeet Mosque, for six weeks. You are still reinforced with an MUGA Commando Platoon, and both your Marines and the commandos have been regularly rotating between the company’s sector of the battalion FOB and the outpost for the last four weeks, spending two weeks in each position. The route between positions is patrolled by elements of the battalion and LAR, and it is under near-continuous observation by rotary-wing aircraft and scout snipers.

Since establishing “COP Ritz,” the residents of the mosque area have increased their support for the Marine presence and have provided through your interpreters and the elder of the Al Umm family important information on the local situation. Last week their reports led your Marines to a shallow grave containing the remains of four U.N. aid workers who had gone missing several months ago. Although supportive, the locals have not gone so far as to identify local anti-MUGA fighters from any of the various factions. Moreover, there remain very few men between the ages of 14 and 40 in the area. The locals report that they are all away working in the mines.

The JTF continues operating with degraded communications: limited to unencrypted, frequency static, voice-only radio, wire, and couriers. Commercial satellite telephones are available for emergency and morale calls.

Your attachments and support have not changed:

• 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 rotary-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 Marines and the commandos have built a rapport with the two families of squatters inside COP Ritz—your men respect the privacy of the families, especially the women and girls, and a visit from one of the battalion’s female engagement teams (two female Marines, a female corpsman, and woman from USAID fluent in the local dialect) was very well received by both families.

Yesterday, the Al Umm elder informed you that two of his cousins would be visiting from the mines, and the two younger men spent several hours having tea with the old man yesterday evening. The two cousins were respectful and in clean local dress with “knock-off” athletic shoes dusty from the road. You and your interpreters could only catch parts of the conversation discussing the weather and family matters. During the visit, the women and girls all gathered in a separate room and kept their long, black, “Saudi-style” abbayas on the entire time. After the cousins left, you asked the elder why the women did not mix with their family. He replied that they were shy and the daughters might one day be promised in marriage to the men.

This morning, after your pre-dawn “walking the lines” of COP Ritz’s fighting positions, you notice the women and girls of both families leaving the COP with their belongings. The elder and the other men of the squatter families were collecting the heavier property and preparing to leave as well. Through your interpreter, the elder explains that his cousins offered the family a safe place to stay closer to the mines. He seemed sorry to leave and blessed you and your men profusely before quickly departing.

What do you think is going to happen and how soon?


1. What is your assessment of the situation?

2. What are your orders to your Marines and the commandos?

3. What is your report to your battalion commander?

4. What, if any, additional support do you request and why?

Include an overlay sketch and provide a brief discussion of your rationale. Submit you solutions by email at or to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG 05-17, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish solutions in an upcoming issue.

Note: This problem is a continuation of TDG 04-17