Trouble at Checkpoint 14

By Capt James B. Woulfe


You are a supply corporal in the MEU Service Support Group (MSSG). The MEU came ashore 6 days ago to assist nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with humanitarian operations in a poor Third World country. The city you are in is extremely congested, packed with one- to three-story buildings wherever there is not a street. All streets shown are two lane but very narrow; some also have narrow sidewalks. A maze of alleys and walkways exist throughout the city, but they are too confusing to map. Marines have had very little violence directed at them, but ethnic and religious hatred has resulted in several violent dashes within the local populace. Rules of engagement (ROE) are as provided.

You are running a convoy of relief supplies from a food warehouse at Checkpoint 15 to a distribution point on the north side of the city. Your convoy consists of three 5-ton trucks. Each truck has a driver, assistant driver, and two Marines in back for security. In each truck, one Marine is armed with an M203 and has non-lethal (rubber pellet) munitions; one is armed with an M16A2 and bayonet; and the driver and assistant driver are armed with 9mm pistols and riot batons. All have pepper spray and CS gas grenades. You are in the lead truck. There is a rifle platoon guarding the food warehouse and a reaction-force rifle company located with the forward element of the Ground Combat Element (GCE) Headquarters located ashore.

The time is 1704. As you reach Checkpoint 14, you notice a crowd of about 30-50 civilians filling the street about a block north. As you near you can see that the crowd has just pulled three people from a car and is starting to beat them. You radio the Combat Service Support Operations Center to explain the situation and reach the watch officer. You know the platoon at the food warehouse can send forces there by foot in about 10 minutes. You estimate the reaction force can arrive in about 20 minutes moving by amtracs. By now you can tell there are three victims, two men and a woman. They appear to be Americans or Europeans, either reporters or NGO workers-you can’t tell which. You ask the watch officer for guidance. “Can I help these poor people?” you ask.

Without seeing the situation himself, the watch officer understandably cannot offer much in the way of detailed guidance. “Do what you can to help,” he says, “without causing an international incident. You’re going to have to use your best judgment.”

The crowd continues to beat the three people, and you think some of them may be about to rape the woman. What do you do, corporal?


In a time limit of 3 minutes, describe any actions you would take. Then provide the rationale for your decision. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #99-1, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA, 22134 or fax 703640-0823.