Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2008, Marine Neil Dunstan and Marine Robert McKibben from the UK Landing Force Command Support Group were killed in an explosion in the Garmsir District of southern Helmand. They were operating as part of Task Force Helmand’s Information Exploitation Group, taking part in a routine joint patrol with soldiers from the Afghan National Security Forces.
Marine Dunstan held honours degrees in French and Tourism, had travelled the world, was a keen mountaineer, and was recognized as having huge potential in his career. He worked in close defence of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent, serving with the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines. He succeeded in selection for the Brigade Patrol Troop where he fulfilled his goals of becoming a reconnaissance soldier and a trained military parachutist.
Major Chris Haw MC said: “The BRF has lost a good friend and brother today. Marine Neil Dunstan was a very bright and capable man whose positive but laid back attitude to life was an example to us all. He was hugely popular amongst what is a very close knit organisation and he was a father figure amongst the Marines. His humour and modesty was reflected in all that he did and these qualities made him an outstanding character within the squadron. He loved his work and relished every opportunity to be in the field as a soldier where he was in his element. He made rapid progress during his short career in the Royal Marines and had been selected for promotion and the Mountain Leaders’ Course that he had aspired to for some time. I know that he would have made an excellent commander and Mountain Leader and the Royal Marines, especially the Brigade Reconnaissance Force, will feel his loss hard.”
Neil, from Bournemouth, was 32 years old and engaged to be married.
Marine McKibben, who held an honours degree in Environmental Science, had joined the Royal Marines at the age of twenty-seven. He is remembered as being full of life with an amazing sense of humour. He passed Recce Troop selection, joining 42 Commando’s Recce Troop and passed the arduous Recce Operators’ course with flying colours. He served in Afghanistan on Op Herrick 5, and hoped to fulfill his long-term ambition of becoming a member of UK Special Forces.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew J. McInerney said: “Marine Robert Joseph McKibben was a larger than life character, with an easy smile and quick wit. He was an immensely capable man, yet his humility made him an example and inspiration to all he served with. A true Commando; tough, unassuming and hugely convivial, he viewed life as a glass half-full. Marine McKibben had an indomitable sense of humour in the face of any adversity. Regardless of the task or conditions his can do attitude helped him and others overcome every test they encountered. His recent performance on the Special Forces aptitude course was clear testament to his motivation, ability and potential. An operationally experienced soldier, he died serving his unit and comrades in a role he relished. Marine McKibben was a key personality within our tight-knit unit of professional specialists; he was held dear by his colleagues and leaves a great void with his passing.”
Robert, from County Mayo in Ireland, was 32 years old.