By Sharilyn Wells/ParaglideOctober 14, 2011
Almost two months after students first stepped inside Randall D. Shughart Elementary and Middle School, a dedication ceremony was held Oct. 6, that paid tribute to the Medal of Honor recipient after whom the state-of-the-art facility is named. After a moving rendition of the national anthem by the school chorus, guest speakers honed in on the importance of Fort Bragg's Linden Oaks facility and Shughart's legacy.
"We are here for two reasons, one -- maintaining and keeping the promise of the Army Family and the Army Community Covenant in dedicating this state-of -the-art facility to our Soldiers and their Family members, and second -- to dedicate this wonderful facility in honor of the memory of one of our finest Soldiers in the U.S. Army, Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart," said Col. Stephen Sicinski, Fort Bragg Garrison commander. "What Sergeant First Class Shughart and Master Sergeant (Gary) Gordon did, electrified the Army," Sicinski said. "They refused to quit. They continued the mission and they gave everything."
Shughart served as a sniper team member with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Task Force Ranger when he was killed in action. On Oct. 3, 1993, Shughart accompanied by Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, voluntarily inserted into the city of Mogadishu, Somalia to protect the four-member crew of a downed Black Hawk, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy insurgents closing in on the crash site.
After the third request to be inserted, Shughart and Gordon were given permission to go into enemy territory about one hundred meters south of the crash site.
Equipped only with their sniper rifles and pistols, Shughart and Gordon fought their way through the dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Shughart and Gordon pulled the pilot and other crew members from the aircraft and established a perimeter, placing themselves in the most vulnerable spot.
Shughart continued protective fire around the injured crew until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. Gordon then continued to fire at the enemy until his own rifle was out of ammunition. Gordon recovered another rifle from the wreckage and with his last five rounds of ammunition gave it to the pilot with the words, "good luck."
Then, armed only with his rifle, Gordon continued to fight until he too was fatally wounded. Shughart and Gordon's actions saved the pilot's life.
"You know, to the students sitting behind me, I'm kind of like a principal too and you're much better behaved than your parents," joked Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School commanding general who served with Shughart prior to and while serving in Somalia. "But you know what I attribute that to? It's your teachers. This is a great facility but if you don't fill it with quality teachers, you're just not going to get anywhere. So I want to thank all the teachers out here.
"Because I am responsible for training our special operations Soldiers, I want to explain the difference between training and education. Training is kind of easy. We have the best-trained Army in the world, but education is more complex. Education is the acquisition of knowledge. It's how our Soldiers apply that knowledge to their environment. And I would argue that what Randy did on that battlefield is attributed to his education," said Sacolick. "It wasn't about training. Everything that we did leading up to Somalia was about education. It was about using imagination; creativity; doing things we've never done before. And in that regard, it's fitting that we should name a school, a place where we set the foundation to educating our youth, our future, after Randy."
More than 1200 students currently attend the Shughart schools in grade levels from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. Another Linden Oaks elementary school, opened in 2008 and was dedicated to Gordon.
In attendance, Shughart's wife Stephanie, said that her husband would have been very proud of the school's dedication and her Family is honored and humbled.
"The core values in life never change," said Stephanie, when asked what she hoped students would learn from her husband's example. "If you say you believe in something, then your actions should reflect that belief.
"He wasn't the valedictorian of his class and he wasn't all about sports. He was an average kid," she said. "It's important for teachers to recognize that each student has potential for something very special."