I just read a WSJ article entitled “How a Marine Lost His Command In Race to Baghdad” written by Christopher Cooper. It is about a Marine Corps Col. Joe D. Dowdy and how he was relieved of his command during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Col. Dowdy was loved by all of his men, “from the grunts on up.” Col. Dowdy was given a 6,000-man First Regiment in Iraq and he was supposed to divert Iraqi attention away from Baghdad so the other regiment could sneak in behind them unannounced. The orders were tougher than they expected. Gen. Mattis was in command of the entire invasion and he wanted it done quickly and loudly. On his way to Baghdad, Col. Dowdy had to go through Iraqi cities that were heavily armed with Iraqi troops. Col. Dowdy always thought of the safety of his men, so he wanted to make precise decisions so he would not lose too many men. Gen. Mattis did not care though. He ordered Col. Dowdy to advance immediately, so on the hood of a Humvee they planned an attack in an hour and followed through with it to the best of their ability. The mission was a success, but Gen. Mattis and his top aide Gen. Kelly did not think so. They had Col. Dowdy relieved of his command and that eventually ended his career in the Marine Corps.
The end result was a successful mission. Col. Dowdy did the best he could with the information and resources he had. I really do not think anyone could have done any better than he did. There were a lot of failures in communications from the General’s. Both Gen. Mattis and Kelly did not specify clearly what they wanted and they did not check with each other when making a decision, so a lot of the time Col. Dowdy had to improvise and do what was best for his troops. Gen. Mattis is a well respected and educated and it may not have been his fault either. I think the entire system failed communicating and Col. Dowdy lost his job for it.
What I really enjoyed about this article was the loyalty Col. Dowdy’s men had. It reminded me of Roman times when soldiers were more loyal to a general or noblemen than they were to the Roman Empire. Col. Dowdy’s men were talking about mutiny and fleeing with Col. Dowdy. Gunnery Sgt. Kane said, “If Col. Dowdy said, ‘Get your gear, you’re coming with me,’ I would’ve gone, even if it meant the end of my career.” In the Marine’s eyes, Col. Dowdy was their formal leader and Gen. Mattis was their informal leader. Col. Dowdy’s men would have followed him to the end of the world if he asked.