The President of the United States visited the Pentagon yesterday to attend and speak at the Memorial Service for the victims of 9/11. Security was tight, but after a solemn service and a rather uneventful day, I departed work for home via the 5th corridor entrance. As I passed the 9/11 Memorial Chapel, which sits precisely at the point of impact for American Airlines Flight 77, I paused to reflect on what this place must have looked like 11 years ago and was thankful for how it looked now and the fact that nothing untoward had transpired on this 9/11 anniversary in our great country.

When I woke up this morning, I was deeply saddened by the news of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya yesterday. Although I didn’t know how it happened, I did know that the United States had lost a great American, an accomplished diplomat and a courageous man. In my last job at U.S. SIXTH Fleet Headquarters, I served as Operations Officer for the Libya Campaign. I will never forget some of the “movers and shakers” that made things happen during Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector. Three names in particular always come to mind: LTC Brian Linville, U.S. Army, Assistant Defense Attaché in Libya; Brigadier General Abdel Salam al-Hasi, a key member of the Libyan Opposition Forces who repeatedly risked his life during the campaign, and Chris Stevens, who as Special Envoy to the Libyan Trans-National Council was one of the first Americans on the ground.

All three of these men are heroes, but I will only pay homage to one of them today–Ambassador Chris Stevens. Chris and his small team of diplomats and volunteers from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) entered Benghazi not long after U.S. and NATO airpower had pushed Regime Forces out of the city and further south to the cities of Brega and Ajdabiya. It was then still a very dangerous and uncertain environment.

One of our roles in Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn was to provide a means to get Chris and his team out if they ran into trouble. There were several possible courses of action (COA) and means at our disposal. Each one carried with it associated risks. It was our job at JTF HQ to minimize those risks. For my part, I believed we were overlooking one big factor in our planning: A personal interaction with the guy we were going to have to extract. So, I arranged a phone call with Chris. There was a lot I wanted to discuss, but I knew he had his hands full. I just wanted to tell him one thing: “Chris, if you need us, the Navy and Marine Corps have got your back!”

It was a great conversation, much longer than I had anticipated. Chris was a wellspring of knowledge about what was going on. He was direct, candid and incredibly informed. When I hung up, I told VADM Harry Harris, then the Sixth Fleet Commander–”Boss, Chris Stevens is one phenomenal guy. Now I know why State sent him!”

Since no American military boots were allowed on the ground in Libya during the operation and since we were just massing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets, we were starved for real time eyes-on-the-ground information about what was happening in the Transnational Council, in Benghazi and in the rest of the country. Chris was a virtual encyclopedia. I was struck by his upbeat tone and tenor and his calm and cool demeanor. He was under a lot of pressure and challenging deadlines to show American support for the Libyan people, provide an avenue and method for delivery of humanitarian supplies and establish a sound relationship with the Trans National Council. The odds were against his mission, but Chris was full of enthusiasm and hope for the Libyan people’s right to self-determination.

As number two man at our Embassy in Tripoli before the campaign, he was plugged in. He knew the turf and the terrain. He understood the people, the demographics and the tribal politics. He knew the importance of humanitarian aid and that speed mattered — being the first responder to the needs of the Libyan people was going to pay big dividends during the campaign. He helped clear up a number of important questions for us about conditions on the ground and how we might better do our job and carry out our charter inherent in the United Nations Security Council Resolution. Chris gave me better situational awareness than any of the intelligence reports I received and in the final analysis, I was buoyed by his spirit, hope and enthusiasm.

He made me want to work just a little bit harder. He made me want to be better at my job.

Finally, I was struck by how he went out of his way to thank the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for doing so much to plan for his safety and that of his team. Thankfully, we never had to execute those plans. Chris completed his mission and his mandate. The Libyan Campaign came to a close and the Libyan people earned the right to govern themselves. Free and fair elections took place a few months ago and moderates won the majority in government. Earlier this year, Chris was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador and returned to Libya. His selection was a “no brainer” to me, and I thought to myself, that guy is going to make a difference.

Now, he is dead… killed in the very city he helped set free. I regret that I never had the chance to meet him in person or shake his hand.

Ambassador Chris Stevens is the epitome of what Admiral Mike Mullen used to call “expeditionary government.” After 9/11, everything changed and although sending our military forces overseas was necessary, it was by no means sufficient. Along with those forces, on the front line and in the trenches, are members of so many other federal agencies–the ultimate force multiplier. Like Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines, our State Department and other agencies are operating by our side on the tip of the spear and assuming similar risks. My hat is off to these men and women who sacrifice much for their country.

In the case of Ambassador Stevens, he made the ultimate sacrifice. I salute him. The next time I see someone from the Department of State, I will say, “Thank you for YOUR service!” I hope you will do the same.

James G. Foggo

RDML, USN

 




Posted by RDML James Foggo in Foreign Policy, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Naval Institute, Navy, Tactics


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  • Frank Ch. Eigler

    “The next time I see someone from the Department of State, I will say, “Thank you for YOUR service!” ”

    No question many of them do great work. Others apologize for American free speech — one could do with less of their service.

  • http://cimsec.org Scott C-P

    Sir,

    An excellent tribute. Thank you for sharing. It’s no wonder the enemies of Libya were so afraid of what such a capable American and his team could accomplish for the country. As you say, our partners at State and other federal agencies often show an incredible amount of bravery by traveling to the same front lines as we do, and frequently unarmed. We would do well to remember their sacrifices as well.

