At around 10 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed insurgents penetrated the perimeter of Camp Bastion, a base in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Slipping through a hole in the wire, heavily armed and outfitted in American military uniforms, they wreaked havoc across the northeast flight line, killing two American Marines, wounding nine others, destroying six AV-8B Harrier jets and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. One of the dead was the Harrier squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, who died using only his 9mm handgun against five insurgents…

Despite the widespread attention to the equipment damage and lost lives, there have been only a few stories describing the response to the attack by American Marines and British Royal Air Force troopers. And almost none of those accounts have mentioned that United States Airmen, including four members of a combat rescue team, including me, also ran toward the sound of the guns that night.

I was deployed to Bastion as the commander of the 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron. We flew casualty evacuation and personnel recovery missions on HH-60G Pave Hawks, known to many by the call sign Pedro…

…As the assault team began their attack on a small bunker, there was a large boom, followed by fully automatic gunfire. One of the Taliban had thrown a grenade, but it had bounced backward and blown up in his face. The lead British assaulter was knocked back by the concussion, then fired on full automatic, killing the insurgent inside.

Damaged Harrier shade structures at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

As I ran out from behind the generator, keeping my rifle trained on a dark blob at the rear of the bunker, something didn’t feel right. I looked back in time to see a muzzle flash and a bullet tear into a nearby barrier. I swerved back clumsily to the generator as another team hit the bunker again and finished off the insurgent hidden there.

We continued clearing the complex. Ammunition ignited by the fires was exploding everywhere. The situation was ripe for fratricide. As I cleared around one corner, shouting “Friendly!” I found myself staring down the barrel of a British trooper’s weapon. Inside one office, drawers were pulled open, papers strewn everywhere; the Taliban had ransacked the building before holing up in the bunker…

Major Matthew Komatsu has published a gripping account of the infamous Camp Bastion attack, where numerous insurgents, disguised as ISAF forces, breached the perimeter of the camp, killed two Marines and caused millions of dollars in damage to planes and other equipment. The Major and some of the PJs under his command were on the ground and the among the first to respond. Continue reading this must-read story over on NY Times. -BK

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