One under-reported event in the last few weeks was the attack on the US Marine air base, Camp Bastion, Afghanistan on September 20. The fullest story about this event can be found at the Defense Media Network. They note that this was the worst air disaster for the US Marine Corps since the Tet Offensive in 1968, and that this is the first time this Marine unit, VMA-211, has been rendered combat ineffective since the attack on Wake Island in 1941:
Eight irreplaceable aircraft (the AV-8B has been out of production since 1999) have been destroyed or put out of action – approximately 7 percent of the total flying USMC Harrier fleet. Worse yet, the aircraft involved were the AV-B+ variant equipped with the APG-65 radar and AAQ-28 Litening II targeting pods – the most capable in the force. Given the current funding situation, it’s likely that the two damaged AV-8Bs will become spare parts “hangar queens” and never fly again. A Harrier squadron commander is dead, along with another Marine. Another nine personnel have been wounded, and the nearby Marines at Camp Freedom are now without effective fixed-wing air support.
Essentially, what happened was that 15 sappers–Taliban rebels dressed in US military uniforms–succeeded in infiltrating the base and attacked the aircraft on the flight line. The commanding officer of VMA-211, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, led the counter attack. According to the Washington Post:
When it became clear Bastion was under attack, Raible threw on body armor and jumped in a vehicle with [Maj. Greer] Chambless. Because his rifle was not nearby, the commander charged into the combat zone armed only with a handgun … When they got to the flight line, 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 …
The men Raible led out of the maintenance building fought back, pushing one team of five assailants into a remote area of the airfield, where they were killed in an airstrike …
Nine of the remaining assailants were killed in the following hours, and one was wounded.
Here are photos of the two men who were killed. Barack Obama shrugged off the events of the last few weeks as merely a “bump in the road”. Do these men look like bumps in the road to you?
(Photos via Cry and Howl)