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    Operation GOTHIC SERPENT, Task Force Ranger and the Search for the Missing (Part 2)

    Operation GOTHIC SERPENT, Task Force Ranger and the Search for the Missing (Part 2)

    Courtesy Photo | Crew of Super 64, September 1993. From left: Winn Mahuron, Tommy Field, Bill...... read more read more

    FORT HUACHUCA, ARIZONA, UNITED STATES

    10.13.2022

    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence

    by Fiona G. Holter, USAICoE Staff Historian

    On 14 October 1993, CWO3 Michael Durant, a pilot with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), was released by Somali insurgents after being held captive for eleven days following the crash of his MH-60L Blackhawk. The Blackhawk, Super 64, was the second helicopter shot down in the Battle of Mogadishu after a high-risk raid by Task Force (TF) Ranger to capture two high value, Somali National Alliance (SNA) assets. [See This Week in MI History #155 5-8 October]

    After successfully completing a high-risk raid to capture high-value SNA assets in the Habr Gedir sector of Mogadishu on 3 October, TF Ranger—a team of Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) and support elements—was faced with a new mission after enemy insurgents shot down Super 61, a Blackhawk piloted by CWO4 Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott and CWO3 Donovan “Bull” Briley, who were providing air support to the mission. As TF Ranger saw the helicopter crash, they diverted their resources to secure the crash site and rescue the crew.

    As ground troops raced clan militias to the Super 61 crash site, in what became a baited ambush, Super 64, a second Blackhawk piloted by CWO3 Durant was shot down approximately twelve minutes later. A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) comprised of infantry from 2d Battalion, 14th Infantry and 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry were deployed as combat support as well as search and rescue. Supported by Pakistani tanks and Malaysian armored personnel carriers, the QRF teams eventually secured the Super 61 crash site, retrieved the dead and wounded, and provided support to elements of TF Ranger as they redeployed to safety. However, by the time they reached the Super 64 crash site, the crew was missing.

    In the aftermath of the Battle of Mogadishu, casualties totaled thirteen dead, eighty-two wounded, and six missing. Lt. Col. (later Col.) James T. Faust, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) J-2 Chief of Intelligence Operations, TF Ranger, explained that with six missing soldiers, TF Ranger quickly shifted their mission. He said, “everything we built for TF Ranger intelligence focused on Aideed and his infrastructure;” now their mission was to build a new collection plan, combining the efforts of human and signal intelligence and surveillance systems to find the soldiers missing in action.

    Within a couple of days, HUMINT sources reported Somali insurgents were dragging dead American soldiers through the streets, which was later confirmed by CNN footage. They also recovered a soldier whose body was left at a roadblock within the city. Eventually, five of the missing were located and declared dead; however, the search for Durant continued.

    Maj. Gen. (then Capt.) Robert Walters, the Assistant S-2, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR, which deployed with TF Ranger, explained that after other search methods failed, the S-2 shop reached out to Durant’s wife for a list of his favorite songs, “divided the city into quadrants and then put speakers on [their] helicopters and played his favorite song, a different one in each of the four quadrants.” He explained their hope was Durant would hear the song and mention it in a Red Cross message, helping them narrow down the search. Unfortunately, none of Durant’s messages were mailed but, on 14 October 1993, after being held captive for eleven days, he was released to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    The events of 3-4 October 1993 prompted withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia. According to CWO4 (Retired) Gregory Peterson, a senior civilian analyst at JSOC at the time of the raid, “While the common legacy of TF Ranger is the casualties associated with the October raid, that operation survives today as [a] hallmark of surgical Special Operations units.”

    Overall, it was a costly learning experience and one that also demonstrated the courage of SOF Soldiers who earned two Medals of Honor. In 2021, the Army and Congress approved upgrades for sixty awards for valor in the Battle of Mogadishu, including fifty-eight new Silver Stars and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

    To see more entries visit the interactive timeline on the MI history website: https://ikn.army.mil/apps/MIHistory/ (CAC required)
    Errors or questions? Contact usarmy.huachuca.icoe.mbx.command-historian@army.mil

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 10.13.2022
    Date Posted: 10.13.2022 18:07
    Story ID: 431268
    Location: FORT HUACHUCA, ARIZONA, US

    Web Views: 2,667
    Downloads: 0

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