FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker hosted several events Oct. 3-9 to honor the fallen and veterans of Task Force Ranger and their efforts in Somalia in 1993.
The events included a memorial 5k at the Beaver Lake Trail Oct. 3, unit physical training Oct. 5-8, a unit team PT competition Oct. 9 and a memorial ceremony in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Oct. 9 that featured two veterans of the task force as guest speakers.
Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general offered comments at the memorial ceremony, starting off by congratulating the Soldiers from B Company, 1-145th Aviation Regiment who won the unit PT competition that morning, but who could not be at the ceremony because they had to go off to flight training, he said.
“So, we will recognize them separately, but I wanted to give them a shout out – you are the example of what right looks like,” Francis said before introducing the two guest speakers, retired CW3 Perry Alliman, who flew UH-60 Black Hawks for Task Force Ranger, and retired Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Hulst, who was a Ranger ground chalk leader involved in the Battle of Mogadishu.
Alliman didn’t take part in the Battle of Mogadishu because he was in a Black Hawk down scenario more than a week prior to the Oct. 3-4 events that immortalized the phrase.
The retired Aviator said he was conducting a show-of-force mission the night of Sept. 25, 1993, when he and his fellow Soldiers came under mortar fire while refueling at the task force’s airfield. After moving away from where the mortar fire was landing, he flew out to look for the enemy combatants in the surrounding area.
“We flew around in the area for about 30 minutes, but we could not find any militia, so we started to head back to airfield,” he said. “We could see the airfield, we were about five minutes from home and getting ready to go to bed, but little did we know all hell was about to break loose.”
As pilot CW3 Dale Shrader took the aircraft over some three-story buildings at about 100 feet off the ground, “we were under overcast sky with about a 70% illumination, and a man came on the roof with an RPG, took a shot, and he hit us in the cabin area of the aircraft,” Alliman explained.
“A fireball exploded in the aircraft, rolled over both me and Dale, and the guys in the back were on fire,” he continued. “The aircraft did a diving right turn … we crashed at an intersection and slid into a building. We couldn’t have landed any better, but we hit pretty hard and the right strut collapsed.”
The explosion and crash killed three Soldiers in the back of the aircraft, but Shrader and Alliman survived. Shrader pulled the severely injured Alliman into a nearby alley, and held off two Somali militia members armed with AK-47s with his 9mm handgun for about two hours, the speaker recounted.
When Shrader had used up all five of Soldiers’ magazines, he made his way over to Alliman, saying “Perry, John 3:16, John 3:16,” the speaker added. “I asked him years later, ‘Dale, why didn’t you just say the verse?’ He said, ‘I was so scared, I couldn’t remember it.’
“And we were – we were terrified,” Alliman said. “We were out of bullets, we had one knife – I never even put a knife on my vest because I figured if I had to pull a knife in Somalia, I was in big trouble anyway.”
Alliman said the two prayed together, expecting the end to come at any moment, but then a voice cried out to them, “American boys! Come!”
“We had no choice but to trust him,” he said, adding that it was a man who led them to a nearby United Arab Emirates unit who evacuated the two Soldiers to safety.
“When Jesus talks about the Lord ’s Prayer, he talks about forgiving those who’ve harmed us,” Alliman said, “I’ve heard a lot of people lately, leaders even, who said they could never forgive that person for whatever they did. I’ve got to tell you, learning to forgive is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
“It’s not easy, but it’s worth the price,” he added. “The Mayo Clinic has done some research on this and if you want to have no anxiety, good heart health, all the things that keep you healthy revolve around not holding a grudge and being angry at people. That doesn’t mean we don’t do our job, but we don’t have to hold hate in our hearts afterwards.
Alliman added that when people find themselves in a situation similar to the one he found himself in that day, to trust in their faith and also to “trust in your nation that they will come and rescue you.”
The other speaker, Hulst, spoke a little about what it was like on the ground during the battle as a Ranger team leader, the tragedy of losing friends in battle and living with it, and also about his love for Army Aviation, despite never being an Aviator.
“I look up to you every single day because you are the ones who get us in there and get us out under all conditions – no matter what it is, gunfire, RPGs, explosions, it doesn’t matter. You are going in because you’re coming to get us,” he said. “We work together as a team.
“I enjoy living here in Alabama,” Hulst continued. “Every time I hear you guys flying over, that’s a good feeling to me. I just love the sound of helicopters. It's not an easy task to fly Rangers, special forces, SEALs or whoever into combat.
“We train to stay conditioned, we train to fight and we train to win,” he added. “The United States of America will never fall.”
The event concluded with a roll call and bell ring for names of fallen of the battle, a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”