Sunday, October 7, 2012

Remembering a battle leader

Readers will doubtless recall the Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan on the night of 14th September, which destroyed several US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft and killed two members of VMA-211, the squadron that operated them:  Lt-Col. Christopher K. Raible, the unit's Commanding Officer, and Sergeant Bradley Atwell.  It seems both men died heroically, Lt-Col. Raible leading a counter-attack against the enemy and Sgt. Atwell following his commander into the fight.  The Washington Post reports:

Like most folks in the sprawling remote desert camp, Raible, 40, a Marine fighter pilot, faced two choices: seek cover or run toward the sound of gunfire.

“The difference between me and some people is that when they hear gunfire, they run. When I hear gunfire, I run to it,” the squadron commander had often told his Marines, half in jest, recalled Maj. Greer Chambless, who was with Raible on the night of the attack.

That evening, Raible did just that. Armed only with a handgun, he embarked on a course that cost him his life and probably averted even more devastating losses, witnesses and comrades said.

. . .

Shortly after 10 p.m., as he did most nights, Raible headed to his living quarters to call his wife and three children in Yuma, Ariz.

. . .

When it became clear Bastion was under attack, Raible threw on body armor and jumped in a vehicle with Chambless. Because his rifle was not nearby, the commander charged into the combat zone armed only with a handgun. The two men exchanged nary a word during the short drive as they scanned the landscape for insurgents. When they got to the flight line, Raible dashed into a maintenance room and began barking out orders to the Marines who would soon push the assailants back.

Backed by a handful of men, he ran toward another building to check whether the troops there were safe. Along the way, Raible and his men were attacked. He and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27, of Kokomo, Ind., died of wounds from an explosion, said Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a military spokesman. Chambless was devastated but not particularly surprised.

“It was very fitting that he was killed leading his men from the front,” the major said.

The men Raible led out of the maintenance building fought back, pushing one team of five assailants into a remote area of the airfield, where they were killed in an airstrike.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Lt-Col. Raible has left us an example of combat leadership that many would do well to emulate.  Second Line Of Defense has republished his 'command guidance' to members of his unit.  Here's an excerpt.

From: Commanding Officer, Marine Attack Squadron 211

To: Squadron Attack Pilots


1. Professional hunger.

My goal is to identify those Officers who want to be professional attack pilots and dedicate the resources required to build them into the flight leaders and instructors that are required for the long-term health of our community. This is not a socialist organization. We will not all be equal in terms of quals and flight hours. Some will advance faster than others, and because this is not a union, your rate of advancement will have nothing to do with seniority. Your rate of advancement will instead be determined by your hunger, professionalism, work ethic, and performance.

If flying jets and supporting Marines is your passion and your profession, you are in the right squadron.

If these things are viewed simply as your job, please understand that I must invest for the future in others. Your time in a gun squadron might be limited, so it is up to you to make the most of the opportunities that are presented.

Again, more at the link - and well worth reading.

Speaking as a combat veteran, he sounds like the kind of officer one would willingly follow (as Sgt. Atwell did) into almost any situation.  There are never enough like that - more's the pity.  I'm sorry the US Marine Corps has lost his future leadership potential.  Given the pathetic, politically-correct examples being set by some of their officers, they needed him badly!

(In that context, I highly recommend an article titled 'End The Zero-Defects Mentality' in the US Naval Institute 'Proceedings' magazine of July 1998.  The author cites former USMC Commandant General Charles C. Krulak's views on leadership.  I suspect the General and Lt-Col. Raible would have understood (and approved of) each other . . . )

May Lt-Col. Raible and Sgt. Atwell rest in peace;  and may their example be not only remembered, but applied.



Old NFO said...

Concur with all, I'd have followed him, no question!

Anonymous said...

98.7% of the reason my son is leaving the ARMY. He was penalized for being a go getter in a unit that was made up of "turd"-birds. Made the mistake of being honest where honesty is not appreciated.

I met his first shirt.... very unimpressive, but this guys liver was capable of amazing feats!!