F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
Beginning at 5:42 a.m., October 4, 1993, U.S. Army Rangers, and soldiers of Delta Force and the 10th Mountain Division began retreating from Blackhawk helicopter crash sites after the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia.
Nineteen Americans died and 73 more were injured in the battle, but those who survived the initial firefights were not out of harm’s way. They had another hurdle – exfiltration to a rally point held by the 10th Mountain Division and an awaiting convoy.
A convoy of UN troops driving more than 100 vehicles entered the city to extract the survivors; however, a group of Rangers and Delta operators, along with soldiers from the 10th Mountain would have to join the convoy on foot after the wounded had been loaded onto the vehicles.
Thus began the Mogadishu Mile, where the convoy and troops on foot conducted a tactical retreat from the crash site to a location on National Street where more vehicles awaited to take them to secure locations all while under attack from small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire.
Twenty-seven years have passed since the battle and the extraction, but Airmen of the 90th Missile Wing held a Mogadishu Mile ruck march Oct. 9, 2020 at the parade field on F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., to honor the sacrifice and bravery of those who fought and died that day.
October 3, 1993
3:42 p.m. : Assault teams strike the Olympic Hotel target site in an attempt to capture two lieutenants of Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the leader of a combatant force in opposition to UN peacekeeping efforts. Four Delta assault “chalks” drop from helicopters and move to the four corners of the hotel.
PFC Todd Blackburn falls while fast roping from Super 67 in the first moments of the operation, suffering multiple injuries. He is evacuated by a ground support convoy, and Sergeant Dominick Pilla, a Ranger assigned to the convoy, is killed while taking Blackburn back to safety.
“We’re doing this as a memorial to those 18 Rangers and Delta Force operators who died,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ron Bartsch, who organized the event. “However, we’re also here to honor the sacrifice and heroism of all of those present, including three Airmen.”
4:20 p.m. : Blackhawk Super 61 is shot down by an RPG. Both pilots are killed in the crash and their crew chiefs wounded. Delta Staff Sgt. Daniel Busch and Sgt. Jim Smith survive the crash and begin defending the site. Busch later dies of his injuries, having been shot four times while defending the crash site.
Eleven Airmen, mostly from the 90th Communications Squadron, donned rucksacks and marched 2.8 miles around the parade field to match the distance from the site of the downed helicopter to the site called the Pakistani Stadium, a secure UN facility set up with medical support for the special operators.
4:40 p.m. : Super 64 is downed by an RPG. Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, who had been providing cover fire from the air, request to be inserted into the crash site. After several denials of their request, they are allowed to drop into the site to protect the crew of 64.
Many of those Airmen participating were not even alive during the events of the Battle of Mogadishu, but that fact was no deterrent to them paying their respects through the event, even if they had never done anything like it before.
5:40 p.m. : Shughart and Gordon run out of ammunition and are overrun by Somali combatants. They and the pilots and crew of 64 are killed, except for pilot Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, who is savagely beaten and then taken prisoner. He will be released after 11 days in captivity.
“I came out because the squadron was doing it and I’d never done a memorial ruck before,” said 2nd Lieutenant Adam Nelson. “It was a new experience and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.”
5:45 p.m. : Ninety-nine men remain trapped and surrounded in the city around Super 61. They fight off wave after wave of hostile Somali fighters.
Though for some it was a desire to increase camaraderie by participating in an event with their unit, some saw it as an appropriate capstone to their own career through honoring those who came before.
9:00 p.m. : Joint Task Force Command organizes “The Rescue Convoy,” composed of 10th Mountain Troops, the remainder of Task Force Ranger, Pakistani tanks and Malaysian armored vehicles. They move out in less than thirty minutes but are stopped by a large explosion close to the crash site. They reach the trapped soldiers just before 2 a.m.
“I participated as a way to remember the sacrifices and the lives of those who came before me, and this was a perfect way to end my active duty career with a humbling event where everyone there took time to remember and reflect on the battle and give some of us newer Airmen a way to learn our history and give back in a sense,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Stancil. “Although it was before my time, it was a significant event that embodied warrior ethos, courage, and heroism.”
October 4, 1993
5:30 a.m. : Elements of the Rangers and Delta Force soldiers begin the “Mogadishu Mile,” exfiltrating to a rendezvous point just over a mile away on National Street, all while taking withering small arms fire and RPG attacks.
To kick off the march, Bartsch quoted Tech Sgt. Tim Wilkinson, a pararescueman who earned an Air Force Cross for his heroism during the battle from a statement he gave upon receiving the medal.
6:30 a.m. : The force returns to the stadium. Of the 99 Americans on the ground, 18 Americans will be confirmed dead and 73 injured.
“Today you have honored us and we are humbly grateful – humbly grateful because although we are privileged to enjoy the honors you have bestowed upon us, one must be humbled by the sacrifices of our comrades who are no longer with us – our fallen teammates who have given the fullest measure,” said Wilkinson. “There is no greater love than for one man to give his life for another, and we would ask that as you have honored us today that you remember our fallen teammates and when you remember these events of Oct. 3 and 4, you remember them, their families and their loved ones.”
Editor’s Note: Wilkinson, along with pararescueman Master Sgt. Scott Fales and combat controller Tech Sgt. Jeffrey Bray, were among those 99 men fighting for their lives and the lives of their comrades through the streets of Mogadishu in 1993. Fales and Bray earned Silver Stars for their valor in the face of unyielding attack. During the fight, Bray innovated tactics on the spot that would become instrumental in urban combat in the post-9/11 combat area. Bray passed away in 2017. An article about their experience can be found here.