So most of us didn't have any water. We had smoke grenades. And I remember the
call came down -- don't worry about night vision. And when I walked out the
hanger, initially...to say that you weren't scared to an extent, it was just
false. You had butterflies like you wouldn't believe. And I remember
walking out and it was such a nice day...a classic, sunny, it was beautiful.
A nice breeze coming in off the sea, and it spooked me... it was just
something I hadn't noticed, and it kinda spooked me.|
What was it like in the helicopter going out?
I sat in the doorway and we'd be flying and I could put my foot on that
blackout tire and actually lean out of the bird. It was a total sense of power
being in the helicopter over that city. Because at that point in time, we were
the most proficient fighting force in that city. There was no way they could
What does the city of Mogadishu look like?
Run down... very poor. The first time I flew over, we went to
a height of four or five thousand feet and our first flight was like a
statement -- 'Here we are. And here's the deal,' you know? At times the birds
would start doing evasion patterns while flying over the city. The first time
we flew over, the people just stopped because that was the largest helicopter
force that had been in country... And whenever they do a banking turn...
they would pull these real tight turns. It was almost like you've stopped and
you're just getting twisted... the bird would shake and you're looking straight
down at a road intersection and these people are just looking at you. You
just know that it's fear. And I'm a nice guy, but that was a feeling of power.
I don't like to come across like that, but I tell you what it was like -- all
What happened after you roped down and hit the ground?
At first everything was kinda quiet. And then the first
contact was a little tin shack... it couldn't have been more than 75 meters from
us. All I really remember -- they would just stick a weapon out from around a
corner, they wouldn't even aim, they just would spray... And he was on the
ground and he was spraying and the dust was kicking up from the discharge of
We fired him up. I imagine we got him. I never physically saw
him, but I saw the weapon and I was shooting at the shack itself... the shacks
were like corrugated sheet metal. There's no cover. So I know we were shooting
right through at him.
That was our first contact that I remember. But of course you could hear the
rounds cracking up and down the road, behind us and in front of us, and you
could hear the convoy coming in and you could tell where the convoy was,
because it was growing in intensity.
You see the first guy and he's been got rid of, just before
the convoy starts heading your way. How intense does the firing get? How close
are the bullets getting to you?
A bullet makes an odd noise... it almost snaps through the
air. At first I wasn't sure. I heard that ptew... What was that? You know,
it was like -- do, do, do, do, do -- and you heard the snap and at first it
was like -- let me make sure that was what I thought it was! Because I don't
want to overreact and jump on the ground and you don't want to make an ass of
But it makes like a crack or a snap. So I'm facing out and a lot of fire
coming from behind us. Which I thought was so odd because we had a block in
position back there, but it just seemed like they were just more
concentrated in front of me.... But they're shooting at us from windows and
alleyways and a tree, and there was a big tree. I'll never forget because
we're getting shot at and we could not figure out where this was coming from.
So eventually when the convoy met up with us, it had the big 50-cal on top of
the humvee, and we were like-- see that big tree down there? We told them to
fire it up because that 50 was something. I remember he took the tree and we
figured, even if we didn't hit anybody that was still enough of a
deterrent -- that at least let them know that we knew that was a hiding spot.
And there was a point when Keni was on a knee and shooting, and all of a
sudden I just remember -- it was like a puff of smoke or something and he
dropped his weapon and he yelled at me... showing me he just got shot in the
magazine of his weapon. Now a magazine is maybe an inch and a quarter wide,
it's at chest level. And a bullet had actually lodged itself in that
magazine. What are the chances of it hitting an inch and a half wide when
he's probably you know three feet, you know, 2, 3 feet wide? It stopped in
the magazine, and I yelled at him something like -- you're gotta keep that one!
And you could see the people down in the distance and they were crossing roads
back and forth. And being that they wore robes, sheets and stuff like that,
you couldn't tell if they had weapons, and we were disciplined and we
weren't just shooting anybody, unless they had a weapon. .
Did you see the helicopter go down?
...it was doing this circle pattern and it just kinda went up
and then it never came out of the turn. It just continued to go and it was
like slow motion, I just remember that bird just spinning out of control. And
I just remember going 'oh man, this has changed the entire mission.' The two
seconds that I watched it felt like ten minutes, and it changed everything. It
changed your outlook on it, because you just knew from the past that they were
just dying to get their hands on a Ranger. The Blackhawk that was shot
down... And we knew that they had a bounty out for a Ranger...we knew that if
Aidid could get his hands on a US soldier he had a chip in a big game.
What did you hear when it crashed?
