The Teufelhunden of the 3/6
CAMP AL QAIM, IRAQ: Walk into the battalion headquarters of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment at Camp Al Qaim, and three things will immediately catch your eye. The first is the tribute to the Marines of the 3/6 killed in Iraq. The memorial consists of rifle bayonet-point into the ground, a Marines’ helmet resting on the butt stock, a pair of boots, and the dog tags of five of the members of 3/6 killed in Iraq. The second is unit crest of the 3/6, with the cryptic word “Teufelhunden” inscribed. This is the name the Germans gave the battalion during the battle of Belleau Woods in World War I. Teufelhunden literally means Devil Dogs, which the Marines earned with their ferocity in battle. The third item of note is an inscription taken from a C-ration box by an anonymous Marine at the battle of Khe Sahn in1968, which states “For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected never know.”
History is ever present in the Marine Corps, and this is reflected in the Al Qaim region. The “chow hall”, which is famed to be the best in Iraq, is called Winchester Hall, after a Marine killed in combat in Iraq. So is Camp Gannon in Husaybah. Battle Position Hue City honors a battle from the Vietnam War; Battle Position Tarawa is from World War II; Battle Position Beirut honors the Marines lost in the suicide car bombings in Lebanon. The list goes on.
The Commander of the 3/6 is Lieutenant Colonel Dale Alford, who has served as a rifle platoon and company commander of Marines. This tour in Iraq is his sixth combat deployment, with the last being in Afghanistan. His battalion has been instrumental in wresting control of western Iraq from the insurgency.
For LtCol Alford, withdrawal from Iraq is not an option, and would be catastrophic. The calls for withdrawal both encourages the insurgency and has a negative impact on his ability to negotiate with the sheikhs and various tribal leaders, “it empowers the insurgency, they listen to the American media and they listen to our political debates… When I meet with sheikhs, village elders and leaders of the tribes, do they think I am going to follow through with what I promise? They also listen to the American media and wonder who’s going to be around in the long run.”
LtCol Alford has confidence in the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to maintain control of the security situation in the long run, but emphasizes the importance of well trained infantry and police forces to create a secure environment. Technology such as the Backscatter-Z detection system or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles can only do so much; “they are only tools… this insurgency is going to be won with Marines on the ground and ultimately the Iraqis themselves.”
He has a unique, outside of the box idea to get the Iraqi Army trained up to the proper standards to fight the insurgency on its own. Instead of using the MITT model, where small teams are embedded into Iraqi battalions to provide assistance, he would transplant the staff of a Marine battalion and graft it onto an Iraqi battalion. The staffs would team up, man for man, and act as advisers down to the company level, in the areas where the Iraqi military needs it most: logistics, heavy weapons support and air support. When finished, the embedded staff would leave the equipment behind for the Iraqi Army to carry on the fight.
He believes this would increase the proficiency of the Iraqi Army and reduce the deployment time of large amounts of American troops. This would place the burden of deployment on the professional elements of the Marine Corps, the officers with the rank of Captain and above and the Staff Sergeants and above in the enlisted ranks. A small detachment of officers and NCOs would need to remain home to train the Marines left home, but this would have the effect of accelerating the leadership development of lieutenants, sergeants and corporals. With the combat experience throughout the Corps, this would not be a problem in the short term.
LtCol Alford recognizes there would be much resistance to such a radical change in doctrine. “We need to change the paradigm to win this war” more quickly, says LtCol Alford. “Change will occur at the captain, major and lieutenant colonel level.” Such unorthodox thinking represents the future of 4th Generation Warfare, and the future leaders of our military.
LtCol Alford (left), Commander of the 3/6, and
LtCol Starling (right), Operations Officer of RCT-2