NOTES FROM ST. HELENA: Commanding Officer, Charlie Company

By Jeff Warren
Thursday, July 5, 2007 12:28 AM PDT

He was the last American to “own” land in Fallujah. He gave up control of it to Iraqi security forces in a ceremony some months ago. It went unreported in the Press.

His name is Michael Mayne. Yesterday, he spent the Fourth with his wife and new baby down in Arizona. His mother lives in Napa.

Captain Mayne hadn’t seen his baby girl until recently. She was born while he doing the “Sniper Dance” in Fallujah. The “Sniper Dance” is what the Marines call it when they’re on patrol. Unable to walk in a straight line, for fear of giving snipers an easy target, they randomly, juke to the right or left, hoping to prevent a killer from drawing an easy bead.

At first we’d heard he’d married his commanding officer. That made for a good story, but was incorrect Intel. He did marry a fellow Marine, however.

She photographs like a Movie star. Wonder how that messed with the bad guys’ heads?

Last year, he left this goddess and his soon-to-be daughter, for his second go-round in Iraq.

The question we all ask ourselves is “why?”

He’d done his duty. During his first stint, he earned a bronze star for wading through a Canal, shooting and killing terrorists while rescuing his platoon from an ambush. Of course, he won’t tell you about this, but you can read all about it on the net.

Captain Mayne used to be a democrat. He has problems with the current administration’s handling of the debt, its stand on immigration, and energy policy among other things. A good soldier, he won’t openly criticize his Commander in Chief. But he might run for office.

He’s an independent now. “Most soldiers I know are Independents.”

He won’t say, but one can’t help but wonder if the words of some legislators, while he was busting his hump in Fallujah, might have driven him from his own party.

Captain Mayne spent the last Fourth of July in 110-degree heat securing the perimeters of the city and making it tougher for the bad guys to smuggle in weapons and replenish their forces.

As the man in charge, he applied George Kelling and Richard Bratton’s “Fixing Broken Windows” approach to pacifying Fallujah, the cradle of death in the Anbar province.

Kelling and Bratton were the two guys who cleaned up New York. They did it by targeting graffiti, fare jumpers, purse snatchers and crack dealers — the petty crimes, which created an atmosphere where bigger crimes were allowed to proliferate.

That meant that the Marines took no guff from wise guys. If they got “mean-mugged”, (a dirty look, or hostile gesture), from some clown, they were in his face immediately with aggressive questioning.

As one soldier summed it up, “If they’re nice, we’re nice. If they get stupid, we get stupid.”

It worked. Death squads were virtually eliminated. Thousands of Iraqi lives were saved. Killings were cut by two thirds.

Iraqis came to trust the Marines and work with them to expose the bad guys and get them out of their neighborhoods.

Oh, there were still snipers and IEDs, but by all reports the Marines had ended the major violence.

Still, if he wasn’t a fan of the administration, what was he doing over there?

My guess is, the same thing young Americans have always done when duty calls. Turns out, Captain Mayne is proud to have rid the world of an evil dictator. He believes in the Mission — was there for the elections — the second proudest day of his life.

“Eighty percent of the Iraqis want democracy.”

As a citizen soldier he’s willing to do his part to make that happen — like young Americans have always been willing to do. (His Blog was called CincinattusNapa, in honor of the famous Roman, who fought for 16 days, defeated the Aequi and Volscians — was offered the “crown,” and turned it down to go back to his farm).

When asked about the surge, he’ll tell you he can’t stand the loss of one American life. Yet, he is adamant that more Iraqs are alive today because of it. You decide.

Like all soldiers in every war, were he in charge he would have fought it differently.

However, losing is not an option for him.

Like knights of old, he’s no fan of tyranny. He will succor the weak. It’s in his DNA. He knows no other way.

Imagine his hurt when he hears folks saying “We’re in it for the Oil.” Do they think he and his buddies are that stupid, or such automatons, that they would risk their lives so some Texan can make a profit? It’s such an insult.

This Fourth, we won’t be doing the “Sniper Dance”, nor worrying about “mean-muggers.” We’ll be on a lake cooking hot dogs and drinking beer.

We’ll be there because men, like Captain Mayne — men like my father and his father (and men just like your fathers and grandfathers) — ordinary men have somehow done extraordinary deeds. From Tarawa to Omaha Beach, they’ve stepped up.


Maybe because they, too, hold “these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Whatever the reason, we are in their debt.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we (write) here.” But on this Fourth, let us never forget what those soldiers sacrificed over the years, and are doing over there, today. What kind of woman produced such sons (and daughters)? Our country ‘tis of thee.

(Jeff Warren is a newcomer whose family didn’t arrive here until the ‘50s. He is a businessman, husband and father of three. He can be reached by email at