The first grenade exploded behind him when that evening he was driving along the runway at Camp Bastion to work. Dodging the gigantic fiery fire, the junior corporal of the US Marine Corps, Ethan Burke, casually sent his tractor directly to the ambush of the militants, and a lead hail immediately struck him.
“I saw flashes of shots around the corner of the warehouse and suddenly realized that all the bullets were flying into me. I felt a strong blow in my hand, but I thought that I just knocked about something. Jumped out of the tractor, ducked. When I reached for the rifle, they again started firing at me. At that moment, it became clear that they had a lot of trunks, too often, it was unlike a single Kalash.
Running along the concrete wall, Burke tried to pinpoint the positions of the Taliban in order to take the most advantageous position to fight. After a few moments, he found not only a good place. Moving over the same wall, a friend almost fell over his head - the younger corporal Kevin Sommers. Two fighters prepared for battle and began to wait for the enemy to bypass the wall and try to attack them. This did not happen.
“As soon as we realized that they were not going to chase us, we again jumped over the wall and evaluated the situation in front of it. At this point, the British appeared (51-I light armored squadron of ground defense of the Air Force. She defended the airfield of Bastion from the attack of the ground forces of the enemy) and helicopters that began to extinguish the militants with machine guns directly above our heads. We decided to stop the soldiers to describe the situation to them. They began to give them signals with lanterns and shout: “Marines! Marines! " The main guy in the RRF, after listening to our report and seeing the blood on my camouflage, ordered an urgent show of the wound to the doctors. After the X-ray, it turned out that two pieces of a bullet stuck in my hand, which the surgeons had to pick out, were stuck in my hand. After all this confusion, I was asked if I wanted to go home after being injured. I replied that I had just arrived, and why would I want to? ”
September 14 evening 2012 of the year. Base Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A group of 15 militants gathered at a designated location near the south-eastern section of the base’s perimeter, closest to the American Harrier AV-8 B attack aircraft. Pulling out of the caches weapon (AK-47, RPK and RPG) and means for blasting equipment, the militants dressed in American field uniforms and advanced along a dry stream bed to a predetermined area of the perimeter. In 10: 15, they made a pass in the wire fence and entered the base.
Running another 150 meters, they walked around the barrier wall in front of the runway. Directly in front of them, along a brightly lit runway, stood 10 tarpaulin hangars with “harriers”. The militants were divided into three subgroups of five people. One went along the outer side of the runway toward the hangars, the second toward the filling stations, and the third toward the helicopters.
Reaching the hangars, the militants from the top five secured on several IED aircraft, and several others were shot from an RPG. Six “harriers” along with the hangars were destroyed, two more were seriously damaged. The second subgroup ignited three gas stations. The third, fortunately, did not reach the helicopters. However, in half an hour they had inflicted material damage on 200 million dollars.
According to objective data (the Taliban, for sure, also knew about it), the hangars should have no more than a dozen people. But everything turned out to be much worse. At the noise and crash, escaped from nowhere, where did the arrows come from and did not let the saboteurs go farther than the attack aircraft. Those moved to passive defense and the search for ways of withdrawal. This decision determined their fate. First, a subgroup was destroyed by the fire of the guns of the combat helicopters of the marines when they attempted to leave the open area, several hours later the ground forces shot the second one. After some time, the third five was discovered near the runway. Four militants were destroyed by fire from a British helicopter. After five hours of combat, the 14 militants killed, one wounded and taken prisoner.
When, after 12 minutes, full-time quick reaction forces arrived at the scene, more than 100 officers and soldiers fought at the runway aviation Marine Corps from Yuma and Miramar Airbases and Pendleton Base. They were the “shooters” who stopped the Taliban.
... Actually, at first they thought that the mortar attack had begun. The officers on duty woke the day shift, took the people from the rest rooms and the gym. Organized by moving into concrete shelters, the aviators heard the “voices” of AK-47 and the PKK and realized that the enemy was at the gate.
Having abandoned their wrenches, they took up the rifles of aeromechanics and equipment of ground services. Pilots and navigators from the ground suggested colleagues who had risen into the air on targets and shot down ramp machine guns from Osprey convertiplanes in order to support the same militants with a “fire”. One of the subgroups of saboteurs smoked from the shelter and “grapes” were shot at all - the same way the refueling teams of the Marines aviation are called by the color of overalls. What to list - all fought.
Deprived of their “hounds” (Harrier), the 211 squadron also fought on the ground.
Wing Infantry Commander
“The difference between me and some other people is that at the sound of the shots they run away. When I hear shots, I run on them. ” So half in jest, the squadron commander often used to say to his subordinates.
... The first explosions in the parking of their airplanes were the “avengers” comedians (Avengers (eng.) Nicknamed the 211 squadron) from Yuma lieutenant colonel Christopher Otis. .
