interviews: ranger david floyd
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Floyd was a US Army Ranger from 1992 to 1996. He was a SAW Gunner for Chalk III - Super Six Six. At the time of the 1993 Mogadishu firefight, he was 20 years old.

So you came up to the Olympic Hotel. Describe what happened next. What it was like to rope down? What could you see?

Approaching the objective, there seemed to be a lot more people on the road ... a lot less people running away. They were not hostile at this point.

We came to the intersection and that's exactly where we dropped the ropes. ...You're trying to get out of the bird as quickly as possible, because the longer the bird's there, the more attention you're attracting. That's what makes that method so fast, you can get people out, quick.

It seemed like everything went slow motion... I was in my own little world, regardless of the noise and the rudders and the engines and the helicopter....and you're grabbing the rope and you're going down and it's not, it's eerie but it's an adrenaline type feeling. Like you can hear your heart beating in your ears. By the time your feet hit the ground you're wide open. You know what you need to do.

Down on the ground where did you run to?

To the wall... up against the building on my side of the road, and then back up the street towards the objective building where we were put into position.

When did shooting start?

Just a few moments after we hit the ground, about the time that the birds flew off. The noise of the rudders and the helicopters kind of died down, we knew we were taking fire. I didn't really know exactly where it was coming from at first, but within a few minutes people were picking out targets.

What weapons did the Somalis have?

Mostly what I saw were AK47 style weapons, and RPGs, a rocket propelled grenade, that's just a launcher.

Were they firing the RPGs at you?

Usually the RPGs got fired at vehicles and helicopters, but yes, they fired them at personnel. I mean, an RPG hits a wall near you and you're going to take shrapnel from it.

When did you start firing yourself?

Once we moved up the road to the objective building. I might have had the opportunity before that, but I'd had no targets. There was firing going on and other people were engaging the Somalis but I had no targets...they were unarmed at that point and I did not engage. Of course other people were engaging on some unarmed Somalis, I didn't start firing until we were sitting in a perimeter or blocking position around the objective building.

Did you actually see the people you were shooting at, did you actually shoot anybody?

A lot of times you'd see people who were in the road or crossing intersections. You're usually not the only person firing in their direction, there's usually several people firing in their direction, a lot of times several people would shoot or you would shoot at an individual and they would go down right there, depending on what weapon they were hit with. A lot of times you'd get them crossing roads or intersections and you'd see the rounds hit 'em and then they'd just disappear around behind the building or the alley. You knew that they were wounded. It would depend, some weapons have different effects on one another.

What were the helicopters doing all this time?

The gun birds were providing air support. They were calling in targets. We had several around us that were supporting us at our location at the objective and basically they were just surpressing any targets. 'Cos they could see a whole lot more from the air. As far as people running around, or where RPG fire came from, they could track them a little better, 'cos we might not see where the round came from. [It] might just come screaming down the road and detonate, you know we wouldn't see which alley it came out of.

What did you actually see and hear when it started firing?

I relate it to a hornet. It's a little bird that flies real fast, and it's real maneuverable, and when it comes in to fire it, if it launches rockets, that's got its own distinct sound, it's not really a boom when the rockets are launched but you hear the whoosh of them being released and then the explosion when they hit the ground or detonate. When it fires the two high rate machine guns on its sides, I guess I'd relate it to canvas ripping, a burr, a burr or a belch type sound.... it fires so fast it's not like you can hear the actual break between each rounds. They just all blend together in a long ripping type sound, and it's amazing the amount of rounds that are put out by it.

What's the impact look like? Does it kick up a lot of dust?

If he's shooting with the machine guns, or the mini guns it depends on what he's hitting. If he's hitting in the ground or around personnel, that's going to kick up a wall of dust and bullets are going to be kicking up off the ground and hitting walls and everything else. If it's a vehicle, you're going to see the vehicle get eaten with holes, I mean, when the shield windows blow out, tires go flat. Holes just appear all over within a matter of a second or two.

So you were saying almost straight away you start getting fired at, and pretty soon you start firing back. And now you actually see what happens to one of the helicopters over head. Can you describe the shoot down?