It was like silence. Everything was totally focused on that
bird, and I lost sight of it... And that was a shock too... seeing that get
shot down it was like --'wait a minute you know this isn't--it's not supposed to
work like this. We're Americans.' You know. 'We're the ones dictating the
game here. '
At this time we didn't know what was going on. We knew that we had to make it
to the crash site... secure the crash site, there was no option there. How
we were gonna do it, I think, was the question... At some point, the word
had come down that the convoys had been ambushed and that we weren't getting
out on the convoy, they weren't sure exactly how we were gonna get out.
So, you move to the crash site....
We pick up and get ready to move... and Keni's now heading the
squad on the other side of the road. We're ready to move, we're the very
tail end of the entire movement, Keni's in front of his. I'm in front of
mine. And this point, when you start running across the intersections... you
felt totally exposed, (laughs), the first alleyway you ran across it was
like -- you actually stopped and paused for a minute and you're going -- 'I've got
to do this?' You know? -- 'I've really got to do this? I don't want to do this,
but I've gotta do it'
So we start moving... At first the movement to the crash site was controlled...
Capt. Steele's elements directly in front of me, it was Capt. Steele,
Lieutenant Lechner... And it felt like to me at the time... we needed to
be moving. So I remember yelling to Capt. Steele -- here I was like an NCO
yelling at a Captain to get his ass moving! -- That's how I remember. I'm sure
I didn't say that but I remember yelling at those guys like 'you gotta get
moving because you're breaking up the entire element here, we got gaps.' At
this point in time there was a lot of fire and we didn't need anything to
kinda hinder us...
How many directions is the incoming?
It just seemed like you were surrounded. We could see them
moving on us too, you would see groups of those guys, and they were following
us. It felt like we were starting to get boxed up. The movement comes to a
halt... We think they just halted momentarily and they're getting ready to
basically assign blocking positions. But it never happens, everything just
stops and we're idle. And this was like the hardest time -- [the Somalis]
started to figure out exactly where we're at, so it gives them an opportunity
to call their buddies so that they can grab the old AK from behind the door and
come down and shoot at us. That's how we thought they were doing you know -- it
So we're receiving a lot of fire and it's coming from alleys, windows,
doorways. The next thing that stands out in my mind is I had John Collett
at the corner... and I remember Collett he was yelling at me 'Sgt.' I could
tell he was nervous because the crossfire here... and the next thing I
know, before I had a chance to move Collett, there was an explosion... just
like dirt and dust, and I'm on a knee and you know I'm thinking, well what was
that, you know an RPG, a grenade? And, out of this big cloud of dust comes
Errico, a big Italian..... and he comes out just lumbering towards me I just
remember the eyes just wide and I'm thinking -- what did he just see?...
So anyway, Collett's in the middle of the road, Keni runs across the street.
They put the M60 over there on the other side of the street because if we made
it left, there was a courtyard to the right and we got a lot of fire... So,
we figure we put the 60 over there, but the only thing about a 60 - it was
considerably louder than anything like our small arms, so it was a magnet. As
soon as we put that on the other side of the road that was what was focused on,
and it couldn't have been over there for more than, I don't know 10, 15
minutes or so and then I remember Nethery was shot. And this is where it
really started getting bad because [one] we didn't know how we were getting out.
Two, we started taking casualties....
What were your emotions at this point?
A feeling of helplessness. Because of all the units that were
there in the city at the time, we were by far the most proficient. And here we
are, pinned down in a city. And I just remember going through thinking, even
to the highest level, like the White House -- what is it they can send to get us
out of here today?
So, moving ahead -- it's getting about dark by now. You go into
the casualty collection point. What did you see?
Sgt. Watson...said Capt. Steele had formed a CCP -- we were
going to move into a house because it was getting dark and we didn't want to be
stuck out in the street....They knew the streets and we didn't....It was like a
very tight environment, and at night basically somebody could have walked right
up on you.... It could have really took a bad turn....
At this time the guys are in the CCP and I'm sitting here in this doorway,
and...I remember I put my hand down for some reason. It was wet. It was like
it wasn't the consistency of water, it was smelling and I remember there was
enough light to where I could see, big blood and I remember looking down and
the floor reflected light, just pools of blood. I was sitting here laying in a
pool of Lieutenant Lechner's blood. And I didn't even really get up to get out
of it. I just kind of sat there. I'll never forget that smell.
Could you hear radio talk about what was happening to the
convoy or the relief column?
You always heard the radios cracking on and off, but the word
was they were trying to form the QRF -- a convoy to come in and get us out.
And at some point they said the convoy's left the airfield. And I remember a
little while later, it came over that they'd been stopped and had to turn back.
When we heard that it was just disheartening... We were running out of IVs.
