MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Active-duty members, veterans, and civilians came out in full force Oct. 3, marking the 21st anniversary of the dangerous and deadly battle on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, where 18 Americans were killed and at least 68 others wounded.
Twenty-eight two-man teams participated in the Mogadishu Mile, an event comprised of shooting a course of fire at the firing range followed by a 5k run that ended at the Special Operations Memorial.
The teams shot their course of fire in a simulated urban environment, replicating the original firefight. After moving and shooting through smoky conditions, the teams had to drag a 185-pound training mannequin, a simulated downed pilot, to safety.
The relay race refers to the route run by Special Operations Forces from the helicopter crash site to a rally point held by the 10th Mountain Division during the early October battle more than two decades ago. In the Special Operations community, the Mogadishu Mile is a symbol of perseverance and dedication to the mission.
After all teams completed the course, U.S. Special Operations Command senior enlisted, Command Sergeant Major Chris Faris, who was a sergeant first-class in 1993, and fought in the battle, spoke to participants and others who came out to honor and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Gothic Serpent.
“There is a bond that will always be shared among warriors,” said Faris. “They will never be forgotten.”
Faris and the rest of his unit joined Task Force Ranger, a joint effort as part of a special operations task force deployed to Somalia in response to attacks by supporters of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid on American and international troops. The original mission was to capture two of Aidid’s key lieutenants near the Bakara Market; but all that changed when local Somali fighters and militiamen loyal to Aidid took actions of their own, raising an assault and shooting down one UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The mission to seize the militants immediately changed into a rescue operation.
“The biggest reason we stayed there was that we were not going to leave a fallen comrade behind,” Faris said.
Before the battle was over, militants shot down two Black Hawks with rocket-propelled grenades and engaged in a fierce attack with exposed U.S. forces.
“When you’re engaged in a firefight, it’s a matter of survival, and who you fight for is that man to your left and your right, and every one of them did that,” Faris said, as he recalled the young men who lost their lives that day.
“This operation is still remembered as evidenced by everyone that’s out here participating,” said Faris. “Thank you for being here … for remembering the events of 3 October. It’s very humbling.”