Photo credit © Royal Air Force

It was a warm early Fall evening at Dover AFC as a C-17, Globemaster III, landed carrying four American sons.

Two Army and two Marines, united in death having given everything they had to support and defend our Constitution. All four were lost in Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan.

The “dignified transfer” from the aircraft to the AF vehicle had no music it wasn’t that kind of event.  This was a dignified military operation on American soil to begin their final journey home. The transfer began somber and respectful, with the only noise being the airfield noises of busy base.

The military members carrying the remains in flag draped metallic caskets down the aircraft ramp and the others who were assisting were all in their services Army, Air Force and Marines respective battle camouflage uniforms.  This made their crisp white gloves stand out.

“Otis” LtCol Christopher K. Raible

“Otis” LtCol Christopher K. Raible

As family and close loved ones arrived to be seated, fellow Marine Aviators many more than a platoon size unit formed into ranks, along with Army personnel and two RAF Officers. The briefing by an Air Force Lt. was to not give the parade ground snappy salute but rather render a slow hand salute to a three count beat.

So over forty Marine Officers all Naval Aviators, along with the Army and RAF personnel were given the command four times–  hand salute!– one, —two, — three as the flag draped  casket of Pfc Genaro Bedoy, United States Army from  Armarillo, Texas was carried off the C-17, –three count lower the salute  one-two-three  repeat for Pfc Jon R. Townsend, United State Army from Claremore, Okla and again for the Commanding Officer  of VMA-211, call sign “Otis” LtCol Christopher K. Raible United States Marine Corps from North Huntingdon, Pa, and then Sgt Bradley W. Atwell, United States Marine Corps, from Kokomo, Ind.

The ranks of the Marines on active duty were all wearing Navy Wings of Gold, and significant additional ribbons for valor and campaigns. It is very obvious that that those present were in a military at war for over ten years.

Across the C-17 ramp face on to the platoon of Marines, Army and RAF were three Marine Officers also Naval Aviators.  They were the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, James Amos, who is an F/A-18 pilot call sign “Tamer”, LtGen Robert Schmidle, an F/A-18 pilot call sign “Rooster”, and LtGen. Jon “Dog” Davis an AV-8 Harrier Driver. The Skipper of VMA-211, along with the other fallen were deserving of their presence.

The “fog of war” is still cloudy on exactly what occurred at Camp Bastion Afghanistan on the night of August 14, 2012 but so far this is what is known.

The attack commenced just after 10 p.m. when approximately 15 insurgents executed a well-coordinated attack against the airfield on Camp Bastion. The insurgents, organized into three teams, penetrated at one point of the perimeter fence.

The insurgents appeared to be well equipped, trained and rehearsed.

Dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, the insurgents attacked coalition fixed and rotary wing aircraft parked on the flight line, aircraft hangars and other buildings.

Six Coalition AV-8B Harrier jets were destroyed and two were significantly damaged. Three coalition refueling stations were also destroyed. Six soft-skin aircraft hangars were damaged to some degree.

Coalition forces engaged the insurgents, killing 14 and wounding one who was taken into custody. In addition to the two coalition service members that were killed, nine coalition personnel – eight military and one civilian contractor – were wounded in the attack. None of their injuries are considered life-threatening.

The close quarter fighting on the ground yet again validates a fundamental point of the ethos of the United States Marine Corps; first and foremost every Marine is trained to be a rifleman before going on to any additional specialty training. 

So when “Otis” as a young Marine Officer walked out on the flight line at VT-1 the Navy/Marine primary training squadron to take his first flight which would eventually lead to commanding VMA-211 he was already a trained infantry officer. Additionally, he also had total confidence that the troops he commanded were trained in ground combat first before going on to fill his Squadron requirements, for maintenance, logistics and admin billets.

The destruction of an enemy force “inside the wire” of death loving fanatical killers is a tribute to Marine training that always practices and understanding the skills necessary to be part of or support the infantry.  All Marine aviators know they serve in a support function to enable Marines to close with engage and kill the enemy.

A smart reactive enemy also knows Marine Air in Afghanistan is a huge asymmetric threat to them.

So they targeted at the cost of their lives the biggest combat threat to them the AV-8 Harrier.

The cycle time of the VSTOL Harrier providing close air support had to be noticed and thus eliminated.

The attack also showed in a high intensity spasm of combat significant inventory loss can occur. Many in Washington DC making decisions about inventory ignore rapid combat loss at the peril of crippling our National Security.

VMA-211 was at Wake Island in the opening days of WWII and all the Squadron aircraft were lost.

Without aircraft the Marine pilots and enlisted squadron members reverted to the infantry to defend against the final Japanese attack. In Afghanistan that legacy lived on but this time the enemy all were killed or one captured.

Ed Timperlake is former Commanding Officer VMFA-321

And this was published by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

An Irwin native who commanded a Marine Harrier jet squadron was one of two Marines killed in Friday’s bold Taliban attack on a NATO base in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Christopher “Otis” Raible, 40, leader of Marine Attack Squadron 211 based in Arizona, died in the assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, which the Taliban announced was launched to kill Britain’s Prince Harry, an Apache helicopter pilot stationed there.

