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Fort Drum remembers Somalia operations and 20th anniversary of Battle of Mogadishu, inspiration for ‘Black Hawk Down’


FORT DRUM — Twenty years after the Battle of Mogadishu, Col. Drew R. Meyerowich recalled he had no doubt that his soldiers would go to aid comrades from two downed Black Hawk helicopters.

“Hearing your buddy’s in trouble, there’s no question that we’re going to go in,” said Col. Meyerowich, at the time the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment’s Alpha Company. “It’s just because of what we believe in.”

The deadly battle took place on Oct. 3, 1993, as American forces, led by Task Force Ranger, attempted a raid to capture a Somali warlord. The raid turned tragic as soldiers were pinned down by enemy attackers following the helicopter crashes. A total of 18 American troops were killed in the battle, making it one of the deadliest for American forces between the Vietnam War and 9/11, and about 80 were injured.

The battle, and the 10th Mountain Division’s humanitarian efforts over 15 months in Somalia during Operations Restore Hope and Continue Hope, were remembered at a ceremony on post Thursday morning. About 100 alumni from the battalion, nicknamed the Golden Dragons, came to the ceremony.

The battalion was charged with leading a United Nations quick reaction force to rescue the pinned-down soldiers.

With enemy forces in place to barricade and ambush arriving support, an initial attempt to break through to the crash victims was unsuccessful. However, a regrouping with more battalion soldiers and Malaysian and Pakistani military personnel was able to break through and recover the trapped soldiers, even after being split up, after hours of intense, close-quarters combat.

“We accomplished the mission. Nobody got left behind,” said Col. William C. David, the battalion’s commander at the time. “That’s a tremendous feeling that we got it right.”

The battle was given additional prominence in the book “Black Hawk Down,” which later became a Hollywood blockbuster.

Thursday’s ceremony also included the remembrance of two division soldiers who died as a result of the battle, Sgt. Cornell Houston and Pfc. James H. Martin Jr., and a third killed about a week earlier, Sgt. Ferdinan C. Richardson.

Thursday’s commemorations started with the Mogadishu Mile run, which recounted the on-foot escape soldiers made from the crash area to a rallying point while facing heavy enemy fire.

At its peak, the division had about 10,000 soldiers supporting the Somalia humanitarian mission to prevent famine within the east African country. In addition to securing roads and cities to support the transport of supplies, division soldiers created a 160-foot Bailey bridge near Kismayo, at the time the largest such bridge built outside America since Vietnam.

Division commander Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said the soldiers who served in Somalia left a legacy that continues to inspire soldiers fighting today.

For retired Sgt. William J. Powell, the ceremony was a reason to reunite a group that served together for years, through the good and the bad.

“We were family,” Mr. Powell said. “We were brothers.”

That bond is a positive memory for soldiers such as 1st Sgt. Jay W. Johnson, even during a mission where he had few positives he could remember.

“The guys to the left and right is why we do it,” he said.

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