Most of us didn't have any water. I remember going into the back room with
Sgt. Watson for a moment and Goodale was back there and he had been shot in the
rear end (laughs) and I remember seeing him just kinda hobbling around. That
was just something that sticks out... because he was coherent -- he was like
I mean you never lost hope about getting out, but it was just -- this is
looking really bad. Eventually Sgt. Watson had the [Delta] operators leave our
building. They went down towards the crash site. Sgt. Watson took Keni Thomas
and his squad out next door,a courtyard there... and they were providing
cover... So Sgt. Watson before he left was like -- 'You've got security of
the house.'... And he just told me -- basically the house was mine. You gotta
look at it from -- I just turned 21....you can imagine how overwhelming you know
the entire thing was....
Tell me about the grenade.
The grenade incident was after I'd gotten down behind
rocks.... We're here behind the rocks, and all of a sudden this thing flies
out into the street. I knew what it was but it didn't look like ours.... A
World War II pineapple. And it flew out and looked funny to me, and I would
say it landed probably within five feet of Collett's head... I just
remembered wigging out.... It was close enough to where I was gonna get
concussion and shrapnel off of it. So you can imagine Collett being there
within five feet of it, you know, I just knew it was gonna take him
out.... I remember yelling.... frag out, frag out, until I got to the point
where I felt that it was getting ready to explode and I didn't want to get
shrapnel in the face. And Collett just dug his head down into the dirt, dug his
kevlar down ... I just kinda scrunched up, and that thing went off, boom. And
I just remember sitting up and yelling 'Collett, Collett....' I'm thinking he's
And he was part of the machine, man. And I cannot see him!... I was
probably like at tears and like --'Collett, you know you're still alive?'
"Erm--right here--I'm all right Sgt.' And there was just that dull, like Ben
Stein voice, you know. I was just like screaming, wiggin out, and all of a
sudden I'm freaking and Collett's cool, you know. (laughs) Yeah, I just
don't have words to describe .... the feeling you know was just total
relief.... It was the little victories that helped you get you through.
And then, not long after, the column finally shows up.
Right, they pull up just APCs in front of the house... loaded
the guys out and I remember getting water... and I remember you're just
exhausted, so tired, but you were just so wired. And I remember I wanted to
take my kevlar off, but I was -- I know as soon as I do that, somebody gonna
pop a round off that's gonna ricochet off one of these walls and catch me in
the head. And the dark was starting to fade. We knew they were trying to get
that body out of the helicopter.... Finally the sun is up, they freed the
Finally, you move out from the house....And not long after
that, you get shot...
...They said -- 'we're getting ready to move.'... I was
dreading it -- this is the same thing we went through yesterday. I was just
certain that something was gonna happen. The 10th Mountain was there and all
of a sudden they were gone. And here we are out in the street again with these
APCs. They start moving slow, we're running with them in a line. And they
start going down the road... To me it was just -- 'this just can't be
happening... this really cannot be happening!' They make a right, we start
following them... I remember the first APC -- the one I was beside -- the rounds
just bouncing off that thing -- ting, ting, ting, ting, ting, tingg. And it was
just so different... Day before, we're moving towards a crash site. This time.
we're just trying to get out alive.
I remember just running across the road, just blindly shooting and hoping
sounds of the shots is enough to get somebody's head down. We get to the
intersection where we set up our initial blocking position.... They're still
shooting I'm beside this wall... and this is when it felt like somebody had
walked up behind me and just hit me with a ball bat in the shoulder. It slung
me forward... I just remember you know kinda recovering for a moment and -- 'What
I'm figuring somebody shot a piece off the building or threw... a rock. And
that's when Collett said he'd been shot... and then his eyes just got huge.
And -- he's like-- 'Sgt., you've been shot.' ... And I did all my vital signs.
[Shoulder] just felt tight, it just felt like somebody had wrapped it up in a
bandage . But it didn't hurt, and I was like sitting here waiting to start
gurgling. And I'm thinking I got shot in the back, in the torso. And if it
came through it more likely is gonna penetrate a lung or at least bust a rib.
And that was like the biggest thing I was concerned about .
And I... assessed the situation and refocused on the mission of getting out of
there. And we gotta run across the biggest intersection... and it was crazy,
we ended up running across that... I remember running... And after we started
moving again it really sank in. And I was furious. I was just furious like
(laughing ) you know I can't describe it any better than -- I could dish it out
but I couldn't take it, and I was like -- 'how could... who do you think you are,
And finally we're safe. And we're all up under this building... pulling
security shooting, firing, and humvees pulled up and they took the operators
out. Took Second Platoon out. Anyway so they got me patched up -- it was like -- 'I can get you out on a Humvee, and I didn't
want to go and leave those guys... So, we're waiting for the APCs to come back
... and... finally Sgt.Watson was like -- 'we're gonna move.' So we start
exiting, here we go back out of the building out onto the road again, and it
starts again you know. It was like damn we were safe now it's like, we're at
square one, I'm running again....
