Iron Mike – Gruntworks Blogger
EPISODE 4: Master Sergeant Gary Gordon & Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart
Alright you bunch of slack-jawed mongrels, bring it in and stop scratching your fourth points of contact. I got a question for you; what is your code? What set of values and beliefs do you hold to your core? What words codify who you are as a man and what you stand for? Chances are you probably don’t know. You’ve probably never even thought about it… You’ve probably gone through life thus far with no cohesive set of beliefs guiding your actions, and you’ve certainly never enshrined those beliefs in words. To you the word “creed” conjures up images of standing in front of a board with your battalion Command Sergeant Major and reciting some bullshit you were forced to memorize if you wanted to bump up to the next pay grade or go to some military school. Maybe your first thought is of that alternative rock band pussies listened to in the 90’s. I’ve realized lately that you people have no fucking clue what a creed actually is, let alone what it means to live by one. I aim to rectify that. Today’s story is about the men of Task Force Ranger and what it means to live and die by a creed.
In 1974, the Army Chief of Staff GEN Creighton Abrams recognized the need for an elite infantry unit to conduct special-purpose missions on short notice in support of strategic military objectives and commissioned the creation of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment. 2nd and 3rd Battalions followed soon after. Upon its creation, the first Command Sergeant Major of 1st Battalion, 75th Rangers; CSM Neal R. Gentry, was hand-selected for the position and charged with writing a creed that defined everything a Ranger should be, know, and do. The result is my creed; the creed that every Infantryman should aspire to live on a daily basis:
“Recognizing that I volunteered as a RANGER, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit-de-corps of my Ranger Regiment (of the Rangers).
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier, who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor…
RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!”
Now, those words are just that, words; if not for the people whose actions were defined by them. Who lived and breathed them. Whose valor, blood, sweat, and tears has so thoroughly inundated them with history and meaning. Men like those who deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia with Task Force Ranger on Operation Gothic Serpent. Men like Master Sergeant Gary Ivan Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart, whose names will forever be intertwined in US Military lore for their selflessness and heroism. Here’s a little background on them.
Master Sergeant Gary Ivan Gordon was born in Lincoln, Maine on 30 August, 1960. Most of his early life was fairly uneventful as far as we’re concerned here. In 1978, when most people his age were experimenting with drugs and protesting about everything (sound familiar millennials?), Gary Gordon enlisted in the army as a Combat Engineer. Over the next 8 years of military service, Gordon would complete Ranger School, Special Forces Assessment, the Special Forces Q-Course, and earn his Green Beret. He would serve as an MOS 18C, Special Forces Engineer Sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG until 1986. That same year he would complete selection for Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta. By 1993 Master Sergeant Gordon was married with 2 children and serving as a Team Sergeant of a Delta Force Sniper Section.
Sergeant First Class Randall “Randy” Shughart was born on 13 August, 1958 and at the age of 17 he enlisted in the Army as an Infantryman while still in high school. After completing OSUT at Fort Benning in 1978, Private Shughart was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis, Washington. He graduated Ranger School and remained with 2/75 until 1980 when he left active service for a 3-year stint in the reserves. We all know how much the Reserves suck ass, so it’s no surprise he returned to active duty in 1983 and went on to earn his Green Beret. Likewise, in 1986, Shughart was accepted into Delta Force and would continue his career there. By 1993 he was the assistant Team Sergeant to MSG Gordon’s Sniper Section. Both men would deploy to Somalia together under the Joint Special Operations Command ‘Task Force Ranger’ for Operation Gothic Serpent to remove warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid from power and restore the ability of United Nations humanitarian aid to safely provide food relief to the people of Mogadishu.
Now you are probably familiar with this story, or have at least watched the movie “Blackhawk Down” and think you know what happened there. Long story short, you will probably never grasp the full impact of the operation, nor will you understand all the actions and decisions that impacted the men involved in that mission since a lot of that is still classified. I’m not here to talk your ears off about the policies of the Clinton administration or to debate the proper utilization of mission assets. I won’t be discussing strategy or pick apart the failures in mission planning that led to the events that cost 19 American servicemen their lives that day. I will simply recount the voluntary actions of two specific men, under the most austere circumstances, in combat where every C2 and Support function had broken down; when two men with nothing more than the man next to them, their personal weapon, and the convictions immortalized in the words of a creed chose to fight to their last breath for their fellow soldiers. Do not take this to mean that there were no other men that day who lived and died by the same creed. Men of the 160th SOAR, B/3-75 Rangers, SEAL Team VI, the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and C Squadron 1st SFOD-D all fought valiantly in combat that would earn the members of Task Force Ranger: 2 Congressional Medals of Honor, an Air Force Cross, Dozens of Silver and Bronze Stars (With Valor Devices), and countless purple hearts. I only have enough time to tell you about the two we most remember for their selflessness and I’m going to tell it to you in a way you probably haven’t heard before.
