Part I: What now, Red Death Six?

by the Staff, Marine Corps Gazette


You are the CO, A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines (1/1)—a storied unit in Marine Corps history affectionately known as “Red Death” to your Marines.

Your company deployed ashore with the rest of your battalion task force in the former Republic of Al Ouaddiya, a failed state in the rare earth metals-rich archipelago of Raz al Dezzel. The island is rugged semi-desert that had been largely urbanized by the former Al Ouaddiyan regime. The population is of Arab and African descent and speaks a dialect of Arabic and French. Islam is the dominant religion with a mix of Sunni Salafi and Sufi sects, mixed with some persistent pre-Islamic folk traditions.

Al Ouaddiya was historically a monarchy colonized by Arabs and the French. The post-colonial period saw the establishment of a brutally repressive socialist secular regime. After decades of civil strife between the regime and various sectarian extremist and tribal groups, the recognized government collapsed, and, for the last three years, numerous factions have fought each other for control of the population and the island’s resources. A moderate, Western-backed faction has recently emerged and been recognized internationally as the new lawful government of Al Ouaddiya. However, not all of the tribal and sectarian factions have recognized the new regime since an expatriate “Westernized” descendant of the ancient royal family is the new head of state.

Anti-government factions include members of the former regime’s army and special forces, mostly French and Russian trained and equipped with looted weapons and equipment, including BTR-80s and T-72 variant tanks. These groups support a return to the repressive secular regime. Other sectarian groups include Salafi extremists supported by international terrorist organizations and several like-minded nations who seek to establish a caliphate. The last group of anti-government forces includes the gangs of several tribal warlords who are fighting to maintain control of mineral mining and export. These groups are well armed and paid by Chinese industrial interests in the region.

Eighteen months ago, under a United Nations mandate and with the invitation of the new Moderate Unity Government of Al Ouaddiya (MUGA), a U.S.-led joint task force (JTF) was deployed to conduct stability operations in order to strengthen the new government, reduce further violence between the remaining factions and the government, and to reduce the humanitarian crisis among the local population.

Your battalion, along with 3/3 and 1/7, are under the command of RLT 7, the GCE of 5th MEB, which is both the Marine component of the JTF and part of the combined forces land component (CFLCC) of the JTF. Two BCTs [brigade combat teams] of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division round out the U.S. component of the CFLCC, which also includes numerous allied forces. This deployment is the third “rotation” of U.S. and allied forces in support of the U.N. mission.

Over the past week, 1/1 has relieved 2/8 in the regimental combat team’s area of operations. The battalion has been assigned to a large forward operating base that contains a training facility for the local security forces and a distribution point for food, water, medical aid, and household fuel.

A Company’s mission is to

Secure the eastern entry point into the battalion FOB in order to prevent disruption of the battalion’s mission. On order conduct security and combat patrols partnered with local security forces. Be prepared to conduct offensive operations in order to disrupt anti-MUGA factions.

Your battalion commander’s “intent” is as follows:

Essential Tasks: Develop local security forces; support material needs of local population; disrupt anti-government factions.

Your company position is built around a group of abandoned buildings of local stone and brick construction, one or two stories high, with the thick exterior walls around the compound ubiquitous in this part of the world. A berm and triple-strand concertina wire surround the position and tie in to the existing walls and building.

To the east, you have reinforced the entry control point (ECP) with heavy obstacles covered by fire. To the west, you share a boundary with Company C. To the northeast and south, open ground with grassy weeds surround small farms and the outskirts of the port city of Minna Sultan Usween, where the JTF is headquartered along with various NGOs[nongovernmental organizations] and PVOs [private volunteer organizations] involved in humanitarian assistance.

You have assigned each of your platoons to a group of buildings and a sector of the company perimeter. 3d Platoon, your main effort, is responsible for security of the ECP. 1st Platoon has the north sector and 2d Platoon the south. All of your platoon commanders have continued to fortify their assigned buildings in accordance with the standard priority of work in the defense.

You have the following attachments and assets available to you:

  • 1 squad heavy machineguns (2x .50 Cal. 12x MK-19) with associated vehicles.
  • 1 Javelin team.
  • 2 scout sniper teams, which you have assigned to firing positions on the roofs of the highest building in your position.
  • 1 section 81 mm mortars (4 tubes).

The company’s weapons platoon is fully manned and equipped.

The overall company strength is roughly 80 percent effective due to DNBIs [disease and nonbattle injuries], emergency leave, and various battalion “working parties.”

You have assorted Class IV materials, including 10,000 sandbags and a SEE Tractor [small emplacement excavator] with operators.

For the last four days your Marines have been improving your company position and have conducted six security patrols—four day and two night. The patrols’ interaction with the local population has been neutral, but groups of 20 to 40 women and children have been making the trek up to 3 miles from their farms to obtain food, fuel, and medical support. None of the patrols have made contact with any anti-government factions although they have all heard small arms fire and a few explosions—most likely RPGs and/or mortars. No casualties have appeared at the ECP seeking medical aid.

It is 0935, roughly 72 hours since occupying the company position. You hear a high-pitched buzzing noise and see several Marines on sentry duty pointing at the sky. What appears to be a commercial, “off-the-shelf” quad-copter is overflying your position approximately 300 feet directly overhead.


• What are your orders to your platoon commanders?

• What, if any, modifications to the company defensive plan do you direct?

• What do you report to the battalion? Do you have any requests for support?

Complete your frag order to your platoon commanders and requests to higher headquarters. Include an overlay indicating any changes to your current positions and provide a brief discussion of your rationale behind your actions. Submit your solutions to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG 02-17, Box 1775, Quantico, VA, 22134, or by email to The Gazette will publish solutions in an upcoming issue.