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rangers in helicopter

...I disagree with Mr. Thomas when he said that the men who were killed did not die in vain. I think that the military was in a situation they could not win. Members of the UN (Italians) may have been supplying information to Aidid about our movements and the Bush and Clinton Aministrations did not supply you with all the equipment needed to accomplish your orders, more heavy armour. Each of your comments would be appreciated. Thank you and good luck to each of you in the future.
-- Owen Zeigler, Jr.

JASON MOORE: Owen, what Keni was trying to express is that after the initial insertion we were not fighting for Clinton or the UN, we were fighting for our lives and the lives of fellow Rangers. Most of us were doing what we loved and wanted to do for a long time. So, no, their lives were not wasted, they may have saved others. Separate the political side that we had no control over. Realize we did what we had to do to survive to get back to family and friends. They did not die in vain. They died fighting for their country and their fellow soldiers.

Are any of you currently still in the military? Why or why not?
-- Lynn Pierotti

KENI THOMAS: Dear Lynn, most of us on the Frontline show have all gotten out of the Army. The exception is SSG Aaron Hand who is currently a Ranger School instructor in Florida.

I can not speak for all in saying why they got out. I stayed in for another 3 1/2 years until mid '97, working in the Ranger Regiment as a member of the Recconnaissance Detachment. I got out to pursue new challenges with my life. I went to work in an outdoor therapeutic program for troubled teenagers.

While I do not miss the military so much, I can say I miss the men. There are very few places in this world where you will find more dependable and absolutely loyal friendships.

Thank you so much for your interest and concern.

JASON MOORE: Lynn, the only person interviewed still in the military is Aaron Hand. I left because I was frustrated at the way things were handled while we were in Somalia and after we returned home. I realized the only people that cared about me were my fellow Rangers. It's hard to continue giving 100% when you understand the people in charge don't really care. To them you're just a number, an acceptable risk.

I was wondering how this experience affected your feelings about being in the military in general and the Rangers in particular.
-- anonymous

ANTON BERENDSEN: This was what we signed up for. You never dreamed that it would happen to you, though. This was an experience that will be etched in my mind as well as anyone who has seen such devastation. The feeling I had with the particular comrades I was fighting with cannot be matched in my mind. After the firefight, I was very reluctant in having people that weren't there telling me what to do, especially if they were from another unit. I have been in other units as well and there was nothing that compared to the respect and discipline with one another than what we had in Somalia. That is what pulled us out there in the first place. Nobody ever questioned their superior Team Leader. Sgt Joyce was my team leader, and he fought to save me. My life is indebted to him. Lack of respect and discipline is what's crippling the forces of other units. You will be amazed to see how other units operate and wonder how they can fight on the battlefield.

JASON MOORE: I would not trade the time I spent in the military (the Rangers in particular) for anything in the world. Being in the firefight opened up a window to my soul that changed my life forever (not always for the best). I considered myself lucky not only to have come back alive but to have a bond with the rest of the guys a BCO 3/75 and be able to understand things about myself and others that some people will never know. It has also given me a deeper respect for the soldiers that have seen combat before me. Until you have been through it no words or books or can capture what it's really like.

KENI THOMAS: They say you can judge how far you've come in life by looking to your left and to your right. When I look back at the caliber of men I served with during my six and a half years at the Ranger Regiment, and I realize the value of the friendships made, I can say without a doubt to myself that I have accomplished something worthy in this lifetime. I have been with the very best.

The values I have taken with me will forever shape my life in everything I do. Sense of duty, commitment, honor and pride are very real to me. And having gone through such a compelling ordeal, it's hard to imagine anything being unacheivable.

I would like to know how you all feel about the level and quality of leadership with regard to the officers assigned to the mission. Were they combat experienced? Did their actions instill confidence?
-- Mitch Schwefel

KENI THOMAS: Few of the officers were combat experienced. There were more senior NCOs who had seen combat with the Ranger Rgt. in Panama. I do not feel that this lack of experience in any way hindered their leadership cababilities or the willingness of their men to follow.

It should be pointed out that the elements going in by air were broken into chalks of about 12 men per helicopter. Chalk leader duties were divided out amongst the Platoon leaders (Ist Lt) and the senior NCOs (SFC).

Collectively as a whole the leadership was magnificent. I would have followed SFC Sean Watson anywhere. He was inspirational during all seven missions in Mogadishu and a constant source of confidence. The same would be said, I'm sure, by the men who were led by 1st Lt Tom Ditimasso, or even SSG Matt Eversman's chalk.

The only element of officer leadership I felt was a little under par during the chaos of battle was at the staff level. They seemed to have considerable communication delays trying to make coordinations with the different elements on the ground and their respective Cpts in charge.

As a whole though, leadership and decision making was inspiring all the way from the young NCO team leaders to the senior NCO and Lt's in charge of their chalks.

JASON MOORE: Mitch, I did not have any officers in my immediate vicinity. None to my knowledge were combat experienced. I have heard stories about how well they performed under combat conditions. Particularly Lt. Ditomasso my PL. I was only aware of one officer that did not instill confidence in his troops... I left the army for several reasons. One was that I had accomplished everthing I had set out to do. Another is after being to combat it's hard to come back and do some of the stupid training you know from experience does not help. I was also married soon after we came back.

ANTON BERENDSEN: The officers were there and some displayed heroic actions. Since I was a private, I answered to my Chalk leader SSGT. Eversmann and SGT. Joyce who paid the ultimate price to make sure his team was safe. He was my team leader. "He displayed the intestinal fortitude to fight onto the Ranger objective and complete the mission..."

To Sgt Thomas: do any of the Rangers feel that Les Aspin and President Clinton let them down by refusing the Ground Commander's request for additional armour to be placed in country prior to the '93 firefight? Did any of you know my friend S/Sgt John Zimmerman who served there?
-- Gary Morfei

KENI THOMAS: I did not know your friend. I'll ask some others if they ever ran into him. What unit?

Prior to Task Force Ranger arriving in country, the US was trying to drastically reduce its precence in Somalia. Sending in heavy armour and the requested gun ships was in direct contradiction to what they wanted the public to see. Therefore the request by Gen. Montgomery and Gen. Garrison was denied.

However, at no time did we feel we were being shortchanged in support. It was never an issue at my level. When we looked at the mission, the equipment, the terrain, the time to accomplish the mission, and the troops available we were certain we had everything needed to be sucsessful. In fact, Gen. Garrison has even said that due to the element of tactical surprise, he's not sure he would even have used tanks had they been available.

He did say though, and this is clear, that the armoured Bradley fighting vehicles would have been employed as an obviously more favorable alternative to the Light skinned Humvees we used. I would say that without a doubt, lives could have been saved had the ground reaction force gone in with Bradleys as opposed to Humvees. But at the time we never felt betrayed or shortchanged.

Hopefully some important lessons were learned about civilian diplomats making crucial military decisions which are in direct contradiction to the request of the commanders in charge of a combat operation.

What was the feeling among the troops regarding the Clinton administration's decisions to negotiate with Aidid without telling the military commanders?
-- Kurt Amesbury

KENI THOMAS: At the time we were unaware of Mr. Carter's efforts. I like to believe that those pushing the negotiations were badly misinformed of our presence and mission in country.

In regards to seeing Aidid on TV being escorted by American troops I can say this: as soldiers, ours is not to ask why, ours is to do. And it is to do so in support of the policies and decisions of our government. It doesn't mean we always have to be happy with it.


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