Yeah, we were firing down the road, I think it was to the east of the objective building. We were taking a lot of fire from this road. The Blackhawk Super 61 was firing over head, giving covering fire. What prompted me to look up at the bird was when this door gunner opened up with the mini gun, and that's when I noticed that the RPG, or saw the RPG hit him in the tail. Boom! and immediately you know the bird began to spin, and we watched it go down over to our north, north east behind the buildings. It didn't explode. It was more of a crash or a loud thump sound; almost like a car crash.

What crossed your mind when that happened?

We're going to get the pilots and the bird crew. We're going to that location, I didn't know at that time that there was two other people on the bird also, in the back, there was a total of six on that aircraft.

So, did you get an order or did you just immediately start to move that way?

No, we didn't immediately jump up and move in that direction 'cos you'd lose control. You can't have everybody jump up on their own, and just start running off in that direction. One of you have to make sure that the mission is completed at the objective building. If it's not, then you can't send every body to the crash site. If it is, then, OK, we'll all go, but that's something that the higher up has to decide and you know if you're in charge of ten guys, like, say, my platoon sergeant was, he wants to know where all his men are. He doesn't want five running off on their own to head for a crash site that they don't even know where it is yet. When we did move out to the crash site we tried to move as fast as you can, I think some people would have liked to move faster, some people thought we moved at a good rate. I think the reason we didn't move any faster than we did was to keep control of that element so nobody got left behind.

You were attracting a lot of fire at the time?

Yes, we were moving down the streets, now we're up from behind our covered positions. We're moving. We're running. We're moving toward them ... Well, actually we're moving to the crash site, but we' re not sitting still or stagnant. We're aggressing on them. That kind of threw them off but not to the point where they broke contact.

They kept shooting

Yes.

When you got to a street corner ... was that dangerous?

Yes, the thing about an open environment is, you're constantly exposed ... in one direction or another. It's not a conventional battlefield where the enemy is to your front. When you're in an urban environment, your enemy's all around you. Every alley was a potential threat, every window, every doorway. So if I take cover behind this corner, or this wall, well I'm still exposed to my rear, to my right, you know to my left and so on. But when you cross the intersection you're really exposed, no cover.

So now describe then, coming on the crash site, how you actually got there, what did you see when you got there?

OK, when we were moving down the road to the east, headed toward the crash site, we came to a point where we had to make a sharp left turn. We got held up when we made that sharp left, some of them were already up to the crash site before my chalk group got there. We stayed up right there for a good while, and it wasn't that we couldn't go any further, it was that if we'd gone any further we'd have just been standing on top of each other, because there were already people up in the crash site. We were just kinda an expansion of the perimeter, if you know what I mean. That's where we started taking a lot of casualties. Most of them at the objective building or on the movement to. First one I noticed was took a fatal hit and one of his teammates was trying to drag him backwards into the building who also took a round, to I think the shoulder or collar bone area. And I was afraid that he had gotten wounded more seriously in the head. Shortly after our M60 gunner went down.... We were starting to pile them up then. I can't even remember how many people went down but Lieutenant Lechner was shot at that location.

Are these wounds fatal?

At this point we didn't know. You know somebody screams, you know yells out that they're hit, rolls off a weapon. Lieutenant Lechner took a real hard hit to the lower leg. This is where we, like I say we took a lot of casualties and did a lot of fighting at this location.

What were your feelings at this point?

Hard to explain, my feelings...you know you'd be lying to say you weren't scared. I was scared but I knew that I had to do my job or I was only going to be worse off. I think any body had that sense of fright in them, but everybody handled that situation differently. There was such an adrenaline rush, whether that sounds like a good thing or a bad thing that's kind of what's fueling you and seeing your friends and your comrades get wounded and killed is also an angering emotion. So this is kind of a roller coaster at this point of emotion, you're going from fright to anger to just adrenaline and also reverting to your training. We had excellent leadership, I think, all the way around. Sergeant Watson was in charge of my chalk, and I don't think there was a doubt, when it comes to that I think good leadership has a lot to do with it.... I know we'd have followed Sergeant Watson into the gates of hell. He kept us calm and kept us focused.

How?

I think it was his whole mentality and his control, which was the way he was all the time. Whether it be in training or when we ended going into combat like this. We knew he was in command or in charge of us and he had instilled enough confidence and faith in him.

Was the firing building up all the time? You're all now in a fixed position, presumably they've got time to gather.

