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Introduction to 2/7 Combined Action Program (CAP)

Platoon Actions in Iraq

Lieutenant Colonel P.C. Skuta, USMC

Part of the 1st Marine Division pre-deployment training for Operation Iraqi Freedom-II (OIF-II) included an orientation of the Combined Action Program (CAP).  The Corps’ successful experience with the CAP in Vietnam covered some six years, from 1965-1971.  Some 33 years later, the contemporary CAP effort by the 1st Marine Division in Iraq is being adapted to Iraqi society and Arab culture. 

As of this writing, the CAP effort has been ongoing, in one form or another, within the I MEF area of operations for ten months.  The U.S. Army has also experimented with a similar concept in Iraq.  Since the 1st Marine Division returned to Iraq for OIF-II in March 2004, platoon size units have been training and operating alongside  Iraqi Security Force (ISF) units.  This effort must continue in order for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to be capable of providing security independent of the Multinational Forces-Iraq (MNF-I).  

               Each infantry battalion deploying to OIF-II was required to have a CAP platoon.  The accompanying article about the 2/7 CAP experience discusses one relatively successful effort at applying the CAP model in Iraq.  There certainly are other examples as well from throughout the 1st Marine Division.  The 2/7 CAP platoon was able to conduct operations with the ISF—living, sleeping, eating, and fighting with the ISF on a daily basis from May to September 2004. 

            Looking back on the 2/7 CAP experience, it is clear that the Marines and sailors of “Golf 3” (2/7 CAP platoon call sign) performed many similar tasks as their Vietnam predecessors.  In Vietnam CAPs often lived in a village, surrounded by jungle, terrifying booby-traps, and thousands of supposedly hostile Vietnamese civilians.  The Vietnam CAPs also trained local security forces.  In Iraq, the 2/7 CAP platoon lived close to the third largest city in Al Anbar province, surrounded by both desert and thick palm groves lining the Euphrates River “Green Belt,” and had to deal with insurgent improvised explosive devices (IED) as well.  Iraqi CAP platoons also had to interact with thousands of supposedly hostile local Iraqis.

                 The 2/7 CAP platoon mission was focused on preparing the nascent Iraqi National Guard (ING) to confront the insurgency following the transfer of sovereignty in June 2004.  The ING record across Iraq and against the insurgency remains mixed at best.  Anyone on the ground for any length of time in Iraq quickly realizes that the complexities of post-Sadaam Iraq will not be easily overcome soon.  Using the CAP to have the ING and other ISF gain advantage over the insurgency worked in some areas in 2004, but the effort must continue.  It will most likely take years to achieve lasting stability and security using only Iraqi military forces.

            A proud day that all belonged to the Marines and sailors of Golf 3 and the staff of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Hit (pronounced Heet), Iraq occurred when the unit was awarded with a visit from LtGen Conway, then CG I MEF in August 2004.  During his visit he stated that he needed to see first hand why this particular CAP was so successful. 

LtCol P.C. Skuta is Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion, Seventh Marines

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