Maj. Robb McDonald will receive the Silver Star on Monday for his actions last year during the deadly attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. (Marine Corps)
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A highly decorated Marine Corps officer will receive the nation’s third-highest combat valor award next week for his role repelling the deadly 2012 attack inside a coalition airfield in southwestern Afghanistan.
Maj. Robb McDonald will be presented a Silver Star during a ceremony Monday at Camp Pendleton, Calif., according to a Marine Corps news release. He was the executive officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, an AV-8B Harrier unit based in Yuma, Ariz., when 15 insurgents infiltrated Camp Bastion on Sept. 14, 2012. Two Marines were killed in the attack, including the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, and six aircraft were destroyed.
McDonald took charge after Raible was mortally wounded, and risked his life to lead several groups of Marines away from an aluminum maintenance building that could have become a death trap had the troops remained there, according to his award citation. He later shot and killed one of the attackers, and directed two helicopter strikes that killed several others, the citation says.
British forces have principal oversight of Camp Bastion, which abuts Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps’ biggest base in Helmand province. Dozens of jets and helicopters operate from there.
Just one of the 15 insurgents survived the Marines’ massive response to the assault. Beyond the two Marine fatalities, 16 U.S. and British troops were wounded, and another eight aircraft sustained damage.
McDonald’s leadership and tactical expertise prevented additional coalition casualties and further destruction of the base and other aircraft, his citation says.
McDonald, now the air officer at Camp Pendleton’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, has an impressive résumé. A prior-enlisted Marine, he spent several years in the reconnaissance community before earning his commission and becoming a Harrier pilot.
He flew combat missions in Iraq and later joined the Marine Corps’ special operations community, according to a bio provided by the Marine Corps. Between 2007 and 2010, McDonald deployed to Afghanistan three times as part of Marine special operations teams. He served in various capacities, including as a joint tactical air controller.
McDonald has flown more than 400 hours in combat, according to his bio, and as a JTAC he has orchestrated more than 150 close-air support missions.
He has two Bronze Stars with “V” device, a Purple Heart and eight Air Medals.