I want you to think back to that Ranger Creed you read a few minutes ago and then use your SpongeBob Squarepants imagination powers to put yourself where those men were on 03 October, 1993. Imagine knowing that American lives hang in the balance as the mission has gone awry and that the initial rescue force is pinned down and stretched almost to the breaking point at the crash site of Super 61 – the first downed Blackhawk, over a mile away from the crash site of Super 64. Imagine knowing that no one can come and save the wounded crewman of Super 64 and that you and your buddy are the only thing between them and thousands of angry, doped-up Somali militia fighters on the warpath. Imagine having no clear guidance from higher and the only thing dictating your actions and decisions is the words espoused in a creed you’ve recited thousands of times…
What do you do? I want you to think about that really hard before you read this next part.
“Recognizing that I volunteered as a RANGER…”
MSG Gordon radios HQ voluntarily requesting his team be inserted at the second crash site of Super 64 to protect the survivors until ground reinforcements arrive. His initial two requests are denied. He is advised that there is no guarantee that the QRF will make it to them and is third request is approved.
“fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession…”
The Delta Sniper Team could see from the air that they are outnumbered by hundreds if not thousands to one. Their bird, Super 66, is already taking heavy ground fire and one crew chief is injured. His position on the gun is assumed by the third member of the sniper team, SFC Brad Hallings.
“I will always endeavor to uphold the Prestige, Honor, and high esprit-de-Corps of the Rangers.”
The team of MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart is inserted by helo about 100m away from Crash site #2 at about 1642 hours. Their bird is driven away by intense ground fire and cannot provide adequate covering fire to the two men.
“I accept the fact that as a Ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.”
The Sniper Team must navigate 100m of shanties and shacks while under direct fire from the Somali militiamen before even reaching crash site #2. They reach it in a matter of minutes and begin to establish a hasty defensive perimeter.
“Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.”
The two men arrive on scene and begin assessing casualties. There are four remaining crewmen alive, but only Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant is conscious despite being unable to move. The Sniper Team has just voluntarily assumed a mission that nearly 100 Rangers and Special Operators are struggling with over a mile away. Minutes into the engagement they are already being probed by Somalis and under heavy fire.
“Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier.”
Gallantry doesn’t even begin to cover these men’s actions.
“My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.”
The duo uses their assigned weapons, a CAR-15 (an early M4 variant) and a scoped M14 to engage targets around the crash site. Their equipment performs flawlessly due to their almost obsessive care and proficiency. A single jammed weapon means instant death for every American on the ground.
“Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word.”
Already low on ammunition, the pair of snipers begins using the aircrews’ weapons and ammunition from the downed helicopter. Over a dozen Somalis have been killed with dozens more wounded as they attempt to breach the hasty perimeter of the Delta operators. The Sniper Team have already determined that there can be no surrender, they will receive no mercy from the hordes of Somalis eager to kill Americans whom they have been engaging now for over half an hour.
“I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.”
The Somalis are within earshot and have been screaming with bloodlust to the Americans. They understand that if they fail it is likely every single one of them will be torn to shreds and their bodies desecrated by the mobs of Somali heathens. The men have no choice but to hold to their last round. The only option to save any of the lives of the wounded crew and themselves is to continue fighting with every fiber of their being.
“Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor…”
“Damnit! I’m hit!” – Last known words of MSG Gary Gordon as he is struck and fatally wounded by Somali gunfire. SFC Shughart retrieves his CAR-15 and the last few rounds of ammunition and hands it to CWO Durant with the parting words “Good Luck.”. Minutes later after relaying a few last radio calls for support and exhausting his rifle ammunition, SFC Shughart is also killed by Somali fire as he continued to engage the closing Somalis with his sidearm. At approximately 1740 hours on 03 October, 1993 Crash Site #2 is overrun by Somali militia. The Somalis had suffered over 4 dozen casualties in the attempt.
“RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!”
Some of you may think that these men had failed in their mission to save the crew of Super 64, but you would be wrong. In holding the perimeter for nearly an hour against overwhelming enemy numbers, MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart had allowed enough time for a mid-level Somali militia commander to arrive on scene. He declared to the throngs of whooping tribal fighters that the remaining survivor at the crash site, CW3 Durant, would be taken alive as a prisoner. CW3 Durant remained in Somali custody for 11 days before being released, his survival was owed to the actions of MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart. A fact he acknowledged well in his book “In the Company of Heroes”. Master Sergeant Gordon and Sergeant First Class Shughart had “fought on to the Ranger objective” and completed their mission at the expense of their own lives. They would become the first American servicemen to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War for their selfless and gallant actions.
So, what should you learn from this story? That a creed is much more than some words you need to memorize for a promotion or so your supervisor won’t be on your ass. A creed is more than mere words, it is words with meaning made by those who came before you, that define you as a man when you choose to adopt them. Train like your life depends on it daily, you never know when it could be just you, your buddy, your weapon and your creed who are left to win the fight. Now Ranger, I don’t care if you are still in or you cuddle your sweet DD214 at night, get off your fucking 4th point of contact, stop using your booger hooks to strip-mine your stink crack for ass-cheese, and get fucking busy bettering yourselves. I would recommend starting at the nearest gym. RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!