Courtesy of DefenseMediaNetwork.com
On Sept. 14, 2012, around 10 PM, a Taliban insurgent force of sappers attacked the NATO ISAF base, Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan. The attack resulted in the worst loss of US airpower in a single incident since the Vietnam War.
Two Marines, including VMA-211’s commanding officer, were killed in the attack, and nine other personnel were reportedly wounded. It took approximately 5 hours before securing the base, which case during that time six US Marine Corps (USMC) AV-8B+ Harrier “jump jets” had been destroyed, and two more “significantly” damaged. Three refueling points were destroyed, and six “soft-skinned” aircraft hangers were damaged. As a result of this attack, the air strength of Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211 – “The Avengers”) presumably 10 aircraft, was almost completely destroyed.
20 Taliban fighters approached the perimeter, disguised in Army uniforms. One of the Taliban used his explosive suicide vest to blow a hole in the perimeter fence, which reportedly allowed three five-man sapper squads into the secured areas of the base. Armed with AK-47s, RPG-7s and explosive suicide vests, the Taliban fighters flooded into the US area known as Camp Barber.
As they began to attack the flightline areas, the RAF security force began to react within just 12 minutes, when they established an MQ-9 Reaper UAV orbit over the camp. This was followed by the launch of a British Apache helicopter that immediately engaged the insurgents, killing several. The British ground security force began to fight its way toward Camp Barber over the main runway, reportedly expending around 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the process.
Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, USMC, commander of Marine Aircraft Wing Three (Forward), has announced that replacements for the lost aircraft and personnel will be “brought forward,” suggesting VMA-211 will be reconstituted in place.
While VMA-211’s executive officer, Maj. John Havener, USMC, has been named the interim squadron commander, it is possible another Harrier squadron will be deployed and the Avengers returned to their home base at MCAS Yuma. Prince Harry appears to have been one of the targets of the Taliban attack and was taken to a “safe area” of the base and given extra security.
Fourteen of the 15 insurgent sappers were killed, along with two of their support force outside the fence. One insurgent was wounded and captured, and is providing useful information on this latest “Green on Blue” Taliban attack. The Allied casualties, however, are proving heartbreaking. Killed during the attack were Lt. Col. Christopher “Otis” K. Raible, USMC (the commander of VMA-211) and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell (from Marine Air Logistics Squadron 13), both based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Ariz.