Ma­rine, sol­dier in Delta Force hon­ored for aid­ing Beng­hazi de­fense

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

In a unique bat­tle­field com­men­da­tion, a Ma­rine Corps mem­ber of Delta Force has been awarded the na­tion’s sec­ond­high­est mil­i­tary honor for com­ing to the de­fense of Amer­i­cans last year at a CIA an­nex in Beng­hazi, Libya.

Delta Force, a coun­tert­er­ror­ism unit in the se­cre­tive Joint Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand, has been thought of as a strictly Army out­fit. But it does take on qual­i­fied com­man­dos from other ser­vices.

The Wash­ing­ton Times has re­ported that two Delta Force mem­bers were among a seven-per­son res­cue team sent from the U.S. Em­bassy in Tripoli to Beng­hazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Their mis­sion: res­cue diplo­mats, se­cu­rity per­son­nel and CIA em­ploy­ees pinned down by ter­ror­ists about a mile from the U.S. diplo­matic mis­sion where Am­bas­sador J. Christo­pher Stevens and aide Sean Smith were killed by al Qaeda-di­rected mil­i­tants.

The Times can now re­port that one of the Delta Force mem­bers was an Army sol­dier and the other a Ma­rine.

The sol­dier was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Cross, and the Ma­rine re­ceived the Navy Cross for hero­ism.

The bestowal of the awards was done in se­cret. The medals rank just be­low the na­tion’s high­est mil­i­tary award, the Medal of Honor.

The Navy pro­vided a state­ment to The Times:

“Yes, a Navy Cross was ap­proved, but due to se­cu­rity and pri­vacy con­cerns no fur­ther in­for­ma­tion can be pro­vided at this time. It is not un­usual for cer­tain awards not to be pub­li­cized, and de­tails of the cir­cum­stances and ac­tions that jus­ti­fied the award to be with­held. Per [Depart­ment of De­fense] reg­u­la­tions, this in­for­ma­tion will not be re­leased if it could po­ten­tially lead to a com­pro­mise of na­tional se­cu­rity, or po­ten­tially cre­ate un­due risk to the se­cu­rity and pri­vacy of the awardee and his/her fam­ily.”

Spe­cial op­er­a­tions sources said they know of no other Ma­rine earn­ing such a high honor as a Delta Force mem­ber. Awards to Delta Force, which op­er­ates in the shad­ows and some­times with great au­ton­omy, are usu­ally kept clas­si­fied.

The fact that Delta Force fought to save lives at the an­nex has never been dis­closed pub­licly by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion or at open con­gres­sional hear­ings, and was not in­cluded in the State Depart­ment’s of­fi­cial re­port on the at­tacks on the diplo­matic mis­sion and the an­nex.

To crit­ics, Delta’s pres­ence and its abil­ity to land in Beng­hazi showed that Wash­ing­ton could have pro­vided com­man­dos to help the pinned-down sur­vivors dur­ing the eight-hour or­deal. Help could have come from an emer­gency spe­cial forces unit train­ing across the Mediter­ranean Sea in Croa­tia, they say.

Then-De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta told Congress that time, dis­tance and a lack of sit­u­a­tional aware­ness pre­vented send­ing help.

The Times pre­vi­ously re­ported that Delta troops were part of a clas­si­fied unit that hunts wanted ter­ror­ists on for­eign soil.

The Tripoli em­bassy’s res­cue team faced a daunt­ing task. First, the em­bassy had to find an air­plane be­cause the plane as­signed to it had been taken away by the State Depart­ment.

The State Depart­ment also pulled a mil­i­tary site se­cu­rity team and civil­ian diplo­matic se­cu­rity of­fi­cers de­spite warn­ings from U.S. per­son­nel in Wash­ing­ton that Beng­hazi was be­com­ing a war zone and in­creas­ingly un­safe.

The Delta Force mem­bers and se­cu­rity of­fi­cers ar­rived in Beng­hazi around 1 a.m. Sept. 12, 2012. But it took hours to or­ga­nize a con­voy amid the chaos of mil­i­tants and sup­pos­edly friendly mili­tia. They were not able to reach the an­nex un­til 5 a.m.

There, the team joined in the an­nex’s de­fense, when three mor­tar rounds hit, killing two for­mer Navy SEALs who were CIA se­cu­rity of­fi­cers. It is be­lieved the Delta troops moved those men and a wounded State Depart­ment se­cu­rity of­fi­cer off an an­nex roof. The 30 or so Amer­i­cans were evacuated by con­voy to the Beng­hazi air­port.

Delta Force has a rel­a­tively new pool from which to draw Ma­rine can­di­dates. In 2005, then-De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld or­dered the Corps to es­tab­lish its first com­mando com­mand, now called U.S. Ma­rine Corps Forces Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand at Camp Le­je­une, N.C.

Its web­site de­scribes its mis­sion as “con­duct­ing for­eign in­ter­nal de­fense, spe­cial re­con­nais­sance and di­rect ac­tion.”

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