GQ magazine profiles attack on Camp Bastion, Marines who repelled it


Marines kneel beside a battlefield cross to pay final respects to Sgt. Bradley Atwell on Sept. 20. He died in the Sept. 14 attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. (Cpl. Mark Garcia / Marine Corps)

The deadly attack last year on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, has received widespread coverage, especially by Marine Corps Times. But it isn’t every day that a Marine operation makes the pages of a gentlemen’s magazine.

The newest GQ magazine profiles the Sept. 14, 2012, battle, sharing a number of details that square with previously published reports. It was written by Matthieu Aikins, whom I crossed paths with last October while embedded with Marines in Helmand province.

Aikins’ story is written colorfully, and includes one troubling new allegation that had not previously been reported:

But a troubling question still lingers: How could fifteen insurgents have penetrated a mammoth base like Camp Bastion, inflicting the largest loss of American aircraft in combat since Vietnam?

According to an American official familiar with the after-attack inquiry, there had been warning signs. The Marines and British had caught lone men crawling inside the wire on several occasions in the months leading up to the attack. But the Marine leadership in Helmand, led by Major General Charles M. Gurganus, was managing a drawdown in forces as the surge came to an end. And a month before the attack, says the official, the Marines cut their forces assigned to patrol outside the wire from 325 down to one hundred—forces that might have caught the attackers before they struck.

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos requested that U.S. Central Command to investigate the circumstances that led to the attack in May, some five months afterward. The cut in forces patrolling the base has previously been reported, but the military catching individual men attempting to crawl beneath the wire had not.

Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, the commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, and Sgt. Bradley Atwell were killed in the melee. At least four other Marines have received Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in the attack.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Pingback: GQ profiles attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan — OFFduty+

  2. I was stationed on Leatherneck in 2011 with II MEF as a riflemen. I can tell you that issues with security on this goes back before even when i was there. We got reports of Scrapers(people who collect scrap metal like brass) jumping the wire from the releaving units. Next if anyone walked the fence line they would have found several broken locations, wire that was only a double strand rather than a triple strand i could go on. There was an incident when a vehicle ran the friendship gate and not a shot was fired. I was a Sgt then and i have mentioned the issues then. What happened to this base is a result of the enemy taking advantage of the base’s complacency and arrogance.

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