FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- On Oct. 3, 1993, Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, took part in one of the bloodiest battles American Soldiers had seen since Vietnam. The history of the battle has been commemorated in many accounts, including most notably the "Black Hawk Down" book and movie.
To remember the battle, one also must remember the reason U.S. forces were in Somalia in the first place.
Operation Restore Hope began Dec. 8, 1992, under the direction of a multinational Unified Task Force. The U.S. Army component Task Force Mountain was built around 1st and 2nd Brigades of 10th Mountain Division (LI), along with aviation, artillery and support assets.
During Operation Restore Hope, the division's mission was to secure major cities and roads to provide safe passage of relief supplies to the starving Somali population. They saved hundreds of thousands from starvation, and by mid-February 1993, the division began the gradual reduction of forces in the country.
In May 1993, the United Nations assumed the task of securing the flow of relief supplies to Somalia, ending Operation Restore Hope, and marked the beginning of Operation Continue Hope.
During the months to follow, Somalia militia continued to attack humanitarian relief convoys and seize supplies for their local warlord leaders. On Oct. 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger undertook a raid to capture warlord leaders in Mogadishu.
When Task Force Ranger became pinned down during the raid, which became known as the Battle of Mogadishu, 10th Mountain Division provided a quick reaction force of infantrymen to rescue them. The battle became the longest sustained firefight by U.S. forces since the Vietnam War.
When the force began its exfiltration, some members of Task Force Ranger and 2-14 Infantry were required to move on foot because the vehicles were full. The movement has become known as the Mogadishu Mile.
To commemorate the actions of those men who fought during the Battle of Mogadishu, 2-14 Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team welcomed more than 60 veterans and their Families to their 20th Anniversary Mogadishu Mile on Oct. 3 at Fort Drum.
The day began with 2-14 Infantry Soldiers and veterans conducting a Mogadishu Mile together and sharing the Golden Dragon history.
Lt. Col. Robert Fouche, 2-14 Infantry commander who recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan with his battalion, started by welcoming the veterans and telling them how their actions and lessons learned serve as a template for their own training.
"Your actions in Somalia serve as an inspiration to us -- the current Golden Dragons -- and for many Soldiers across the Army," he said. "The lessens that you guys learned there and brought back and shared with the rest of the Army here have been incorporated into our training cycles as we prepare to go to Afghanistan now."
As the Soldiers made their way through their "mile," they stopped periodically to listen to some of the veterans recount the events they experienced on Oct. 3, 1993.
Lt. Col. Michael Whetstone, then a captain who served as commander of C Company, took his Soldiers to the second Black Hawk helicopter crash site. Although they came under extremely heavy rocket and small-arms fire, they made it to where UH-60 pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Durant and his crew were supposed to be.
Soldiers would later learn that Durant, a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment assigned to Task Force Ranger, had been captured by a group of Somalis.
"We did not know how tenacious and ferocious they would fight or how many of them there were," Whetstone recalled. "It was kind of bittersweet, because nobody was there (at the site). It was kind of weird in the middle of the night, calling out names (of) people we didn't even know, but it didn't matter. As Americans, we went there no matter what to find out if there was anybody there alive and police up whatever was left. We don't leave anybody behind, ever."
Retired Brig. Gen. Bill David was a lieutenant colonel and commander of Task Force 2-14 during the battle. He expressed his pride in the Soldiers who fought during the battle.
"When you think about it, that same funnel -- that same cordon that the Rangers could not fight their way out of -- 2-14 (Infantry Soldiers) fought their way in," David remembered. "Nobody ran out of ammo, nobody fell out, and we didn't have to carry anybody on our back because they failed physically. We had to carry people on our backs because they were wounded, but not because they physically failed.
"We do not leave anybody behind. Everybody who went in, came out," he added.
After completing the Mogadishu Mile, a wreath was laid at the 2-14 Infantry memorial for Pfc. James H. Martin Jr., a former Golden Dragon, who was killed in action by a Somali gunman on Oct. 4, 1993, while he was firing an M-16 rifle to give cover to medics, and Sgt. Cornell Houston, a member of 41st Engineer Battalion, who was killed while fighting from the rescue convoy.
The Golden Dragons then proceeded to the 10th Mountain Division Operation Restore Hope / Continue Hope memorial ceremony, where Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, took the podium.
"Our purpose today is to commemorate the division's entire role and effort in Somalia to help the Somali people," he said. "For over 15 months, the entire 10th Mountain Division rotated through deployments in Somalia, shouldering across that beleaguered country, operating and fighting along a spectrum of war from handling humanitarian aid one day to desperate close-quarter combat the next.
"The Golden Dragons, with the help from other division units, assembled and led an international quick reaction force to assist Task Force Ranger," Townsend continued. "They made multiple attempts to get through and never gave up. I heard Brig. Gen. (Bill) David today and some of the other leaders that are here today tell those younger Golden Dragons that they would never stop their attempt. There was never a thought that they would not succeed."
After the commanding general's remarks, those in attendance rose for the rendering of honors, the playing of taps and "Amazing Grace," and a moment of silence. Then guests and Soldiers paid their respects.
For the remainder of the day, current 2-14 Infantry Soldiers took the Mogadishu veterans on a tour of the post's high-tech training areas that did not exist back then, from the Virtual Training Facility that has the Engagement Skills Trainer, where Soldiers can maintain effective marksmanship; to the Medical Simulation Training Center, where they train on combat life saving skills; to the Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Center, where Soldiers learn the latest in robotic mine identification and clearance.
"The Army today takes a back seat to nobody. You guys (have) got a lot of toys we did not have 20 years ago," David said. "I think we had maybe two night vision devices per squad, and we had one GPS per company. We were still using grease pencils on maps. You guys have a lot of things we did not have back then.
"It doesn't make your job in a lot of respects any easier, because we know combat is (like) a bar fight," he added. "That will never change."