CMC Announces Decision in Bastion Attack Investigation: News Release
Read Camp Bastion Attack Investigation Documents
USCENTCOM Bastion Attack Investigation: CMC Memo for the Record
CENTCOM 15-6 Executive Summary
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos is recommending to the Secretary of the Navy that two commanding generals be relieved of their duties as a result of the September 2012 insurgent attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
Upon Amos’ request, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, III, conducted a thorough investigation into the incident and both agreed that Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant did not take the necessary steps to ensure force protection, resulting in the Sept. 14-15, attack.
The attack, which had been planned by insurgents since 2011, took the lives of Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell. It also resulted in the injury of eight others and the destruction of six AV-8B Harrier jets, costing roughly $24 million each.
Gurganus, the commanding general of Regional Command Southwest and I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and Sturdevant, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, were both operating in a coalition environment, with the Bastion Airfield under the command of British forces. The command and control structure was later considered sub-optimal by Austin, and this greatly inhibited Gurganus’ ability to create a unified and integrated defense for the Bastion-Leather-Shorabak Complex.
In addition, Regional Command Southwest had experienced significant drawdowns under Gurganus’ command. Their numbers were reduced from 17,000 to 7,400 over a period of six months. Gurganus’ request for additional forces were turned down. Yet Gurganus’ area of responsibility spanned roughly 36,000 square miles and included 196 combat outposts and forward operating bases within 19 districts.
However, Amos noted that the drawdown of forces was no excuse for the lack of security for the base as well as the underestimation of outside enemy forces.
“Whether it be 17,000 or 7,400, the commander still has the inherent responsibility to provide force protection for his or her forces,” Amos said. “It’s in our doctrine; it’s in our Marine Corps Warfighting publication … So, regardless of where you are in a drawdown, you’re required to balance protection versus force projection.”
Amos noted that Gurganus and Sturdevant neglected to fully prepare for the various types of threats they might face in Helmand and Nimroz province.
“The clear focus of the effort and their intelligence drove them to believe the threat was internal,” Amos said. “They focused their efforts primarily on those areas, not so much on the area of the intrusion from the outside in.”
But on Sept. 14, the 15 insurgents who attacked the airfield came from outside the perimeter — a perimeter the U.S. CENTCOM investigation later showed painfully vulnerable to outside attack.
In his remarks, Amos noted that he does not expect his commanders to always make perfect decisions, especially when in a combat zone. However, Amos pointed out that the attack on Camp Bastion was an example of a complete lack of judgment on the part of both generals.
Amos wrote in the memorandum for the investigation, “The fog of war, the uncertain risks of combat, and the actions of a determined foe do not relieve a commander of the responsibility for decisions that a reasonable, prudent commander of the same grade and experience would have made under similar circumstances.”
Although Gurganus and Sturdevant have both had long and successful careers in the Corps, Amos has asked both to retire. Additionally, the lieutenant general promotion for Gurganus, currently awaiting senate approval, will be rescinded.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve had to make as commandant of the Marine Corps,” Amos said. “I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, but Mark Gurganus and Greg Sturdevant were close personal friends of mine. I served with them for decades. They’re extraordinary Marine officers who have served their country with distinction and honor for many years. But commandership is a sacred responsibility and the standard for general officers is necessarily high. In their duty to protect our forces these two generals did not meet that standard.”
Col Jim McGinty USMCR (Ret)
145 days ago
A rifle company of the 5th Marines ran into an extremly well planned NVA L-shaped ambush and took an extreme casualties befor the encounter end. The Regimental commander who later rose to Major General was informed by the Battalion commander that the company commander would be relieved .
The Regimental commander flew to the scene a few days after the fight , talked with surviving NCO's ,and walked the ground.His thought was not to judge the company commander until he put himself in his shoes. He concluded that despite all the proper movement /tactical procedures employed -which he himself would have employed , the results would have been the same . The Company commander was not relieved.
I hope , and trust , General Austin visited the scene , "walked the ground" soon after this incident and put himself in the shoes of the General Officers in command- and concluded he would have taken different defensive measures. If that was the case as a part of this investigation , then no one should second guess the Commandant's decision.
151 days ago
I'm from 3rd BN 5th MAR. With 25 KIA and over 200 WIA as we did the push through Sangin Afghanistan 2010-2011. I and the rest of the Marines I have served with know that COMPLACENCY KILLS and we always follow 5-3-5. We are all trained Leaders that don't settle for anything less. Safety is always paramount. That is why we have ORM's set in place for everything we do. For everything from PT to Combat. Never forget the Basics.
153 days ago
It seems to me, that when navigating in a violent world, it will always be inherent, and at the very least, prudent to a fault; to be prepared for the worse, no matter the perception of safety present. Tough times....call for tough decisions! General Amos....TYVM!
LtCol stan smith
153 days ago
A brave necessary decision by CMC, but why weren't our commanders put on high alert the minute the ghastly utube "Innocence of Muslims" was released? And why was the CMC allowed only one week in country by SOS during a prior reconnaissance there? He complained of only being allowed a "one-week liberty card" as reported here in the U-T, yet he's the ultimate CINC, as least as far as Marines are concerned! Lets do a genuine investigation of that too!
CWO D. Pedraza
154 days ago
As a CI professional, I read this story with great interest because of the implications this tragedy has on a key component of counterintelligence functions resident within command and managed by a unit's intelligence officer, those functions namely being to counter the threat from terrorism, espionage, sabotage, and subversion. Accordingly, while unfortunate, this personal, professional, and operational tragedy will, hopefully, raise the counterintelligence (CI) awareness of commanders writ large. My professional hope is that this sobering lesson will empower our CI professionals to boldly assess the threat environment and make the appropriate recommendations that will help protect the friendly force accordingly. In the end, force protection is a command responsibility that cannot be delegated, however, how a command is postured and adapts itself against the internal and external threat must be duly informed by the unit intelligence officer and his special staff officer, the CI/HUMINT Officer/SNCO. When all key staff are actively engaged and applying the due diligence to "reduce uncertainty" and "protect the friendly force" in accordiance with the two primary objectives of Marine Corps intelligence then no one will judge commanders that truly leveraged every resource at their disposal to mitigate a threat and implement appropriate countermeasures. Where that is not the case there will surely be adverse judgment as appears to have been the case in these circumstances. It is a sad lesson that apparently has ended the career of two very fine General Officers with distinguished careers. Even more tragic is the loss of some of our national treasure, that being the individual warfighters (young servicemen or woman) that fell victim to vulnerabilities exploited by a saavy adversary who have nothing but time to wargame how to overcome even the most strident force protection measures.
156 days ago
Hats off to the commandant this was a very tough decision and Semper Fidelis
157 days ago
This is total crap. General Sturdevant didn't blow this. The Brits were responsible for airfield security. General Sturdevant is a respected and admired leader by all ranks. Furthermore, read the GQ article on the attack to get an account of how his Marines executed an extraordinary a response to the attack to inckude executing CAS within tbe airfield confines as the Brits were still trying to get their "defense" organized. Unreal political response to destroy a great man. Sad day for the Marine Corps. MGen Sturdevant is the finest GO I've worked for.