The Department of Defense on Monday confirmed Lt. Col. Raible’s death and that of another Marine, Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27, of Kokomo, Ind.

Belvina Raible, Lt. Col. Raible’s mother in Irwin, could not be reached Monday.

One Marine colleague posted a goodbye on a military service academy forum, saying Lt. Col. Raible was a “true professional” and a dedicated warrior.

“I will be there at Arlington to pay my respects the day you are finally laid to rest,” he wrote.

The details of how Lt. Col. Raible died aren’t clear.

Late Friday, 15 heavily armed insurgents dressed in U.S. Army uniforms split into three teams and stormed British-operated Camp Bastion, which is connected to an American-run base known as Camp Leatherneck.

The Taliban fighters penetrated the perimeter and attacked the shared airbase, destroying six Marine AV-8B Harrier jump-jets and damaging two others. It was the worst loss of U.S. military aircraft since the Vietnam War.

The Taliban also damaged some hangars and destroyed three refueling stations.

Nine coalition personnel were wounded in the attack. Coalition forces killed 14 of the insurgents and took one captive after wounding him.

Raised in Irwin, Lt. Col. Raible attended Norwin High School, where he excelled at academics and played football.

He graduated in 1990 in the top 10 percent of his class of 520. The school board planned to read a statement of sympathy at Monday night’s board meeting, saying that the district “recognizes Lt. Col. Raible’s courage, bravery and devotion to duty as an American patriot.”

After high school, Lt. Col. Raible attended Kent State University and transferred to Carnegie Mellon, graduating in 1995 with a civil engineering degree.

Rather than enter the workforce, he joined the Marines to become a pilot, training in Florida, Mississippi and Texas.

After qualifying in the Harrier AV-8B in September 1999, Lt. Col. Raible was assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 223 in Cherry Point, N.C., and later participated in Operation Enduring Freedom aboard the USS Bataan.

In 2005, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq.

From July 2006 to August 2009, Lt. Col. Raible served as an instructor pilot at Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 in Yuma, Ariz., and deployed several times to Japan and Iraq.

He was later promoted to commander of Marine Attack Squadron 211 based in Yuma, where he left behind his wife, Donella, and their three children, ages 11, 9 and 2.

Lt. Col. Raible had flown more than 2,000 hours in the Harrier AV-8B and won several medals and campaign awards.

And this is from the Yuma Sun:

The commanding officer of the VMA-211 attack squadron and a sergeant in Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 were the two locally based Marines killed last week during an insurgent attack on a southwestern Afghanistan base.

The Department of Defense announced Monday that Lt. Col. Christopher “Otis” K. Raible and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell died in the attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The attack on the flight line also destroyed six Harriers, heavily damaged two more, destroyed three refueling stations and damaged six hangars.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command press desk confirmed that VMA-211 is the only Marine Corps Harrier squadron currently in Afghanistan. “Avengers,” as squadron members are nicknamed, had been deployed since April.

“The deaths of Lt. Col. Chris ‘Otis’ Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell are a stark reminder of the selfless service and extraordinary sacrifices made by our Marines and sailors and their families each and every day,” said Brig. Gen. Steven W. Busby, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and loved ones of those brave Marines. We will honor their memories and continue to support our Marines and sailors still in the fight and their loved ones here at home.”

Capt. Staci Reidinger, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, said it’s been a solemn time at the base.

Memorial services are still pending, and it’s unknown at this time if they will be open to the public.

The fighting flared when a group of insurgents breached the perimeter fence at Camp Bastion at about 10 p.m. (Afghanistan time) Friday and attacked the flight line with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide bomb vests, according to ISAF. Coalition forces killed 14 of the 15 insurgents, who were reportedly wearing U.S. Army uniforms, and wounded and captured the remaining enemy combatants.

Eight coalition military members and one civilian contractor were also wounded. Their injuries were reported as non-life-threatening.

Raible, 40, of Huntingdon, Pa., had been in the Marine Corps for 17 years. Atwell, 27, of Kokomo, Ind., was an electrical systems technician. He had been in the Marine Corps for nearly seven years.

Raible commissioned in the Marine Corps after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 1995 with a degree in civil engineering, according to his military biography. He had more than 2,000 hours in the Harrier AV-8B and had previously deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Air Medal-Strike/Flight (numeral 10), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (second award), Air Medal-Individual Action, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal (second award), and NATO Service Medal-International Security Assistance Force.

Atwell’s awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (second award), Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and NATO Service Medal-International Security Assistance Force.

Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered flags flown at half-staff through next Tuesday.

“I ask that my fellow Arizonans join me today in offering heartfelt prayers and deepest condolences for the families and friends of Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Atwell. Please also continue to pray for the men and women in our Armed Forces as they fight to protect our nation and defend our freedom.”

First Published on 24/9/2012 on SLD Info