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Never Leave a Man Behind

On October 3 and 4, 1993, Operation Gothic Serpent, also known as the Battle of Mogadishu happened.  U.S Army Rangers, Delta Force, and helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Air Regiment began the day on what should have been an easy snatch and grab mission. By the time the sun set the next day, 19 Americans would be dead, 91 would have been wounded, and 1 would be a prisoner of war.  History was made that day in a way that no-one could have imagined when the helicopters lifted off.

When the Somalia relief mission was announced, our brigade commander came through our battalion looking for people who could speak Italian, French, or Arabic.  He didn’t even ask if anyone spoke Somali.  Volunteers who were accepted were sent off to augment the combat forces as translators.  This was the first of the “Christiane Amanpour Operations” where political leaders reacted to CNN programming showing people suffering by sending in combat troops.  See also Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo.  We all thought the U.S. was getting involved to save people from starving.  None of us thought that Presidents Bush and later Clinton would let the mission creep into determining who would have power in that little country.  It was that mission creep that led to Gothic Serpent.

Anyway, I was a Russian/German linguist, so my volunteering was graciously turned down.  I later had to have a moment of irate counseling with our company clerk who told my wife that I’d tried to volunteer, causing a moment of irate counseling from my wife when I got home that evening.  I should have known at that exact moment that being married to her and being a soldier were mutually exclusive concepts.

When the Battle of Mogadishu happened, we watched CNN for details, because information from official channels was a few days behind.  Several members of my unit had been sent, but none of them took part in the fighting until the relief column finally got in on the second day of the battle.  Luckily, none of the were hurt.

Somalia should have been a wake-up call to us.  It was the first hint that the Middle East and Northeast Africa would be a problem for us as we assumed the self-assigned role as the sole remaining superpower.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see it for what it was and continued preparing to refight the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm until 2001.

The men who fought in Mogadishu fought in a way that their fathers and grandfathers did in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam:  cut off against numerically superior foes with little to no support.  Almost all of the technological advantages American forces normally enjoy were gone, and they survived only because they refused to stop fighting.  No matter what they were before the fight, they were heroes by its end.  These warriors fell back on training and mutual support when the world fell in on them.  We owe them and all like them a debt that I fear can never be repaid.

H/T to Miguel at Gun Free Zone for reminding me of the date.

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2 Comments

  1. Yep, and they REQUESTED proper equipment via the COC to be able to actually DO their jobs, but Aspin and Klinton decided the equipment would be 'provokative' and it was not allowed…

  2. My brother was there during that time and he commented that part of the problem was that we didn't have armor, and when we wanted armor, was told that if you need armor, the allies had it. Well they wouldn't leave their garrison so we had to do the rescue with humvee's and 5 ton trucks.

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