    V/r,
    Scott Cheney-Peters

  • http://usni.org James Foggo

    Thanks Scott and Frank. AMB Stevens was one of those people who appear once in a lifetime. He gave it his all for a cause he truly believed in–a nation’s right to self determination. He is an inspiration to all of us! Regards, JGF

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    Admiral,

    Well said. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    V/r
    Lucien

  • http://tobeortodo.com J. Scott Shipman

    Admiral,

    Thank you for taking the time to share a glimpse of this great man.

    VBR,

    JSS

  • Bill Riddle

    Thank you, sir, for putting a man behind the name. And quite a man it would seem. He will be missed.

  • LCDR William E Higgins Jr

    Thank you for your words and your continued service Jamie.. I knew the measure of your character when we met in July 1977, and one of my best years at the Naval Academy was the one we shared a room with Mark McCormick. He would be proud of you also, for sharing the reflections..

  • http://usni.org James Foggo

    Billie,

    Thanks my friend and classmate!! And thanks for getting me through Plebe year. You are one of the smartest guys on the planet! Appreciate the nice comments on our late great classmate Mark McCormick too! ’81 Sir!! Best, Jamie

  • Jerry D. Parr, CAPT, JAGC,USN(ret.)

    In a time when every government action is attributed to political motives, it was inspiring to learn about one of the many public servants who do their best and give their “last measure of devotion” for our country. It appears that the Ambassador died putting America first. It is so sad that we hear far more about those who seem to place personal and party interest above their service to country. I only wish this loss and the loss of so many fine service men and women would inspire us to a better America; an America where we can value all Americans and respect their opinions even if they do not reflect our own.

  • Steve McDonald

    Thanks so much for this post. I was an undergraduate classmate and roommate of Chris’ at Cal Berkeley. Chris was an amazing man of the very highest integrity and character, and wanted to work in the Foreign service from the outset of his studies. I feel honored to have had him as a friend. Thank you for your kind words and efforts to protect Chris and our country’s interests. And thanks particularly to Capt Parr for his thoughtful comments. They embody the message Chris would want us to take away from this tragedy.

  • Tamir Waser

    Jamie – As I sit in Sarajevo, working at the Embassy on some of the same issues in Bosnia that we tackled together eight years ago in DC, I was not surprised to see your name attached to this moving tribute to Ambassador Stevens and the broader Foreign Service. You’ve always been committed to the concept of a national security team and you welcomed me into yours and helped me learn how much more effective our foreign policy is when the team is working together toward a common goal. I’ve never forgotten that lesson or your friendship and I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share these thoughts with others. – Tamir

  • Jerry D. Parr

    TO: Steve McDonald

    I wish that I could have known your friend, Chris. Knowing him must have enriched your life. I am sorry for your loss.

    Jerry

  • Jeff Funderburk

    The CISM website (above) has a good commentary on this situation. The people who serve in civilian uniforms face challenges and threats each day. We send our diplomats to dangerous places without benefit of air cover or automatic weapons, and they do admirable jobs. Their language is that of diplomacy, and perhaps “politically correct,” but one of grace, sometimes under fire. One of my friends from my Peace Corps days in Morocco who became a Foreign Service Officer was posted to Iraq in 2008 as a “senior advisor” for a year before he was assigned to Tunisia as ambassador, capping a 30 year career. He returned to the States this summer. I’d say he earned his pay.

  • http://usni.org James Foggo

    Tamir,

    Thank you for your note. Long time no see my friend and it is indeed sad and ironic that we are able to reconnect as a result of this tragic event. I am however glad that you are in such an important post at this critical time. So much accomplished in the Balkans to date and so much more yet to be done. I have every confidence that you will continue to make a difference as did AMB Stevens. Thank you for YOUR service!!

    v/r

    JGF

  • BJ Armstrong

    As we sat offshore in the Gulf of Sidra a little more than a year ago, aboard USS BATAAN, we briefed the status of the Americans in Benghazi on a daily basis. It’s always a challenge to motivate Sailors through the “groundhog day” at sea but telling the members of our Detachment of MH-60S mechs, techs, pilots and crewmen that we were there to backup our Shipmates from DoS who were boots on ground made it simple. Its what the Navy/Marine Corps team has done for centuries. I never expected to know the names of the men and women we were supporting, the operators rarely do until things go wrong, and it saddens me to find out in this way. Today I randomly ran into one of the Marines that we were deployed with for nearly a year at sea, while walking down the street. It was good to see him, and catch up for a moment and introduce each others families. But, even with wives and son standing there with us there was a part of me that wished we were still together at sea on the Barbary Coast where we could have executed the Benghazi plans. RIP to our Shipmates who served in Libya and gave the last full measure, fair winds and following seas…

  • Patty Moore

    Sir,

    What a moving tribute. After 31 years in the DOD it has never ceased to amaze me how underrated our embassy and consular “brethren’s” contributions are traditionally captured in our after action reports. We bring the full force of our American capabilities to our efforts around the world, and it is refreshing to see it captured here. Well Done. Fair Winds and Following Seas to our lost compatriates.

  • Chris Kiely

    The level of preparation and readiness during the Libyan operations is inspiring. It’s troubling that when the the Emergency Committee raised issues in August about consulate security, those concerns weren’t passed on to the folks who might need to conduct a dangerous NEO. Shouldn’t a Regional Liason Group have been informed of the concerns, so the Emergency Action Plan could have been revised?

    Sometime high caliber people like Ambassador Stevens will unavoidably end up in harms way. Sometimes there is no easy balance between preventive and reactive measures. But it seems like the standard, well-thought out planning processes set forth in documents like JP-3-68 weren’t followed by the State Department prior to this incident.

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