The Taliban were already operating in the hangars when Raibl raised the marines in the barracks. Then he put on a bulletproof vest and, together with the pilot Major Greer Chambbles and electrical engineer Sergeant Bradley Etwell of the 13 squadron of aerial supply, pulled the jeep off the runway. Having dismounted, they ran about a hundred meters under enemy fire to a group of marines stationed at the first hangar. Reible asked who would go further with him. Volunteers turned out to be more than necessary. He took eight and went "on fire" again. After a few moments, an RPG charge exploded over his head. Reibl died. At the time of the attack of another group, Etwell was killed. But the rest of the Marines managed to push the top five militants into the remote zone of the airfield, where they were destroyed by fire from helicopters.
In the 469-th shock squadron of light helicopters of the marines, at a signal "fire contact" ("troops in contact") "flying" marines ran out on the runway and began to prepare helicopters for combat sortie. "We usually respond to the challenges of other units in various war zones far from Bastion," recalled the comask and Cobra pilot Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Lightfoot, "this time the call came from our own squadron." The enemy targeted grenades at his Huey and Cobras, and the helicopters instantly flew into the air. There they were much more useful than the power of their fire, night vision devices and infrared sensors. "Out of the game, we became hunters."
In critical situations, US Marine Corps always prefer not to retreat, but to counterattack. It so happened. But here this feature was shown by clean rear men. The same corporal Burke is a specialist in working with hazardous materials, Sommers is a cooling systems technician. And others acted the same way. For example, a sergeant in charge of takeoff and landing noticed the Taliban marching to the cargo storage area and, under enemy fire, assumed command of a handful of similar techies. Those cheerfully broke into battle groups, and drove the militants away from valuable loot. According to him, "the marines sought to cover each other and not allow the Taliban to take our positions."
“The air wing is engaged in servicing aircraft and helicopters and supporting ground forces. But when the situation forces us, we can quickly move on to an attack on the ground. That is exactly what happened that evening. ” So later the commander of the USNS 3 th wing of the US Marine Corps in Afghanistan, Major General Gregg Stardivant, evaluated the actions of his subordinates.
Their exposure and training makes an impression. In preparing for the operation, the Taliban obviously knew very well that only technical personnel were in the American technology parks. But he was not counted on such a warm reception from him. Maybe the base command counted?
Is not a fact. Start with the fact that the settlement of American "mechanics-terminators" at the WFP in general could not be. At one time, pilots and aircraft wing technology, along with the rest of the marines, moved to Camp Lazernek. But the road to the airfield took them about an hour, and in 2011, a strong-willed decision was made to build a separate living area for them at the runway. As the events of September 14 showed, the flight and technical staff was provided not only with comfort, but also with shooting adventures.
It may seem that the regular security forces of the aerodrome were in secondary roles. This is not true. The marines only localized the threat, and the base guard - the very 51 squadron of the Royal Air Force did its job. The first group on two armored "coyotes" on arrival at the runway rushed into battle. The group commander, Sergeant Roy Geddis, was wounded, but he continued to lead his unit until the end. Soon, other groups of the British rapid reaction forces were brought up and, together with the marines from the second battalion of the 10 regiment of the US Marine Corps, cleared the zone of combat operations until the morning.
But reports of their actions are stingy, which indirectly confirms that those responsible for the security of the Bastion perimeter understand that they have miscalculated somewhere. But before proceeding to the objective and subjective reasons for this state of emergency, several guesses as to why Senator McCain called the raid on the Bastion, "perhaps the most ... little-known this year."
At first it was stated that a half dozen kamikazes did everything to "inflict maximum damage on a small group and demonstrate to the international community, residents of Helmand and Kandahar, that they are a force to be reckoned with." The commander of the South-West group, Major General of the United States Marine Corps, Mark Gerganis, confirms: "They came here ready to die." On the faces of the dead militants, the experts found traces of paint and suggested that they inhaled enamel from the cans, “in order to dull the senses and find determination in their suicidal mission.”
But no one says that the saboteurs were going to be killed only for American attack aircraft. Moreover, according to General Stardivant, “if they (the marines) didn’t do what they did, things could have been much worse.” So they had other plans? Do not speak. Even to McCain.
Here is General Gerganis reports on the preparation of the attack on the Bastion: “The planning took months. It was not a company of local eccentrics, who gathered in a heap and decided: "Come on, let's attack the Bastion." Clear. It is not clear how miraculously the "aliens" were at the perimeter fence of the base. Guess yourself - the guide on this issue does not scold either people or equipment. Everything else is about the same.
Experts unanimously call the raid on the Bastion "unusual." One professor of military affairs even stated: "If this is a skillful surprise, he cannot work twice." But this surprise worked! There was already such a raid. And not just like, but exactly like that. Judge for yourself.
