In a rare action, Gen. James F. Amos, the Marines' commandant, is recommending to the secretary of the Navy that Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant be relieved of their duties because of the deadly September 2012 insurgent attack on Camp Bastion, the Marines said in a release posted on their official website.
The request follows an investigation into the incident by the commander of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, which found Gurganus and Sturdevant did not take the necessary steps to ensure the troops stationed at the camp had adequate protection.
Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell were killed and eight other soldiers were wounded in the insurgents' Sept. 14-15, 2012, assault. The attackers also destroyed six AV-8B Harrier jets, worth about $24 million each.
Gurganus, commanding general of Regional Command Southwest and I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and Sturdevant, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, were operating in a coalition environment, with the Bastion Airfield under the command of British forces, the Marines said in the release.
The investigation noted the Marines forces had been drawn down from 17,000 to 7,400 during a six-month period, but Amos concluded the drawdown was no excuse for the lack of security for the base and the underestimation of enemy forces.
"Whether it be 17,000 or 7,400, the commander still has the inherent responsibility to provide force protection for his or her forces," Amos said. "It's in our doctrine; it's in our Marine Corps Warfighting publication. ... So, regardless of where you are in a drawdown, you're required to balance protection versus force projection."
Amos said the two generals failed to fully prepare for the various types of threats they might face in Helmand and Nimroz provinces.
"The clear focus of the effort and their intelligence drove them to believe the threat was internal," Amos said. "They focused their efforts primarily on those areas, not so much on the area of the intrusion from the outside in."
The U.S. CENTCOM investigation showed the camp's perimeter was left vulnerable to outside attack.
Amos said while he does not expect his commanders to always make perfect decisions, especially when in a combat zone, the attack on Camp Bastion was an example of a complete lack of judgment on the part of both generals, the release said.
"The fog of war, the uncertain risks of combat, and the actions of a determined foe do not relieve a commander of the responsibility for decisions that a reasonable, prudent commander of the same grade and experience would have made under similar circumstances," Amos wrote in a memorandum for the investigation.
Amos has asked Gurganus and Sturdevant to retire, and a promotion for Gurganus, now awaiting Senate approval, will be rescinded.
"This is the hardest decision I've had to make as commandant of the Marine Corps," Amos said. "I'm not asking you to feel sorry for me, but Mark Gurganus and Greg Sturdevant were close personal friends of mine. I served with them for decades. They're extraordinary Marine officers who have served their country with distinction and honor for many years. But commandership is a sacred responsibility and the standard for general officers is necessarily high. In their duty to protect our forces these two generals did not meet that standard."
The Washington Post said it is the first time since the Vietnam War that a general has been relieved of duty for negligence after a successful enemy attack.