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Michael J Waller

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five months in Mogadishu
by Michael J Waller   

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Action/Thriller



Five long months in Mogadishu Somalia leading my men and hoping i don't fuck up


In August of 93 I was at home in Michigan on four day pass from my unit at Ft Campbell KY, spending time with my son and my friends before our units deployment to Somalia. I remember the many questions from my son Andrew who was four at the time, many I couldn't answer out of pure ignorance. We found Somalia on the globe and I pointed to it telling him it was right on the Indian Ocean, Andrew studied the globe and said I bet there are alot of sharks. The four day pass went buy quickly and I said my goodbyes to my son and my family and friends and drove the eight hours back to Ft Campbell. The train-up for Somalia at Ft Campbell consisited of many ranges for all types of weapons, convoy operations, field sanitation and certification of combat life savers. It seemed the senior leaders were taking this deployment seriously.
Then on 17 August we were told to band and secure our wall lockers in the barracks and be ready to fly within a two hour window. That window passed we were told the Somalis might have some type of AAM (anti acft missle) threat and the flight was canceled until further notice. We had already turned in our linen and slept on the bunks that night with no blankets. My roommate and best friend SPC Mike Morrison
a tall kid from Marshalltown, Iowa was still snoring when the alarm on my watch went off. Morrrison answered to his nickname Junior off duty, JUNIOR GET UP WE MISSED THE FLIGHT!!! He stumbled out of the rack looking for his glasses. I laughed and pointed Dude relax it's 0600 lets go to chow, Junior was not to happy about his wake up call and was mumbling dickhead and payback under his breath. Our company the 227th GS was going to be escorting and delivering food and rations to units all over Somalia. As the Operations NCO I was going to Somaila as advanced party with several other NCO's and one Spc/E-4, my hootchmate Junior. On August 18, 1993 at 1400hrs
we took the five minute bus ride to the airfield at Ft Campell boarded a C-141 and and off we went on a 21 hour flight to Mogadishu, Somalia.

As we sat shoulder to shoulder on the red webbed seats the aircraft climbed to altitude and leveled off and I leaned across to Junior and shouted above the engine noise WE SHOULD PROBABLY TAKE THOSE NYQUIL GEL TABS AND GET SOME SHUT EYE, Junior started to pat down his cargo pockets and then slowly looked to the rear of the aircraft at the Air Force pallet with over 100 rucksacks on it SHIT! First stop the Azores and our first time for a smoke and a chance to stretch out the legs. Then on to Cairo, Egypt after some complications about taking our weapons we able to get off the aircraft and smoke and joke then back on to Mogadishu. 

The aircraft rolled left and then right into steep bank and landed. My first impression of MOG Airport was, this isn't so bad. We were brought to a holding area in the hangars and picked up our bags and were issued ammo.
I peeked through the wall to the other side of the hangar where units were getting ready to fly home and made eye contact with a E-4 he asked are ya just gettin here? Yes I said . He replied I sure hate it for ya. Just as he said that we heard our first of many random shots fired by Somalis. A 2 1/2 ton truck showed up and we loaded up our gear and pulled up to the airport gate thats when the guys on the truck started to lock and load and the M60 gunner dropped a belt in his weapon. They had my immediate and undivided attention, I followed their lead and slammed a magazine in and we started off for Sword Base. As we turned left out of the airport there it was Mogadishu a city that was beyond third world. A city that had no power,telephone or any goverment to speak of.

