I listened intently as the reporter told me of the recent events; Operation Gothic Serpent had begun while I slept, in order to neutralize a powder keg of competing tribal chieftains, who were already in a fierce civil war. The reporter was only giving bits and pieces of information and I soon became disinterested. Let us fast forward to December 2001; for my 17th birthday, several friends and I went to the movies to see the midnight release of Black Hawk Down.
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but knew enough about the story to hope for some footage of the fabled 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force. This top secret, hyper-elite, black ops unit was the object of great interest among my circle of friends. Black Hawk Down tells the sad story of a botched military operation in Mogadishu, Somalia. An executive decision was made to cull the hostility in the region by abducting several advisors of the local dictator. In order to accomplish the mission, Delta Force would make the grab, while Army Rangers provided cover.
The famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) “Night Stalkers” would provide helicopter support. The mission began poorly. A new Ranger missed the rope when “fast-roping” out of a helicopter, and fell 70 feet, suffering injuries to his head, neck, and back. A casualty before engaging the enemy is never good. Meanwhile the Delta team rounded up their targets quickly and awaited extraction via a HMMWV convoy. Part of this convoy moved to take the targets and the casualty back to base. The remainder of the convoy served as a rally point for the Rangers to regroup before returning to base.
While forming up, an MH-60L Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Both pilots were killed in the crash, but two other crew members survived and were rescued by Combat Search and Rescue. Minutes later, a second Black Hawk was shot down. This crash site became a focal point for the story. The entire city swarmed toward this helicopter and began a battle with Rangers and Delta Force that would last through the night. Two Delta Force snipers requested to be inserted at this second crash site to defend the wounded crew until rescue.
Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon protected the crew from the mob, inflicting massive casualties on the Somali militia. When Gary Gordon was eventually killed, Randy Shughart then picked up Gordon’s CAR-15 and gave it to pilot Michael Durant. Shugart went back around the nose of the chopper and held off the mob for about ten more minutes, before he was killed. The Somali mob then overran the crash site and killed all but one of the helicopter crew: pilot Michael Durant. He was nearly beaten to death but was saved when members of the militia came to take him prisoner.
He would later be released to the US Army, along with all of the unrecovered soldier’s bodies. For requesting to help defend their comrades in the face of overwhelming odds, SFC Shughart and MSG Gordon were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first to be awarded since the Vietnam War. These brave men jumped at the opportunity to give the crew of Super 6-4 a fighting chance of survival against insurmountable odds. This tale of Delta Force’s exploits is rare as most of what they do is highly classified. Their missions do not end up in history books.
Their highly decorated soldiers will never be publicly recognized. For the purpose of the nation they serve, they do not even exist. It was this bravery and selflessness which motivated me to join the Army a few years later. Upon my indoctrination to the Army Infantry, I was made to recite and memorize The Warrior Ethos. It is a guideline for being a good soldier and is not specific to combat situations. Sergeants Shughart and Gordon embodied every facet of the ethos well before it was created and implemented into the Army. Allow me to share it with you.
The Warrior Ethos I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. Our military continues to attract men like Shughart and Gordon, who are completely selfless. George Orwell noted this; “We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf. ” Consider whether you would be able to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to give a peer a better shot at living to see the next day.