Yes, this was a heavy volume of fire here. A lot of ammo was shot up. Some Somalis would get confused, you know occasionally we'd have someone run right out at the road intersection, they wouldn't even know we were there until ......Bamm! They ran right up on us...or they'd run up on four or five guys. That's what you would get, but then you were also getting you know crowds of people... RPGs, were being launched from different locations.

You think they would be running away.

You would think they would.

Were the crowds friendly?

They were aggressive... their willingness to fight, I don't know if you would call it bravado as much as insanity. I guess they felt as if they were defending their area, or their turf, but they were very willing to fight...even the unarmed ones. You'd have instances were individual would go down, a Somali would be shot with a weapon and another would run out and try to pick the weapon up off the ground, and the same thing would happen to him. It was like they were wanting the weapon so bad they were willing to die. The longer it went on in the late afternoon, the more people came to it, which was just kind of unbelievable. You'd think with the amount of fire they would be moving in a different direction. [But] they were everywhere...willing to fight at this point. I think, a lot of them didn't know exactly where we were and they would run right up on us...though right up at the crash site there was a big eye catcher for them. They saw that bird go down, and they wanted to get to it, just like we did...though for two different reasons.

Why do you think they wanted to get to it?

Because these were the birds that were inflicting all this on them, I mean we were pulling missions on them. We were going into the city and doing all this stuff. And now all of a sudden, they got a chance to get their hands on us. This bird's crashed and they want revenge. They wanted to get hold of that bird crew.

What do you think they would have done with the bird crew if they could have got it?

Exactly what they did to the second bird that crashed. That's why we wouldn't, we wouldn't leave the bodies. It's a shame and I regret that we had people fall into their hands. That there was nothing we could do. There was no way anybody could get to it. But the two people, or the two men who did and that was two men who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Nothing but deserved.

What was in your mind and others in going to defend the crash scene?

... When Wolcott's bird went down we didn't know if they were alive, if they were dead, wounded. So you have no choice but to go. Regardless of the fact that even if they are all dead you are going to recover that body. I don't say that you don't think about it, because you don't want it to fall into enemy hands for whatever reason. Whether they're going to safely return the body...That's the knowledge that everybody carries in their mind. That if I go down in combat that these guys are going to bring my body out, at all costs, and they know the same, if they go down, I will bring their body out at all costs, you know, all of us will. And when you let that fall, or the first time that you don't do that you know it's not going to mean anything any more. And you won't have that level of confidence or respect. As it is now, people know that at all costs, we know we won't leave someone behind.

Did you actually personally see somebody hit? What did you see? Your people.

Yes...They kind of let out a yell or a yelp and it'll spin them around. You hear they were shot and they take a round. Whereas for all those like Sergeant Goodale, Mike Goodale,the round entered his thigh area and came out of his buttocks, his tin and went through his canteen. He was on a knee and he just kinda, got a look about him and he didn't yell or anything, he was like, "Ow,"and he just kinda rolls right over. Where the other guys you could tell that it really hit them with more of a punch you know or a hard hit as far as the concussion around hit him.

Did you see any of your comrades actually killed?

Um, yes...yeah, come back to that one, Fillmore, I saw Fillmore get shot.... when the round actually hit him and he died. The other people were really already wounded by the time I saw 'em or got to 'em 'cos I wasn't in a position to you know to...

Where was Fillmore hit?

In the head.

You went into the casualty collection point, where the casualties are being moved to--describe what you saw. Was this day or night by now?

It was day, late afternoon, day time when I moved into the casualty collection point...or the CCP. The wounded were in there. They were trying to treat and work on 'em, and we moved in there just to kinda re-group and figure when we were going to move back out into the street and set up our perimeter. Yeah, there were a lot of casualties and a lot of work being done on people...IV bags, bandages....

So, it's getting near twilight. What do you do next?

We moved back out from the casualty collection point and tried to set up a perimeter in front of it. We ended up in a courtyard which was directly beside the casualty area.... [where] my specific group stayed for most of the night. I had a couple of guys standing on 55 gallon drums who were trying to fire out over the walls of the little courtyard and would try to mark targets for the little bird helicopters to engage. I still had an alley I could see both ways up and down that I put security on and had to keep my eyes on it.

Were you actually worried that they might not ever get there to get you out?

