New security training and oversight after 2020 Manda Bay attack

Fleet Master Chief Jim Honea addresses sailors assigned to Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on Feb. 8, 2021.


All troops deploying to U.S. Africa Command now have to complete a 27-day security training course, officials said Thursday during a Pentagon briefing, as part of a response to the early 2020 al-Shabab attack on Naval Base Manda Bay, Kenya, which left three Americans dead.

The course is one of the recommendations to come out of the initial AFRICOM investigation and a subsequent, Army-led review of that investigation, the results of which were first released on Thursday.

The training “greatly exceeds the previous pre-deployment courses and focuses on providing the base-defense mindset and force-protection posture needed to operate in a hostile environment,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Roy Collins, the director of Air Force security forces, said Thursday.

Collins described it as “a robust, mission-focused rehearsal training course designed to close the gaps identified with collective training, team cohesion and leadership core skill training rehearsals, battle drills and mission preparation.”

The course, implemented in fall 2020, was one of the immediate responses after the initial investigation by AFRICOM.

During the attack, 30 to 40 al-Shabab militants overran the base’s airfield and nearby Camp Simba, where U.S. forces are housed.

The attack killed three Americans ― including one soldier and two Defense Department contractors ― and injured three more, while destroying seven aircraft, provoking a firefight and a daylong scramble to re-secure the base.

After reading the initial AFRICOM investigation in April 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for another, independent review, headed up by Army Gen. Paul Funk II, who leads Army Training and Doctrine Command.

The investigation and the review found that while no specific service member actions caused the Manda Bay attack or its casualties, the overall security posture at the base had been deeply inadequate.

“… certain senior officers contributed to the inadequate force protection posture at Manda Bay, and to some extent, allowed a climate of complacency and poor understanding of the threat,” Air Force Maj. Gen. John Wilcox, head Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and a member of the review team, told reporters.

Poor oversight and inadequate threat assessments were also at play. Part of that, the review found, had to do with the fact that Manda Bay, before 2016, was principally a training base, where U.S. forces went to work with Kenyan troops.

When it transitioned to a “counterterrorism support base,” said Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of AFRICOM, the security posture didn’t really change.

“In the end, though, while some individuals could and should have done better, the negligence of the individuals identified in their view, was not the cause of the losses suffered in the attack, although it may have made the airfield more vulnerable,” Wilcox said.

In addition to new training, the review recommended physical defense improvements ― including clearing vegetation around the airfield, which the al-Shabab fighters used for cover on their approach ― as well as more frequent leadership visits, security assessments, intelligence sharing and an increase in security forces assigned there.

The AP reported on Thursday that eight airmen, including junior enlisted and officers, were disciplined for their roles in the poor security posture at Manda Bay. The disciplinary actions ranged from loss of certification to written reprimands.

“Adverse actions have been taken, and decisions regarding performance evaluations, decorations, unfavorable information files, and control rosters were made,” Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, a service spokesman, said in a statement Thursday. “For the officers who were identified, regardless of the action taken, the findings of the investigation will be documented in their Officer Selection Record.”

Ryder declined to offer any details, citing privacy concerns.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT



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Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.