22 May 2011, a group of Pakistani Taliban "unpacked" the Pakistani Navy base Mehran in Karachi. Months of preparation preceded the raid. Next - a few weeks of observing the object. And at the Bastion, the Afghan National Security Authority reported: “Once the breakout point was determined, the Taliban tracked all movements at the base for at least two more weeks.”
Next to the base of Mehran, a cache of weapons was also laid in advance — the same reliable AKs, PKK, RPGs and explosive weapons. The saboteurs found a blind zone in the control system, and the passage was made on a dark evening, making holes in the "thorn" in the perimeter. And in the bastion? A word to General Gerganis: “There were no suicide bombers or tunnel-digs there. Nippers for a steel wire and all. The fence was not equipped with an alarm. They very well used the terrain, and went to the site, completely unseen from most of the watchtowers, where they got the opportunity to break through. And they did it on a completely impenetrable night. ” One to one.
It is not at all strange to know that the attackers on Mehran were also 15 people. After the passage of the perimeter, they were equally divided into three fives and similarly attacked objects from three sides. The first target is the naval reconnaissance aircraft P3-C Orion. One was shot from grenade launchers, the second was destroyed in the hangar with subversive charges. Moving along the Mehran base, the saboteurs damaged the power supply system and plunged the base into darkness. In the Bastion, the Taliban "were hurricane fire on the watchtowers" and other technical facilities, too, probably hoping to hide in the dark. Even the episodes, when the fire brigades went to the set on fire before the protection of airfields and came under fire from saboteurs, are completely identical.
Why, then, speaking of Bastion, did they not remember a word about Mehran? You can try to guess.
Firstly, in this case, one would probably have to explain why they did not take into account the sad experience of their neighbors. Secondly, the general public, having read to the end history Mehrana, could have imagined on her own what would have happened if the advance of the Taliban in the Bastion had not been stopped by the cruel American marines.
The militants, according to the Mehran scenario, have crumbled expensive planes, seize several buildings from the runway and take hostages. Only such a plan explains the fact that far from all the participants in the raid on the Bastion were found by the death belt, and in the video about the training of militants, the faces of some of them were “smeared”. If the saboteurs were able to take hostages in Bastion, they would clearly not need suicide belts. It is curious that the leadership of the Taliban through the yellow press still sounded this part of the plan, but in a very peculiar way - they announced that Prince Harry was one of the targets of the raid. That evening he, the pilot of a combat helicopter, was really not very far away. But the reader understands that the prince cannot be caught by the dushman, and he perceives this story with his usual ease. Would it have been easy for the generals to respond to inquiries about the reality of the seizure of dozens of hostages and the death toll in the event of a militant breakthrough into the residential area? They do not go into details.
In Mekhran, two saboteurs managed to escape. In Bastion, one of the five, as we know, was destroyed while trying to retreat. Why do suicide bombers go? But there is a reason for the group that is clearly carrying out backup plans. See - defeated the base and returned alive. One can dream of such a blow in the information war. And you can try to apply.
British rapid reaction forces arrived in 12 minutes. What during this time can mess things up? In Mehran, the security forces arrived just as quickly, and the militants were already “home”. True, the cleaning operation there began at five in the morning. But there was nowhere to hurry - for some reason, the saboteurs were not engaged in hostages, and Pakistani special forces were taking people out of their nose. In Bastion, everything could be much worse - the organizers of the raid, for sure, were not going to repeat last year's mistakes.
In general, the soldiers rescued their generals. But not everything depends on them.
There is one objective reason to keep silent about the raid on the Bastion - Taliban "moles" in the Afghan security forces. Someone the next morning at close range filmed smoke over the Bastion for a Taliban TV channel. Someone laid a cache of weapons, brought the Taliban to the "dead zone" in the perimeter, drew plans for sites and a schedule of patrols. It is hard to believe that everyone made 15 "outsiders". Most likely, as in Mehran, helped "their".
As the Afghan proverb says: "Pashtuna cannot be bought, it can only be rented." Over the past year, more than 50 coalition soldiers have died from attacks by Afghan troops. After Bastion, the IFOR command issued an order to suspend joint operations with Afghan units of less than a battalion size and limit contacts with the local police. The Afghan units that lived in neighboring tents with the same marines were now isolated from the “brothers in arms”. Loss of trust is a terrible blow. However, in addition to the "moles" in Bastion, there were problems. I'll start with the objective.
"Hole in the fence"
After the raid on the Bastion, the SAS veteran bluntly stated: “The fact that they went through and caused such damage is an obvious mistake, and those responsible for the safety of the Bastion should be dismissed. This is the first. Secondly, the security system needs to be redone. ” The head of the base in Mehran after the raid went into the reserve. And his colleague in Bastion successfully served to replace. Maybe it's not his fault and nothing needs to be redone at the base?
