As Americans, especially those in military and intelligence circles, we have an obsession with giving everything a name or acronym. Everyone gets a label and category. I asked Matthew VanDyke what he was doing in the middle of the Libyan Civil War. Was he a mercenary, a private security contractor, or a foreign volunteer? His answer was straightforward and to the point: he was a freedom fighter.
While the Huffington Post and others mistakenly reported that he was a journalist, Matt will tell you that he was anything but. He was conducting a recon mission when he was captured by the Libyan military and imprisoned. Once freed, he joined back up with the rebels and manned the unwieldy Soviet DShK machine gun on a jeep that looked like something straight out of Mad Max, trading fire and getting into skirmishes with Gaddafi’s forces on the front lines of the war.
While the National Security Council was meeting in the situation room at the White House, no doubt dabbing beads of sweat from their collective brows with handkerchiefs, Matt crossed into Libya and went to work. Surviving the war, Matt returned to the United States and in the tradition of Ernest Hemingway, he brought back an amazing boots on the ground account of the Libyan Civil War.
It all started when Matt was contacted by an old friend named Muiz who he had met during a motorbike tour across Northern Africa, “If I die, please tell your friends about me. On the streets fighting…fighting with hands…but we have no guns…people dying for Libya.” Matt’s friends were taking up arms against Gaddafi’s forces. They were prepared to sacrifice their lives for freedom.
Matt believed in the cause as much as he believed in not standing aside while his friends and their families were killed off one by one. He started making phone calls to let his mother and his girlfriend know that he would soon be departing to Libya. With a Master’s Degree in Security Studies with a concentration in the Middle East from Georgetown, but zero military experience, Matt hit the ground running in Libya where he linked up with his old friends. His first day as a freedom fighter began with him working on repairing the gun truck that he and his Libyan buddies would use in the war.
I reached out to Matt to help us understand more about the Libyan Civil War.
Tactically, what did this war look like? Were there front lines, or more chaotic guerrilla hit and run type attacks? How did both rebel and government tactics evolve as the war dragged on over a period of months.