The Washington Post published a noteworthy story this morning revealing new details about the deadly Sept. 14 attack on Camp Bastion, a British facility in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that abuts the Marine Corps’ principal hub there, Camp Leatherneck.
Citing multiple Marine sources in theater, the Post’s Ernesto Londoño reports that Lt. Col. Christopher Raible — the commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211 who was killed along with Sgt. Bradley Atwell after 15 insurgents dressed as U.S. soldiers infiltrated the base and torched six AV-8B Harriers — died heroically while leading several other Marines in an aggressive counter attack as mayhem unfolded around them.
From Londoño’s report:
When it became clear Bastion was under attack, Raible threw on body armor and jumped in a vehicle with [one of his deputies, Maj. Greer]Chambless. Because his rifle was not nearby, the commander charged into the combat zone armed only with a handgun. The two men exchanged nary a word during the short drive as they scanned the landscape for insurgents. When they got to the flightline, Raible dashed into a maintenance room and began barking out orders to the Marines who would soon push the assailants back.
Backed by a handful of men, he ran toward another building to check whether the troops there were safe. Along the way, Raible and his men were attacked. He and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27, of Kokomo, Ind., died of wounds from an explosion, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a military spokesman, said. Chambless was devastated but not particularly surprised. “It was very fitting that he was killed leading his men from the front,” the major said.
As Marine Corps Times’ Dan Lamothe reported earlier this week, the harshest fighting took place within the first hour after insurgents gained access to Bastion. The attack drew a response from nearly everyone working on the flight line at the time.
“Had they not done what they did, it could have been a lot of worse,” Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, the two-star officer overseeing Marine air ops downrange, told Marine Corps Times on Monday. “Obviously on the wing, we focus on fixing aircraft and flying those aircraft in support of ground forces. But, when forced to, we can quickly transition to offense on the ground, and that’s exactly what happened Friday night.”
All but one of the 15 attackers were killed by coalition troops. At least one group of five was taken out in an airstrike, according to Londoño’s report. One man was taken into coalition custody.