I have been to Bastion. The last time - a year before the raid. I can responsibly declare: there are few places on earth where you feel more secure. A well-thought-out system of hundreds of various reinforced concrete and earth shelters, walls and bunkers makes it possible not only to hide from mines and shells in just seconds, but also to effectively defend oneself in the event of an enemy attack. However, it is difficult to imagine how you can get here at all. The main territory of the base is surrounded by a concrete wall (the so-called blast wall) - ten meters high, with rows of barbed wire on top, in front, behind and in general wherever possible. Plus - "full stuffing" from sensors, sensors, spotlights, etc., etc. Behind the wall every 90 meters are cyclopean watchtowers with machine guns. Expensive, but effective - they say that during the previous attacks, the Taliban physically could not break through the concrete walls of the Bastion.
But strangers here still passed. So there is a “hole in the fence”? As it turned out - there is. Moreover, she was always.
The objective problem of the Bastion is that, besides the fact that the base is actively used, it is also constantly expanding and being completed.
Now the perimeter of the Bastion is more than forty kilometers. In addition to the "residential" and training bastions in it, of course, concluded and the airfield. He is the main element of the base ... and its weak point. The first board on the first runway sat down an hour and a half after the end of its construction. The main transport artery was working hard, and there were no concrete walls - they already laid (to the east) (and in 2010, they put into operation) a second runway, more than 3,5 km in length. Now the airfield accepts cargo C-5, and passenger Boeing-747 used for the transport of troops and other types of super-heavy aircraft. Flight mode - 600 takeoffs and landings per day, and on its east side again build new platforms for technology. We need new infrastructure and living space. And the landscape in the east is more complicated, and by the time the Taliban were storming there were still areas with temporary barriers in the form of a chain-link net. On one of these sites and passed saboteurs.
But there is a striking in its obviousness miss. He could have been foreseen and avoided, and therefore he is subjective.
Once the British army purposely built the Bastion in a remote, isolated and uninhabited corner of the desert. But with the advent of the base here, a miracle happened - life began in the barren desert. The garrison of many thousands, among other things, exhausted extensive sewage from the Bastion. As you might guess, they merged them precisely to the south-east. One of the leaders of the base, still in 2010, spoke with affection about how a certain peasant appeared there, began to grow watermelons on the muddy waters and sell them to Afghans-workers at the base.
Further more. More than twenty thousand "refugees" rushed under the side of the Bastion, where they found salvation from the war and ... state programs for the destruction of opium plantations. As usual, after watermelons poppies zakolosilis here, and then the Taliban wound up. Here's how the situation was described by Lieutenant Mark Mensick, whose platoon patrolled the perimeter of the Bastion from the south:
“There are no authorities here, the land belongs to the first who comes to it. The Taliban move completely freely. When we are there, they try to surround us, make a disturbing fire, and then go south. When we are not there, they, of course, come back. ” Homemade mines his fighters picked out here every week.
And makovods act according to the principle: “you know less, sleep better”. Shortly before the raid on the Bastion, a local resident fought: "I have been living here for three years and have never seen the Taliban." What about the AK-47 casings scattered everywhere? "They are left from the Americans, except for them no one is here."
The imam of the local mosque (by the way, the countryman of Mullah Omar) turned out to be even “more honest”. Standing in front of the last year’s crop of opium poppy, he insisted that the villagers grow only wheat ...
As Mensik noted, “all they need here is to grow poppy seeds, get money for it and get away”. So, in order to attack the Bastion, the enemy absolutely did not need to sneak dozens of kilometers across the inhospitable landscape. He calmly sat out very close.
And that is not all. On the way from the village to the base, the villains would certainly have to excite motion sensors and infrared sensors, to attract the attention of patrols with dogs and without and all-seeing UAV cameras. After all, the same Bastion radars track the movement of people and mechanisms over a distance of more than 30 kilometers. Not aroused and not attracted.
Even when the perimeter was being built, in 2010, then the former zavbaza complained that the thorn erected during the day, some dark personalities were being scrapped at night. I assured you that when the security system is adjusted, they will not allow such disgrace. The story is fresh ... Shortly before 14 September, one of the Bastion's officers reported to his wife on the phone that a group of local residents had brazenly cut off and dragged a piece of the barrier from the perimeter. And the sentries on the towers were forbidden to shoot thieves in order to “not spoil relations with the local population” ...
In general, the local population wandered where they wanted and did what they wanted. It is easy to assume that the Taliban quite legally passed through roadblocks (they are in civilian clothes and without weapons!). After the raid, they, however, were asked to move away a little.
But all this was later. And that evening, other people's mistakes were again corrected with blood.