One Of the Best Leaders I Ever Knew Died 10 Years Ago Today In Iraq

Community
Photo by GySgt Robert K. Blankenship

On August 25, 2004, a decade ago today, Lance Cpl. Alex Arredondo was killed in action in Najaf, Iraq, while checking on his Marines’ defensive positions during the final push in the Battle of An Najaf. Arredondo was a team leader in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company “Raiders”, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. His platoon had recently been fighting from a four-story hotel room during our final push into the old city to surround Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia in the Imam Ali mosque, following days of fighting through streets and buildings to secure their current position. The fighting of that month was some of the fiercest and bloodiest in the entire war.


Arredondo was the definition of leader. He was intelligent, inspirational, and warm hearted. He always had a huge smile on his face and was probably the most likeable guy in the entire company.

Lance Cpl. Alex Arredondo (center) preparing for night raid in August 2004.

He was a special operations training group qualified assault climber and he loved climbing. One of my fondest memories of him was one night during an especially cold beach insertion during our Marine expeditionary unit evaluations before deployment. I was the only boot scout swimmer and was loaded down with gear. I had an incredibly hard time making it up his climbing lane, which was too narrow for my pack. Shivering cold, exhausted, and frustrated, I found myself looking up at Arredondo and waiting to be hammered by him for taking so long. Instead, he reached down toward me and instructed me how to get my pack off and lower it down so that I could finish the climb through the narrow passage. When I reached the top, I was met with a warm smile that I will never forget. I moved out and took up a security position atop with the other swimmers along the cliff to finish our reconnaissance and set defensive positions until the rest of the raid group returned for extraction.

It was February and I was still wet from the 800-meter swim in to secure the beach; to make matters worse, it was so cold and windy that my body was stiff beyond shivering and my spare dry clothes were sitting in my patrol pack at the bottom of the cliff below. About an hour later, Arredondo crawled up to my position with my pack; he had gone all the way back down to get it. He pushed it over to me and in almost pure disbelief, I muttered my best, “Thank you, lance corporal,” through uncontrollably chattering teeth. Arredondo gave me the same warm smile as before and said, “Next time, pack less shit, boot”. Then he gave me a wink and a nod and slipped back into the darkness towards his own position.

I always looked up to “Dondo” for the way he treated his junior Marines. He was always quiet, polite, and professional. He led by example and we all loved him for it. The story I mentioned here is just one of the many testaments to Arredondo’s character. He was wise beyond his years and had a genuine heart, caring for junior Marines and the Iraqi people alike. He never looked down on anyone, and in doing so, led everyone who knew him to look up to him.

I have often wondered why God takes the best away from us. I don’t have any answers to that question, but every time I think about Arredondo, I know that God must have had a very special purpose for him and the he is up there smiling down on us all.

Alex, we love and miss you brother, more than you will ever know. We do our best every day to live a life worth living because of your sacrifice. Until we meet again, my friend.

Dave Smith is a former Marine infantryman and a graduate of UC Berkeley. He is currently on an 11-month missions trip around the world. Follow his adventure here.

Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. (Reuters/Rodi Said)

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - The Islamic State appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria on Wednesday, as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where U.S.-backed forces estimate a few hundred jihadists are still holed up.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing walk to waiting family members and friends after stepping off of a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 17, 2018 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The U.S. Air Force has issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen who are considered non-deployable, and officials will immediately begin flagging those who have been unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.

Read More Show Less
Pictured left to right: Pedro Pascal ("Catfish"), Garrett Hedlund ("Ben"), Charlie Hunnam ("Ironhead"), and Ben Affleck ("Redfly") Photo Courtesy of Netflix

A new trailer for Netflix's Triple Frontier dropped last week, and it looks like a gritty mash-up of post-9/11 war dramas Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker and crime thrillers Narcos and The Town.

Read More Show Less
Army Sgt. Daniel Cowart gets a hug from then-Dallas Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty. Photo: Department of Defense

The Distinguished Service Cross was made for guys like Sgt. Daniel Cowart, who literally tackled and "engaged...in hand to hand combat" a man wearing a suicide vest while he was on patrol in Iraq.

So it's no wonder he's having his Silver Star upgraded to the second-highest military award.

Read More Show Less
A small unmanned aerial vehicle built by service academy cadets is shown here flying above ground. This type of small UAV was used by cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, during a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored competition at Camp Roberts, California, April 23-25, 2017. During the competition, cadets and midshipmen controlled small UAVs in "swarm" formations to guard territory on the ground at Camp Roberts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Drones have been used in conflicts across the globe and will play an even more important role in the future of warfare. But, the future of drones in combat will be different than what we have seen before.

The U.S. military can set itself apart from others by embracing autonomous drone warfare through swarming — attacking an enemy from multiple directions through dispersed and pulsing attacks. There is already work being done in this area: The U.S. military tested its own drone swarm in 2017, and the UK announced this week it would fund research into drone swarms that could potentially overwhelm enemy air defenses.

I propose we look to the amoeba, a single-celled organism, as a model for autonomous drones in swarm warfare. If we were to use the amoeba as this model, then we could mimic how the organism propels itself by changing the structure of its body with the purpose of swarming and destroying an enemy.

Read More Show Less