By Barbara Starr
In an action unprecedented during 12 years of war in Afghanistan, the commandant of the Marine Corps is firing two top generals for failing to protect troops and their base in southern Afghanistan from a Taliban attack.
Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, has agreed to a finding that Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant "did not take adequate force protection measures" at Camp Bastion last year, the service said on Monday.
On September 14-15, 2012, Taliban fighters got through an unguarded part of a fence and engaged in a long running gun battle with U.S. and coalition forces.
Two Marines were killed and eight other personnel were wounded. Six aircraft were destroyed by the Taliban, the largest loss of Marine aircraft since the Vietnam War.
There were three investigations of the incident, two of which Gurganus ran, according to a Marine Corps official. But Amos then asked U.S. Central Command for an independent probe. Central Command recommended both generals leave the corps and Amos accepted it.
Amos has recommended to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus that Gurganus's promotion to lieutenant general, currently on hold in the Senate, be rescinded. He also recommended that Sturdevant receive a letter of censure from Mabus.
Both men have been told to submit their retirement letters.
In a statement, the Marines said Amos praised the generals for pursuing the U.S. combat goals, but "concluded that the commanders, in overseeing the camp's force-protection plan, did not exercise the level of judgment expected of general officers."
Amos made a subtle reference to the question of whether the Marines had enough manpower on hand." While I am mindful of the degree of difficulty the Marines in Afghanistan faced in accomplishing a demanding combat mission with a rapidly declining force, my duty requires me to remain true to the timeless axioms relating to command responsibility and accountability," Amos wrote in endorsing the investigation's findings. "Responsibility and accountability are the sacred tenets of commandership."
Amos found Gurganus "made an error in judgment when conducting his risk assessment of the enemy's capabilities and intentions."
He also found Sturdevant, who commanded the aviation unit, failed to protect the airfield properly.
The airfield was operated by British forces but Sturdevant remained responsible for using U.S. Marines who were assigned to protect personnel and aircraft.
Britain's Prince Harry was with his Apache helicopter crew at the time of the attack but was moved to a secure area, officials said at the time.