In the early morning hours of Sept. 27, Marine F-35Bs carried out the jet’s first ever combat strikes against fixed targets in Afghanistan.
Later that afternoon, photos of the historic feat published to the Defense Department’s imagery website displayed the name of a squadron commander on one of the F-35Bs, who was killed in an infamous attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in September 2012.
Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s name appeared near the canopy of an F-35B prepping for the strike on the deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Essex. Often it’s a current pilot in the squadron whose name is on the plane.
Raible, the former commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, or VMFA 211, was killed on Sept. 14, 2012, when roughly 15 Taliban militants stormed the sprawling Camp Bastion military base.
At the time, Bastion housed thousands of Marines and British troops and military aircraft operating in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters armed with machine guns, suicide vests and RPGs breached the highly secured compound and attacked the flight line where Marine Corps Harriers sat on the deck.
Raible, armed only with a pistol, spearheaded a counterattack against the militants and was eventually killed when an RPG exploded nearby.
Six Harriers were destroyed in the onslaught and a second Marine, Sgt. Bradley Atwell, also was killed in the attack.
Raible was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions in fighting of the Taliban attack.
Task & Purpose first reported Raible’s name inscribed on the F-35B.
Thursday’s F-35B attack was also carried out by Raible’s former unit, VMFA 211, which is currently embarked with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit operating in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.