Friday, October 26, 2012

A Tale of Four Heroes

On October 6th 1993, in a forgotten corner of east Africa, an RPG caught a UH-60 in just the right spot, causing the second crash of a Blackhawk that day.  (There would actually be two others that suffered enough damage that they barely made it back to base).  The Blackhawk call sign Super 64  spun into Mogadishu and landed hard after a nearly 70 foot free fall.  When the dust settled the crew was either dead or dying, and only the pilot, CWO Mike Durant was able to respond when a mob started to surround his crash site. 

At this moment two Delta snipers SFC Randy Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon requested three times to be inserted to hold off the mob until ground forces arrived to secure the crash site.  Finally they were given the go ahead, after being informed that Bravo company 3rd Battalion 75th Rangers was in heavy contact, and 2nd Battalion 14th Infantry was just then mobilizing.  It was made absolutely clear that there was no certainty when help might arrive.  They went anyway.

As soon as they were inserted their bird Super 68 was hit, and another Delta sniper was wounded.  Super 68 barely made it back to the pad.  All Balckhawks were immediately grounded, and no overhead cover could be provided because it was simply too dangerous.  The two men fought their way to the downed Durant Balckhawk.  In the confused battle MSG Gordon was wounded or killed, shortly after CWO Durant was pulled out, leaving SFC Shughart to fight off the mob alone.  It is clear that these two men fought like lions before finally succumbing to wounds.  Both were (posthumously) Awarded the Medal of Honor.

Flash forward to September 11th 2012.  Former SEAL Tyrone Woods was sitting at a CIA annex about a mile away from a US Consulate (different from an embassy) and at about 2140, it became very clear that the Consulate was under attack.  Woods, got on the radio to request permission for him and his team to assist the Consulate.  They were denied.  Twice.  At about that point Woods and at least two others said “fuck it we’re going anyway”.  They rushed to the compound to evacuate the surviving personnel and the body of Sean Smith who had already been killed.  Keep in mind the consulate is on fire at this point and these men are in contact while they’re evacing the staff.   They sadly couldn’t find the Ambassador in all the confusion.

The rescue team then beat feet back to the CIA annex.  They get back to the safe house at midnight. At this point, it gets a little confusing.  OpSec makes it hard to say who did what, but someone got on the gun that was on the roof, and actually had a laser designator aimed at a mortar team that was shelling the annex.  Over the next four hours not once, but three times Woods called for immediate back up.  At some point the Annex is backed up by a team from Global Response Staff of GRS, which was sent from Tripoli.  Among the crew was another former SEAL Glen Doherty. 

By 0400 both Doherty and Woods were dead.  At least one was killed by a mortar, and its pretty clear that both men died with their boots on, throwing lead down range.  At least one Libyan militia cam to the defense of the US annex, and the QRF inside Libya, which was still trying to secure trans at the airport might have made a difference.  But again, because of OpSec, it’s not entirely clear what happened when.

Now at some point the SecDef said that you don’t just throw troops into a situation like that.  The infamous “fog of war” argument was used.  I must call bullshit on all of this.  If the attack on the Consulate began at 2140, then there were at least three “tier 1” teams within 400 miles that could have been there inside of an hour and a half, two hours at the outside.  They had drones flying overhead.  Most of our drones are packing Hellfire missiles, and we don’t seem to have much problem dropping them on pretty much anybody that we consider a terrorist.  They even had at least one AC-130 Specter gunship within 2 hour’s flying distance. 

So I must ask: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Over.  I am not a politician, so maybe the vagaries of foreign relations might slip my grasp, but the representative of the government of the United States of America was drug out of his consulate and killed.  Why wouldn’t you drop everything and fix that situation most ricky tick?  I can not for the life of me understand why the troops at the annex were told to stand down.  Twice.  I do not understand why there wasn’t QRF mobilized from Europe the second it looked like the Consulate was in danger. 

I don’t buy fog of war.  I don’t buy “confused situation”.  I’ve been on QRF (Quick Reaction Force) more than once for a TiC (Troops in Contact) call.  You can tell by the tone of voice used just how bad it is.  When words like “immediate” or “urgent” are used on the radio, its not because some Hollywood script writer is trying to make it sound good.  They’re about to get rolled and they need help.  If you’re on the QRF you drop literally everything and move as expeditiously as possible to support and evacuate your comrades

Both in Mogadishu, and in Benghazi there were assets available that might have prevented the tragic events that happened.  Air support, ground support, even indirect fire support, but because of the “political realities on the ground” those assets were denied, and some very fine warriors were lost. I don’t care where you stand politically.  This is simply put unacceptable.  It  truly lamentable that MSG Gordon, SFC Shughart, Woods and Doherty had to pay the price for political squeamishness. 

They knew what they were risking, and they had every confidence that they could hold out until friendly ground forces arrived.  Woods, his team, and Doherty’s team were not alone, like MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart were, but it is clear that they showed the same level of courage and moral fiber.  They risked life and limb, to help their comrades and fellow Americans.  In the end we would expect no less of our brothers in arms.  Both Woods and Doherty died in a pile of brass, with their boots on.  That is what it means to be a Warrior, and we should not soon forget such men.


Anonymous said...

Very well spoken. I agree with you completely. Something feels very suspicious with the unfolding of this whole story.....

RG said...

I early voted today and I certainly remembered.