The Inside Story of The Evacuation of The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan
The news has been covering yet another collapse of a country into civil war over the last couple of weeks. This time it is the third largest country in Africa, that is, Sudan. The capital city of Khartoum is the main point of the conflict, and it has created a massive humanitarian crisis, with many nations organizing means of every kind to get their own nationals out of harm’s way.
In the midst of the chaos that this conflict has brought about, there was a very intimate and very important mission being carried out by the 11 U.S. Marine embassy security guards in the U.S. Embassy compound. As you know, a U.S. special forces operation was conducted by SEAL Team Six and the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group on April 23, 2023, that evacuated about 100 of the U.S. Embassy personnel from Khartoum to Djibouti. What you may not know about is the important role that the Marine security guard unit at the embassy did to make it all possible. This is not unusual. What they did is precisely what they were trained to do at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, Marine Security Guard School.
A recent Marine Corps Times article quoted Christopher Maier, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, speaking about the events that took place recently in Khartoum: “Our Marines who protect many of our embassies overseas do not often get the credit they deserve. Their courage under duress represents America at its best, again, in this instance.” The following is what the Marine security guard team did during the last 48 hours before the special operations mission took place in order to prepare the embassy staff and the embassy itself.
When shooting started on April 15, Staff Sgt. Derek Ferrari, who is the detachment commander at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, was just leaving his residence less than a kilometer away from the embassy. He rushed to the embassy, got his Marines together, and began preparations for a potential evacuation scenario.
The conditions grew worse with the damage that was done to the major international airport. There was also an attack on a U.S. diplomatic convoy in the city of Khartoum. According the the Marine Corps Times article, it became clear to Ambassador John Bass that military help would be needed.
Ferrari’s Marine security guards got to work. They began shredding or burning documents and undertook efforts to gather up embassy personnel who were not in the U.S. Embassy compound or who were stranded outside of the compound at the time. Another one of the duties that Marine security guards must do in such situations is to make sure the embassy is clear right before the evacuation takes place. All of this must be done under the ongoing and deteriorating wartime conditions all around the city. One of the last things they do is to work with embassy staff to weld doors shut.
According to Sgt. Alonzo Longstreet, interviewed by the Marine Corps Times, “All the Marines, we took care of each other that entire time. All of us made sure we had a sense of humor…It was a full-team effort.” The Marine security guard detachment at the embassy slept about three hours a night during the preparation time before the evacuation took place.
The special operation took place on the 23rd. According to Ferrari, the helicopter flight out of Khartoum landed in Ethiopia, where the Marines then got on a C-17 and were flown to Germany and finally to the U.S. The Khartoum Embassy Marine security guards are now back at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, where they are being debriefed by military and State Department officials.
Cpl. Marvin McCaskill is quoted in the Marine Corps Times article as saying, “Within the context of what happened, we kept level heads. There was no panic. There was no worry. We did what we had to do.”
This Marine Corps security guard team at the embassy in Khartoum gave us a great example of the quality of character and training that make Marine security guards the best at what they do. Bravo Zulu, Marines! Semper Fi!Whizzco