"The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War"
Marines Magazine, January 1999
by Gen. Charles C. Krulak Operation Absolute Agility 0611: The African sun had just risen above the hills surrounding the sprawling city and sent its already dazzling rays streaming into the dusty alleyway. Corporal Hernandez felt the sun on his face and knew that today would, again, be sweltering. He was a squad leader in 2d Platoon, Lima Company and had, along with his men, spent a sleepless night on the perimeter. For the past week his platoon had provided security to the International Relief Organization (IRO) workers who manned one of three food distribution points in the American Sector of Tugala -- the war-torn capital of Orange -- a Central African nation wracked by civil unrest and famine. The situation in Orange had transfixed the world for nearly two years. Bloody tribal fighting had led first to the utter collapse of the government and economy, and ultimately, to widespread famine. International efforts to quell the violence and support the teetering government had failed, and the country had plunged into chaos. The United States had finally been compelled to intervene. A forward deployed Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) was ordered to assist the efforts of the ineffective Regional Multi-National Force (RMNF) and the host of international humanitarian assistance organizations that struggled to alleviate the suffering. The MEU's arrival had stabilized the situation and allowed the precious relief supplies to finally reach the people who needed them most. The Food Distribution Point (FDP) manned by 2d Platoon serviced over 5,000 people daily. The Marines had, at first, been shocked at the extent of the suffering, by the constant stream of malnourished men and women, and by the distended bellies and drawn faces of the children. The flow of food and medical supplies had, however, had a dramatic impact. The grim daily death tolls had slowly begun to decrease and the city had begun to recover some sense of normalcy. Within a month the lives of the Marines had assumed a sort of dull routine. Corporal Hernandez removed his helmet and rested his head against the mud wall of the house in which his squad was billeted and waited for his MRE to finish heating; satisfied that he and his fellow Marines were making a difference. 0633: The dust and rumble of a half dozen 5-Tons pulling into the market square caught the attention of Corporal Hernandez. Escorted by Marines, the convoy brought with it the food and medical supplies that meant life or death to the inhabitants of this devastated neighborhood. With it also came word of life beyond the confines of this small corner of Orange and useful intelligence concerning the disposition of the opposing factions that wrestled for its control. Today, the convoy commander had disturbing news for the platoon commander, Second Lieutenant Franklin. Members of the OWETA faction, led by the renegade warlord Nedeed, had been observed congregating near the river that divided the capital in half and marked the boundary separating the turf of OWETA from that of its principal rival. Nedeed had long criticized the presence of the RMNF and had frequently targeted its personnel for attack. While he had strenuously denounced the presence of U.S. forces, he had, so far, refrained from targeting American personnel. As starvation became less a concern, however, tensions had begun to rise and there was growing fear that open hostilities would breakout again and that attack of RMNF and MEU personnel was increasingly likely. Lieutenant Franklin passed the report to his company commander and then gathered his squad leaders together to review the developing situation. 1st Squad was ordered to move about four hundred meters north and man a roadblock at Checkpoint (CP)...