The Recent Libya Crisis – March 2013, The Marine Corps Gazette
This article on Marine Corps aviation during Operation Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector was published as a digital edition exclusive in the March 2013 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette.
The successful “BOLAR 34” Tactical Recovery of Aircraft Personnel (TRAP) mission conducted by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) on 21 March 2011 is the most publicized contribution of Marine aviation in the Libyan operation. News about the TRAP and interviews with the participants have been widely available, but none of the articles explained the origin of Operation Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector, how the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) came to be operating in the Mediterranean, or why the USMC is ideally suited for this type of crisis. Clearly a more holistic view of the TRAP operation was needed.
The Recent Libya Crisis was originally conceived with two goals in mind. First, it was originally intended for publication in the United States Marine Corps History Division’s in-house publication, Fortitudine. Second, it was to present a list of “lessons learned” that could be used as part of the Marine Corps’ Professional Military Education (PME) curriculum. As the article grew it broke through the space constraints of Fortitudine and was fortunate enough to find a home at the Marine Corps Gazette, the professional journal of the United States Marines.
This article was co-authored by USMC historian Thomas Baughn, Ph.D, who provided the initial framework for the project, editorial guidance, access to oral histories and contact information for key participants, and daily espressos. In the course of my research I interviewed Colonel Mark J. Dessens, commander of the 26th MEU during the Libya conflict, and Lt. Col. Chris Boniface, the commanding officer for VMM 266.