Marine Corps Gazette
September 1, 2005
This account of an ambush won the USMC 2005 Leadership Essay Contest
Proof that combat leadership knows no traditional boundaries.
Brent Morel was a captain, but in the be-a-good-officer leadership case studies his role was always cast with a 2nd lieutenant. Morel had done well enough in his initial tours to land a reconnaissance platoon. But he had missed Iraqi Freedom I. Most of his men were combat veterans who had spent time walking the point for the entire 1st Marine Division during its bold dash into Baghdad. They had seen things he hadn’t.
The miss bothered Morel—a seasoned Marine who had enlisted in the reserves while in college—but his platoon didn’t really care. They valued guts as much as experience. And Morel had plenty. They’d seen him stand up to seniors on their behalf when others would have yielded. They sensed Morel was a hunter, just as they sensed a fight was looming. Fallujah had erupted only weeks into their deployment. Brent Morel was the kind of platoon leader you wanted in a collision.
The platoon was traveling in the first five Humvees of a convoy, each man watching a sector of landscape. It was ambush territory—the road was elevated and exposed, paralleled by a series of chest-high berms. The Marines noticed a canal that could act like a moat if the enemy had even a paintballer’s tactical sense.