SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 – Marines, Sailors, veterans and the Honorary Gold Star families gathered at Marine Air Station Yuma Open Air Museum to unveil and dedicate a retired AV-8B Harrier from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in recognition of the late Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell on August 19.
The aforementioned Marines gave their lives defending their brothers-in-arms, as well as the aircraft of VMFA-211, without regard for their own well-being during an insurgent attack against U.S. forces at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan on September 14, 2012.
“They were pilots and maintainers,” said the Master of Ceremonies for the event, Staff Sgt. Jessup Burton, “They were dressed in coveralls and flights suits. No body armor. No Kevlar [helmets]. Just rifles, pistols and the understanding that every Marine is a rifleman.”
On September 13, 2012, 15 Taliban insurgents arrived at a safe house outside of Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, with the objective of infiltrating the base and targeting military personnel and equipment. There, they procured weapons, ammunition, U.S. Army uniforms, radios and a sketched map of Camp Bastion. The following day they made their way near the eastern perimeter of Camp Bastion. At approximately 2200 local time, the insurgents penetrated the perimeter roughly 750 meters from the hangar of VMFA-211. Upon infiltrating Camp Bastion, the insurgents split into three teams and initiated their attack.
As the insurgents began their attack, Lt. Col. Raible, recalling his Marine Corps training, coordinated with his Marines to initiate a counterattack to minimize potential causalities. As a result of the ensuing battle, nine aircraft were damaged or destroyed, while five Marines were injured or killed. During the firefight, an enemy insurgent attempted to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at Raible and his Marines before being fatally wounded by Raible’s Marines. Consequently, the rocket-propelled grenade misfired overhead, ultimately taking the lives of Raible and Atwell. Raible’s initiative to conduct the counterattack, and the actions that followed, preserved VMFA-211 assets and saved lives of the Marines around him.
“They were dressed in coveralls and flights suits. No body armor. No Kevlar helmets. Just rifles, pistols and the understanding that every Marine is a rifleman.”: Staff Sgt. Jessup Burton, Master of Ceremonies for the event
The dedication ceremony included remarks from retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jon M. Davis, as well as Col. Benjamin K. Hutchins, commanding officer of MAG-13. Their remarks included introductions of the families of the fallen and wounded Marines, heartfelt retellings of the heroism they displayed, as well as the storied legacy of the AV-8B ceremonial aircraft that proceeded the attack at Camp Bastion.
“If you could look inside [the aircraft] you could actually see bullet holes and damage from where it took shrapnel that fateful night,” said Hutchins.
The AV-8B Harrier damaged at Camp Bastion was same the aircraft that was dedicated to the two courageous Marines that gave their lives defending it. This aircraft was repaired and remained in service immediately following the attack, and continued to provide surface and air support until its eventual decommissioning, emulating the resilience and fortitude of the Marine Corps. Moreover, this aircraft would go on to be one of the last AV-8B Harrier operationally flown on the West Coast as the Marine Corps continues to modernize fixed-wing platforms with the F-35 Lightning II. As the country commemorates the 20th anniversary of 9/11, 3rd MAW remember Marines like Raible and Atwell who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
3rd MAW continues to “Fix, Fly, and Fight” as the Marine Corps’ largest aircraft wing, and remains combat-ready, deployable on short notice, and lethal when called into action.
For questions regarding this release, please contact the 3rd MAW Communication Strategy and Operations Office at email@example.com.
By Cpl. Levi Voss | 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing