The United States Africa Command has awarded three Kenya Defence Forces service personnel for heroic actions at Manda base attack.
They were awarded the Joint Service Commendation medals.
The US AFRICOM Director of Operations Maj Gen Gregory Anderson awarded Col Daniel Rotich, Maj Martin Muthaura and Corporal Peter Shikuri for their swift response in countering al-Shabab that had attacked Camp Simba in Lamu.
The camp hosts both KDF and the US military.
The January 5, 2020, attack described as complex left three Americans dead and a KDF officer injured.
Three other US personnel attached to the Department of Defence were also wounded.
Col Rotich, as the Deputy Commander of Operation Fagia Msitu at the time, was recognised for his technical acumen of coordinating air to ground support throughout the lethal engagement with the militia.
He was responsible for the McDonnel Douglas 500 Defender helicopter mini-gun engagements that changed the momentum of the firefight between US and KDF against the terrorists.
“Colonel Rotich’s superior leadership, technical and tactical abilities, coupled with his dedication to duty and selfless service were critical in the defeat of a platoon size element of the terrorists,” his citation read in part.
Maj Muthaura, as the Alpha Company Commander of the Kenya Ranger Regiment, received the award for his ability to assemble a platoon-size element of his troops and providing one squad to support the US forces at the airfield.
He took another squad to the jungle that surrounded the airbase and assaulted the terrorists without concern of his own personal welfare, to successfully clear the perimeter of all enemy forces.
“Major Muthaura’s superior leadership, courage under fire and dedication to duty were critical in the defeat of the terrorists who attacked the airfield at Manda,” the report reads.
Corporal Shikuri was awarded for his dedication to duty and determination to prevail against the enemy.
His efforts were critical in the defeat of the terrorists having demonstrated incredible initiative and bravery during the assault on the terrorists even after being wounded
Maj Gen Anderson thanked the three warriors for their, team work, value and confidence which were instrumental in fighting the militia during the attack.
“You kept yourself on the frontline to protect others and save your nation. This is indeed commendable and we thank you for your courage and bravery,” Anderson said.
This came as an investigations found poor leadership, inadequate training and a “culture of complacency” among US forces undermined efforts to fend off the attack.
Two military reviews of the attack say there were failures across the board at the Manda Bay air base, where senior military leaders said there was a “deeply rooted culture of a false sense of security.”
Army Gen Stephen Townsend, head of US AFRICOM, which did the first review, said while the actions of no one person caused the attack or the casualties, the reviews concluded that security, intelligence, training and command failures contributed to the losses.
Air Force Maj Gen Tom Wilcox, who was part of the team that did the second review, said that “none of the negligence that we found contributed to the primary cause of the loss of life or damage,”
“However, we did find that they potentially contributed to the outcome, to vulnerabilities on the airfield.”
Defence officials said that a number of Air Force personnel were reviewed for possible disciplinary action and as a result, eight have received some form of administrative punishment, including written reprimands and loss of certification.
The Manda Bay base was overrun by 30 to 40 attackers marking al-Shabab’s first attack against US forces in Kenya.
The pre-dawn assault triggered a lengthy firefight and daylong struggle for US and Kenyan forces to search and secure the base.
The initial investigation into the attack was completed a year ago by US AFRICOM, but last April, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a new, independent review led by General Paul Funk, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The new report largely mirrors the findings in the initial investigation but expands its scope.
Both are sharply critical of the inadequate security, training and oversight at the base.
Austin has accepted the reports and their findings.
The base at Manda Bay has been used for years by the US military, but it only became a full-time airfield in 2016, with increased personnel, aircraft and operations.
According to the reviews, the military there never adjusted security to account for the expanded use and was lulled by the fact the base hadn’t been attacked in 16 years.
The complacency, said the AFRICOM review, permeated every echelon and existed for several years.
The reviews criticised leadership at all levels, from the Air Force wing and security forces to special operations commanders and US AFRICOM.
They found there was an inadequate understanding of and focus on the threats in the region.
Source: The Star