MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, FL – Men and women from United States Special Operations Command assembled in the early morning hours Oct. 2, marking the 22nd anniversary of the deadly encounter and battle that followed, on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.
Twenty-one two-man teams participated in the competition that began at the small-arms range on base and ended at the SOF Memorial near the entrance of USSOCOM. The event started with the teams carrying a training mannequin on top of a stretcher, followed by a course of fire in a simulated urban environment, followed by yet another mannequin “carry and load” to safety. Once all teams completed this portion of the event, teams lined up and began the 5K race in boots and combat uniforms.
In the special operations community, the Mogadishu Mile is a symbol of dedication and perseverance. Some participants were just beginning their military careers in 1993 and know the importance of remembering those who fought and those who fell.
“I was there, but a lot of these young men and women that are in uniform [today], weren’t even born yet, so to understand and recall and also recognize is important. Also, so this [generation] knows the feats and actions they’re taking today will be honored in the future as well,” said Army Col. John Vannoy, program executive officer for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, USSOCOM.
The Mogadishu Mile route ran here honored the men who ran from a helicopter crash site to a rally point held by the 10th Mountain Division during the early morning battle more than two decades ago.
The U.S. sent Special Operations Forces into Somalia in 1993 to capture General Mohamed Farrah Hassan Aidid, a Somali military commander and faction leader. When two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lowered Soldiers onto the ground, an unexpected attack by Somalian forces spiraled into a street battle, where 18 Americans were killed and 68 others wounded.
Rocket propelled grenades brought down the two Black Hawk helicopters. Events on the ground escalated and fueled more fights, drawing larger, hostile crowds toward American soldiers and Special Forces troops already pinned down by gun fire. As U.S. Soldiers struggled to regain their balance under heavy gunfire, they engaged in a bloody battle spanning two days.
USSOCOM senior enlisted leader Command Sgt. Maj. William Thetford, who served as a team breacher, in Charlie Squadron in 1993, flew on one of the aircraft – Super 6-2.
Thetford was among several USSOCOM leaders supporting the participants as they neared the finish line.
Speaking of his experience in Mogadishu, Thetford recalled, “When times were incredibly tough, what got everyone through was the teamwork; the drive to stay together, to help each other out, and never give up.”
That same teamwork was evident throughout the race that honored the service and sacrifice of those that came before.
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta
MSG Gary Gordon (awarded Medal of Honor)
SFC Randy Shughart (awarded Medal of Honor)
SSG Daniel Busch
SFC Earl Fillmore
SFC Matt Rierson*
MSG Tim “Griz” Martin
3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
CPL Jamie Smith
SPC James Cavaco
SGT Casey Joyce
PFC Richard “Alphabet” Kowalewski
SGT Dominick Pilla
SGT Lorenzo Ruiz
160th SOAR (Nightstalkers)
SSG William Cleveland
SSG Thomas Field
CW4 Raymond Frank
CW3 Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott
CW2 Donovan “Bull” Briley
2nd Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (rescue convoy)
SGT Cornell Houston
PFC James Martin