An APC finally started coming down the road. We were waving to him and he was
driving by. So here we are out in the road running, trying to run this APC
down. Basically everyone running and shooting, it wasn't like that
organized. I mean I think people had gotten mixed up. Anyway, we were up in
back of that APC and I didn't think I've ever opened the back of an APC, but I
did it in like (clicks fingers) like that quick, it was just like all
business... I ripped the door off and they were like -- 'this thing is full.' Well,
bullshit, we were getting in this APC. So we're packing them in, and we were
totally scrunched up. And these guys, they got an open top and the Pakistanis
were shooting and I was like -- 'what can we do?' I was like 'give me a
So here we are with this -- it looked like a big sardine can of ammo and we're
just loading magazines. I'm like -- 'shoot man, use 'em up, give me new ones....' But
that ride, that sucked, I mean it really did. I was just waiting for the side of
that thing to peel open and to see a flash.
And finally, you get back...to safety. Describe what that
I remember we were packed in there so tight that somebody
had opened the back door up and they actually had to pull the first couple of
guys out because they couldn't physically get out. And we were getting out and
it was just like -- 'Oh God,' you know, 'I made it. ' I knew my boys had made it.
It was like total relief. And I'm waiting for Sgt. Watson. He walks up and
I'll never forget walking in the coliseum with him because he was, he was so -- I
think humble is a good word to describe it... At that time I was so much
younger. It hadn't sunk in exactly what had happened yet. I was just happy to
be alive. I was just happy to have my boys out there alive.
And I was just so exhausted and bleeding. And, I remember looking around and
there were guys from 10th Mountain and there's people sitting up on some of
the seats in the stadium. And I remember walking in and you just felt like the
total center of attention. I remember the guys just staring at us... And you
are just soaked with sweat... and it's stiff, because you'd sweated again and
you dried. It was just like you were just absolutely filthy. I had blood on my
legs from Lieutenant Lechner, you know my boots and then I had this thing with
my back and I just remember smelling blood. I remember walking in and
at first I was like very, like, aware of what was going on. Then I just
remember just kinda fading out into my own little world....
And you're just seeing guys that you thought you'd never see again. And
you're just totally zoned out. I remember Sgt. Watson stopped us and told us
to put our gear down and I remember dropping my stuff, I remember Doc
Strauss grabbed me and said --'come on let's go over to the aid station.' At
that time. I wanted to be left alone, it was weird... and I just remember him
going, 'All right, you go on out right now.' Stuffed the gauze back in there,
wrapped it up, and just stuck me with an IV. They didn't even try to get the
veins, you were just so dehydrated ..
I finally kinda sit back on a litter and they were using Hughies to fly us in
and out and there was something so, like, Vietnam like about it... and here
they carry me over and set me next to this bird. And I just remember sitting
there -- you see the documentaries, the movies you know, 'Platoon' and those
movies and you see the looks on those guys' faces... I mean that's just the
way it is. It's just stares. Just the guys trying to figure out what the hell
just happened? Why did they take my friend from me, you know. Phew......
Well anyway, here I am on this litter... You were just so alive and so
exhausted... It was like -- look how competitive football or basketball is. Just
groups of guys on a field just trying to outdo each other. Now, imagine that, [but]
this time it's with weapons -- actually trying to kill you. You're trying to do
the same to them. But that time we won. We were the better team. And that's
the stuff that's going through your head. At that time, it was about winning,
man. The mission being successful. I mean, we got our nose bloodied, but we
really cleaned -- I mean we were, phew.
Well ...they loaded me into the Hughie, I had the IV up and I remember they
flew up and I remember just sitting up and looking out over the city. And it
looked so different to the city that I remember seeing before. It wasn't just
this run-down place that we had kind off patroled for a short period of time.
It was just ugly. There was a reality there that you never saw until now. I
just remember looking at it in, like, disgust.
And the medic asked -- 'What happened out there?' And he was like -- 'I feel sorry
for you all.' I said, 'You should feel sorry for them.' That was my whole
attitude. And then they rolled us into the hospital. It wasn't a
life-threatening wound... it'd been assessed as just tissue damage.
When did it really hit you about how many people had been
killed and wounded.?
After I got back to Benning I went on leave. And I didn't go
back for a month. So I had all that time by myself to deal with certain
things... although I was so numb.... and then about a year later when First
Sgt. Harris died -- he did a jump and drowned -- and that was when I think it all
came out for me. Somalia. The whole nine yards. Harris's death... that's when
it did really hit me.