A brazen assault by 15 insurgents on Camp Bastion, a fortified coalition base in Afghanistan last September left two US Marines dead and more than 12 aircraft destroyed or damaged. In the wake of the attack, several investigations were conducted to find out how security could have been breached and what factors allowed the attack to happen. The results of the investigations however did not adequately address issues of responsibility.
The Commandant of the US Marine Corps, General James Amos requested that CENTCOM, the parent command for Middle Eastern operations, conduct a more thorough review of the Camp Bastion incident, with specific focus on determining accountability.
The finding revealed that Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus, then commander of Regional Command Southwest in Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, then commander of the Marines’ aviation wing in the region, underestimated the enemy and should have been prepared for a range of attacks as opposed to their focus on ones coming from inside the perimeter.
|[L] Maj.Gen. Mark Gurganus, [R] Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant|
The highly organised and bold assault took the coalition by surprise however, as the insurgents cut through a fence at night and crept toward the flight line. They targeted aircraft and what they believed to be a living area for troops. They completely destroyed six $24m AV-8B Harrier jets, severely damaging two others and six more assorted aircraft. More than 100 coalition troops responded, triggering a furious counterattack that lasted at least four hours. Marine Sgt. Bradley Atwell and Harrier squadron commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible [who charged at the insurgents armed only with his sidearm] lost their lives in the attack.
Gen. Amos said the two commanders did not take adequate security measures or exercise the high level of judgment expected of general officers. “In their duty to protect their forces these two generals did not meet that standard,” he said. The Commandant formally requested the resignations of both Maj. Generals Gurganus and Sturdevant. Additionally recommended that Gurganus’ already announced nomination to the rank of lieutenant general be rescinded and that Sturdevant receive a letter of censure from the secretary of the Navy, a rarity during war. Amos said it was the “hardest decision I have had to make as commandant of the Marine Corps” and that he had served with both men in combat, calling them “extraordinary Marine officers.”
Some of the flag officers in the other services haven't been doing so well either this month. Two weeks ago Navy Vice Admiral Timothy Giardina deputy commander of US Strategic Command which oversees everything from America's land-based nuclear missiles to space operations governing military satellites, was relieved of command. He became subject of an NCIS investigation after being accused of using counterfeit gambling chips in "a significant monetary amount" at an Iowa casino. Giardina's loss of assignment means he automatically reverted to a 2-star rear admiral.
|[L] Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, [R] Vice Admiral Tim Giardina|
At the same time the Air Force announced that Maj. Gen. Michael Carey had been relieved of command of the 20th Air Force which is responsible for three wings of intercontinental ballistic missiles - a total of 450 missiles at three bases across the country. The measure was taken in response to an investigation into alleged personal misbehavior.
Last Friday, Stars and Stripes revealed that Army Brig. Gen. Bryan Wampler, commander of the 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, currently deployed in Kuwait was “temporarily suspended” on Oct. 10th, pending the outcome of an investigation.
It was widely reported earlier in the year that due to the withdrawal of permanent forces in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon would require fewer general officers going forward. However it was assumed that natural retirement attrition would reduce the numbers in an organised and reasonable fashion; not something that looks almost suspiciously like a purge.
Sources: BBC / FOX News / Military Times / Stars and Stripes