US Marine lieutenant colonel killed leading counter-attack armed only with a pistol…
At least two fighting men assigned to the Royal Air Force’s ground combat element in Afghanistan, the No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment, are under investigation by the higher-ups 3,500 miles from the battlefield over a video purportedly showing yet-to-be identified members of the Regiment giving a hearty thumbs-up after dispatching Taliban/al-Qaeda insurgents to the next life. The event occurred during the vicious and bloody Battle of Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province fought the night of Sept. 14, 2012.
As published by both The Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland) and BBC, the British government considers the taking of so-called “trophy photos” with dead enemy strictly verboten. The recently surfaced video has thus raised concerns at RAF headquarters in High Wycombe, England, which will investigate whether there was “mistreatment of deceased enemy personnel” by any of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
Guilty until proven…
An unnamed spokesman for the RAF stated that the service “had a ‘zero-tolerance policy on the mistreatment of deceased enemy personnel’, adding that the case was being treated ‘extremely seriously’ and the focus of an RAF Police investigation.” The former Commanding Officer of British Forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, has already determined that “there appeared to have been a ‘clear breach’ of policy.”
In addition, Joanne Mariner, Director of Law and Policy for Amnesty International, cites Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the “disrespectful and degrading treatment of the bodies of dead combatants.” Mariner added:
There must be a thorough and impartial investigation into this incident. It is encouraging to learn that the UK military has instigated one.
The battle itself…
While the investigators at RAF HQ in Buckinghamshire enjoy hot tea and clean uniforms, thousands of British, Commonwealth, and American troops are still fighting and dying in the dirt of Afghanistan. As the last remaining British base in Helmand, Camp Bastion was the site of an insurgent attack in 2012 by nineteen heavily armed and well-trained terrorists disguised in US Army uniforms who made their way past perimeter security forces consisting of an infantry contingent from the Pacific island nation of Tonga.
While the BBC devoted a singular and antiseptic sentence to what happened on the night of the battle, the Belfast Telegraph did mention that members of 51 Squadron, US Marine support personnel (mainly mechanics, re-fuelers, cooks and administrative troops), and contract civilian security defeated the terrorists after a four-hour battle.
The insurgents attacked aircraft hangars with an eye toward killing as many of the highly-trained Marine ground crewmen as possible and also to destroy the feared Marine Corps Harrier jump jets stationed at Bastion. Also in the sights of the terrorists were the handful of re-fueling pits and their crews near the hangars.
The Washington Post wrote in a 2012 article that US Marines Lt. Col. Christopher K. Raible, Commanding Officer, Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211), and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, lead mechanic, VMA-211, were killed in action during the battle. Both were KIA as a rocket propelled grenade exploded above them.
Every Marine an infantryman…
Perhaps channeling the spirit of Major Paul Putnam, who was the Commanding Officer of VMF-211 during the heroic stand made by Marines at the Battle of Wake Island during World War II, Lt. Colonel Raible was also a fighter jock (aviator) turned ground pounder (infantryman) who proved the old adage that every Marine is an Infantryman. Armed only with his service pistol, Colonel Raible was killed while leading his ad hoc infantrymen, including Sgt. Atwell, in assaulting the attacking terrorists.
Overall, eighteen Americans and British were wounded, while 6 Harriers were completely destroyed, 2 heavily damaged.