Members of No 5 RAF Force Protection Wing, working alongside the US Marine Corps (USMC), have spoken about quickly regaining control of Camp Bastion Airfield following an insurgent attack on Friday 14 September, killing 14 and capturing one of the enemy.
Fifteen heavily-armed insurgents dressed in US Army uniforms and armed with PKM general purpose machine guns, AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades broke through perimeter defences and initially targeted tower guards with heavy fire. Tragically two US Marines were killed.
Subsequently they attacked the USMC flight line, damaging infrastructure and AV-8B Harrier jump jets. The RAF Force Protection Wing based at Camp Bastion was quick to react, deploying forces throughout the camp, with 51 Squadron RAF Regiment pushing out onto the airfield and the RAF Police from the Bastion Security Squadron maintaining security around key installations throughout the camp.
The RAF Regiment gunners’ aim was to reclaim control of the airfield. Supported by a number of different direct fire weapons, and co-ordinating the assault with members of 2/10 Battalion US Marine Corps, they moved methodically across the airfield engaging in various fire fights as they dealt with pockets of resistance over a period of some four hours.
Flight Lieutenant Andy Beney was the Force Protection Wing’s battle captain located in the Operations Room during the incident.
Everyone responded decisively, situational awareness was quickly established, and we were quick to deploy the necessary assets in order to deal with the attack as effectively as possible.
Sergeant Al Bedford was the RAF Regiment incident controller in the Operations Room at the time of the attack. He said:
We were attacked from multiple firing points; however, we quickly co-ordinated ground troops and air assets to suppress the enemy and then utilised those assets to clear the airfield of any remaining insurgents. We also co-ordinated medical support to the gunners on the ground and ensured resupply was timely, allowing the lads to maintain their momentum.
Sergeant Roy ‘Doc’ Geddes was tactical commander of an RAF Regiment Flight consisting of 30 gunners on the airfield during the attack. He was himself injured during the assault, sustaining fragmentation injuries from a rocket-propelled grenade:
I was the Quick Reaction Force commander when we responded to the attack,” he said.
As I moved onto the airfield I could already see some Harriers on fire. We were soon engaged with the enemy who used small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades; however, my gunners were quick to react and returned fire, suppressing the enemy position.
After the initial fire fight, 51 Squadron regrouped. Commanded by Squadron Leader Kev McMurdo they then systematically moved through the airfield ensuring that they cleared all the surrounding buildings and hangars. Assaulting one insurgent position and clearing the Harrier parking area, any remaining insurgents were dealt with quickly and effectively.
Co-ordinated by the Force Protection Wing’s Tactical Air Control Party, UK Apache helicopters provided overwatch to the gunners on the ground, suppressing a number of insurgent positions.
The successful operation had secured the airfield by the early hours of the morning, quickly allowing normal operations to resume.
Sqn Ldr McMurdo, Officer Commanding 51 Squadron RAF Regiment, said:
The gunners did an outstanding job dealing with the insurgent threat. The squadron reacted swiftly and decisively which prevented the insurgents crossing the airfield. The incident was contained quickly allowing normal air operations to resume shortly after the attack.
Group Captain Jeff Portlock, Bastion Base Commander, said:
This was a significant attack on Bastion. The response of the RAF and USMC force protection personnel and firefighters was highly professional and courageous. Through their efforts insurgents were contained and the damage limited. Our thoughts are with the families of the two USMC personnel who died.
Bastion was quickly back to full operational capability and we continue to support ISAF operations on the ground throughout the region.