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From left to right: Col. James Doyle, Col. Robert McAleer, Maj. Gen. Harry Jenkins, Jeff Jennings all veterans of Operation Eastern Exit spoke to students at the Expeditionary Warfare School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico Oct. 30. The panel and presentation are part of the Case Method Project at Marine Corps University. Staff members from the project use historical operations and battles to teach decision making at all the courses conducted by the Marine Corps University.

Photo by J. Elise Van Pool

Operation Eastern Exit veterans speak at EWS

12 Nov 2015 | J. Elise Van Pool Marine Corps Base Quantico

Veterans from Operation Eastern Exit spoke with students at the Expeditionary Warfare School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico Oct. 30.

Retired Marines Maj. Gen. Harry Jenkins, Col. James Doyle, Col. Robert McAleer and Jeff Jennings, veterans of the operation were at EWS to speak about their experience as part of a decision forcing presentation about the noncombatant evocation of the American embassy in Mogadishu on January 5, 1991.

The students were presented with the deteriorating situation in Somalia in the closing months of 1990 and set against the back drop of the buildup for Operation Desert Shield. Knowing there was little taste for protracted evacuation operations and limited assets, the students were asked to develop courses of action on how they would conduct the operation.

After several students presented different courses of action, the group was told about how the operation was conducted. After pairing down the initial landing team to just two CH-53E Super Stallions carrying 51 Marines and nine Navy SEALs, security was established at the embassy. In total 281 diplomats and civilians from 30 countries, who had taken refuge at the American Embassy, were evacuated over the course of two days.

“What you know about ISR [intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance] didn’t exist,” said McAleer, who was the commanding officer of the landing team, discussing the difficultly the Marines had in even locating the American embassy in Mogadishu. “When you have so little intel (sic), it kind of simplifies the game.”

The operation took place against the back drop of the buildup for Desert storm. Doyle who was the senior commander of the operation, remarked about the tense political situation that Marines had to plan in. “You had this storm hanging over your head,” said Doyle. “It was an 800 pound gorilla on your back until execution.”

After traveling thousands of miles from the Persian Gulf, the Marines had to scrap earlier plans that would have put them in closure proximity to Mogadishu. Ambassador James K. Bishop reported the situation was rapidly deteriorating saying, “We can’t have another night like that.”

“Don’t worry about down the road. Go where you need to go,” said McAleer, in response to a student’s question about what types of contingencies were going through his mind at the time.

The presentation and panel are part of the Case Method Project at Marine Corps University. Staff members from the project use historical operations and battles to teach at all the courses conducted by MCU. The purpose of the case method presentation is to generate less doctrinal ways of thinking, said Bruce Gudmundsson, director of the Case Method project. “Students end up with a more sophisticated view.”

The project also hosts weekly case method club meetings at the Gray Research Center every Thursday at noon and 5 p.m.


Marine Corps Base Quantico