I knew they'd get there one day, and I knew they were trying their hardest to get there. It was just a matter of what condition we were going to be in by the time they got there. I won't say the thought didn't cross my mind. I knew they were running into their own resistance.

Now, at some point in the night you can hear people speaking English...Describe exactly what happened.

The early part of the morning, some troops came up the road, which is the same road we had stayed so long on after we had made our left turn. I remember calling out to them, and I think someone else had already called out to them also, like "Ranger, Ranger" so that they would know our location...where we were 'cos we were kinda at the outer edge of the vicinity of the crash site. And they were coming right up on us and, there was a '10th Mountain' -- the Quick Reaction Force that had come in with the Malaysian [and] Pakistani APCs to try to help get us out, and they just kinda stayed out there in the road. We didn't really intermingle too much, but it was good to know at least... Wow, they found us. APCs were here. We're going to get out...they're going to drive us out of here [when] we get through getting the people freed from the crashed helicopter. We had so many casualties, by the time they were loaded, the 30 or so of us who weren't wounded..there was no room for us. So now we were going to leave out on foot, following these APCs.

That must have been a bad feeling.

Well there was...a little discouragement that there wasn't a seat, but there is no choice. The wounded, definitely they're going to come first.

You must have had this greatest sense of relief--you're getting onto an APC and drive out--and now, you've got to walk or run all the way back out.

Yes, it was a change in feeling but you had to think...so many things had changed by now, you've got to have a wide open mind to say, anything can go wrong. I mean we could have been driving out and the engines blown up and the APCs and we had been stuck with all these casualties. So you've got to be willing for change. You can't get flustered and too upset that you can't get in a ride. But yes it was, a feeling...thinking all night, there's no room for us and now we've got to run out beside them. But I think everybody handled that with no problem. We were ready to get out of there. Once we had the casualties loaded, we were ready to move.

So now the convoy moves out at what, walking speed?

They were attempting to, yes. The thing about the APCs they had were the big white armored personnel carriers and UN painted on the side. It was like a bullet magnet, I mean it attracted fire. It's a big white thing and it drew a lot of fire so I don't really enjoy standing too close to it. I would rather be away from them up against the wall. I didn't enjoy taking a knee beside it or running along beside it, because you know it's armored and the bullets will bounce off it. If I'm standing beside it, the bullets that are bouncing off are just going to hit me.

So you walked or jogged out of town, a lot of shooting coming down.

Yes

Describe the scene when you got back to base. What did you have to do?

We kind of downloaded and we were in a secure type area we walked in the stadium. There was casualties... there was a lot. We didn't stay there long before they told us what exactly had happened. Who wasn't accounted for. Who had been killed. That hit a lot of guys hard, 'cos a lot of guys didn't know that their buddy in another platoon that was in the convoy had been killed. And then they said they didn't even know how many other people were killed. There were several guys that I had no idea about until I saw them later and I said, "Wow I didn't know what happened to you."

We stayed there for just a little while and my whole platoon, which once took two helicopters to fly, we all got on one Blackhawk and flew back to the air field. I don't remember--out of close to 25 to 30 there was about 12 maybe that weren't wounded. It was a very eerie time but it was a time you're not relaxed but you're in an area where you're not being shot at right at this moment. But we all come back into a hanger like that and there's so many empty boxes with the guys' stuff still out. Just like we left...a card game had been started 17 or so hours before. The hands are still laid face down, half-drunk sodas. Pads of paper with half a letter written...

Looking back on the whole thing, what are your feelings about it afterwards?

I don't think I'm in a position to say if the mission wasn't worth it. That's for other people to decide. If the mission was a success I would say in my mind yes. We concluded the mission we went in to do at the objective. Without a doubt, that mission was completed and done. Once the helicopter was shot down, we completed a mission in the fact that we did recover all the bodies from that first crash site. The downfall as far as we not completing the missions was not being able to recover the bodies immediately from that second crash site which we had no control over, nobody could get to them...

In the end yes, I feel that the mission was a success, not only from completing the initial mission, but with the number of us that were on the ground as actual shooters to the number of the resistance we were up against...which was in the thousands and we're talking about 130 people on the ground. Yes, we had helicopters, you know. [But] you're talking about thousands of people in a city closing in on just over 100.


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