Insider outrage: Maj. Phil Ambard, 44
'He had a chance to know who his assassin was'
Maj. Phil Ambard, 44
460th Space Communications Squadron,
Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.
Professor at the Air Force Academy,
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Killed April 27, 2011
The U.S. military didn’t call the shooting a “green-on-blue” or “insider” attack. On April 27, 2011, when Linda Ambard’s husband and eight other Americans were gunned down by an Afghan ally, the only label the military put on it was “anomaly.”
The Afghan who opened fire at the Kabul airport snapped, the military said, in what was an event too rare to be considered anything more than an isolated tragedy.
Then Linda watched over the next year and a half as increasingly more military wives became widows in the same way she did.
When she buried her husband, Air Force Maj. Phil Ambard, fewer than 30 Americans had been killed by Afghan partners since the beginning of the war. That number has nearly tripled today. Just this year alone, 52 Americans have been killed in insider attacks.
“Nothing changed with Phil’s death and that bothers me,” Linda said.
She still hasn’t heard a satisfactory answer to the question she asked in 2011: What is being done to ensure no one else loses his life the way her husband lost his?
“I’m speaking out and that’s not a comfortable thing for me to do,” Linda said. “I’ve always been a quiet, shy person my whole life. But I’m going to keep talking until it’s stopped.”
Phil, who was 44, had told her all about his relationship with the Afghan colonel who would later shoot him, saying he was a good guy. Phil thought they would make a difference together. The pair bonded by practicing their language skills with each other.
As an immigrant from Venezuela who taught himself English, Phil enlisted in the Air Force and then became an officer after gaining citizenship. That background made him cognizant of the people most others didn’t see and he made sure to reach out to them, Linda said. He knew what it was like to be an outsider.
“Phil was a person who got the importance of the personal relationship,” she said. “But it didn’t matter; [the Afghan] shot him anyway. He shot [Phil] more times than anyone else in that room that day.”
The morning when the shooting began at the Afghan Command and Control Center where Phil worked, “he had a chance to know who his assassin was.” He didn’t die in a faceless attack during battle. It was personal.
“If you trust somebody, go to lunch with them, talk about your families, and then that person is looking at you, looking at the fear in your eyes and shooting you, there’s a problem.”
Phil’s death has made her second-guess her own judgment. Phil was good at reading people, and if he could be so wrong about somebody, where does that leave her?
She wonders how many other families will have to go through what she did. She agrees with what she hears the generals say on the news — that developing close relationships with the Afghans is key to imparting change in the country.
“But,” she said, “the question begs to be asked: Do they really want to change?”