MOG like
Gilligans Island had not a single luxury, even its ocean was infested with sharks. The drive to Sword Base took you along the coastline south where to your right was a huge hillside dotted with homes. In front of those homes was the MOG trash dump and a smell that to this day I can't describe except it would make most people gag. As we got closer to Sword I noticed some Somalis were waving at our convoy some were throwing rocks and some were giving us the finger. As we passed some check points run by Pakistani's I saw tanks and started to think to myself what did I get myself into. We finally arrived at Sword Base and our new home for the next five months, what a dump.... It was getting dark and Junior and I were looking for a permenant hootch we found it in the second floor of the motorpool. Sword Base was at onetime a Russian tank plant back in the 60's, it was a walled compound for the most part with guard towers all over it's perimeter. Guard towers means guard duty
and lots of it, I was given a tour at dusk of some of the guard towers and we stoppped when it got dark. The ROE (rules of engagement) were very restrictive in MOG at that time, at around 2100 we were heard some AK firing up guard point 4 they didn't return fire. I thought to myself thats crazy who would put soldiers out there without the right to fire back? The soldiers could've fire back but prior to our arrival anyone who fired a weapon was investigated at length, this was due to innocent Somalis being killed by stray rounds. Junior had decided to try and call home and headed off in the dark to find the telephones, about fifteen minutes later we had our first mortar attack. The mortars were being fired from the north and some were landing inside Sword and some short but it was alot of mortars 23 of them. I went down to the ground floor of the motorpool and started asking around, is this normal?
The rounds finally stopped and I heard on a radio that rounds had impacted several places inside Sword one of them being by the telephones and they were still checking for any wounded. Junior was there trying to call home, I grabbed my weapon and headed out in the darkness to a huge hole in the wall behind our piss tube.
Thats when I ran right in to SGT Schellenberger who was like me scared shitless and heading back from the phones I asked him if he'd seen Junior and he said he'd been him in line for the phones. Turns out a Mortar round landed short and everyone in line dove under a trailer the next round landed right where they WERE standing. Junior was ok but a little shaken by the nights events, given the lack of sleep and adjusting to our new home I was to. My first morning in MOG was one of surprise it was it was raining and raining and it suddenly stopped, the humidity and heat could suck the air out of your lungs. The following day we were going to convoy 8 hours across Somalia to Bidioa and then Bardera. Junior and I decided we would take the M60 on the 2 1/2 ton. We stopped in Bidoia and spent the night drinking with the French and a Irish army unit that brought a Sea Land van full of Hieneken beer. We traded PT uniforms and some (stuff) with the Foreign Legion and drank their beer Kronenberg.
Although I have a general dislike for the French, I found the 13th FFL a likeable lot. The next day it was on to Bardera and we had a chance to do a little safari hunting along the way, it was alot of fun in the middle of nowhere. We had stopped a few kilometers from Bardera near a village of mudhuts I was quickly surrounded by Somali children when I gave out some MRE crackers. Seeing kids that were 3-9 years old with very desperate looks in their eyes and having a 4 year old son hit me hard. These weren't the youth of MOG these were farmers kids who were starving, and from what the medics said the damage of the famine a year earlier had already taken it's toll on those that had survived. We handed out apples and oranges and headed for Bardera. When we pulled into Bardera we were told to be careful because a female relief worker was hacked to death the day before.

Bardera a dusty and sleepy little town that was hit very hard by the famine a year earlier was a welcome site after the 4 hour convoy from Bidoa. To get into Bardera you had to cross the Jubba River over a old metal bridge wide enough for one vehicle to pass at a time. The Jubba River was wide and moved swiftly, as we passed women from the village were washing clothes and bathing their children. One thing that struck me about Somalia was I never saw any men working, the women got the firewood and water and tended to the young while the men just lounged and chewed khat.
Once inside the U.N. camp we met with the French and Zimbabwe soldiers and found our sleeping quarters for the night, elevated tents with wooden floors and screens to try and keep the bugs and critters out. The security for the camp wasn't what we were hoping for and we slept with our weapons inside our sleeping bags. The next morning we packed up our gear and said our goodbyes to Junior as he was selected to stay for the week, we would return the following weekend to pick him back up. The trip back was uneventful but as we got closer to MOG the Somalis we passed were more accurate with the rocks. We were all aware of the two
vehicles that were destroyed by land mines in the road around MOG in the last two days and we wern't happy coming back in. Sword Base in the south of MOG was my home for the next five months, as we waited outside the gate to get in a group of Somali kids tried to steal a some MRE's off the back of one the hummers. They were quickly pepper sprayed by the vehicle in front of us, as the gate opened we drove right into the pepper spray welcome home. Everyday in MOG was the same get up eat chow and pull guard duty and lots of volleyball, the chance to leave Sword Base on a convoy was a welcomed opportunity by most. SOG (SGT of the Guard) was one of my duties at Sword Base and one I took very seriously. I held my guard mount (inspections and Rules of Engagement) outside our guard tent, one hour prior to the start of our shift. Our area of responsibility was the most active at Sword , guard points 1-6 all of the guard towers were lined with sandbags and equipped with NVG's, weapons like the M60 machine gun, MK19 grenade and the AT-4. Guard point 4 would see the most action of all the points and we tried to put our most squared away troops up there when we could. I would hear stories of (firefights) from some of the guards and would quickly explain a firefight is when people are shooting back at you.
Late in August while on SOG I was called by Guard point 2 and was told two or three Somalis were in the wire, I jumped in my truck and headed for the position it was dark and I was about 1 mintute out. The guard came back on the radio and asked if he should fire a warning shot I told him to put up a Illumination round with the 203, BOOOOOM he loaded HE (high explosive). I jumped out of the truck ran up the ladder and grabbed the NOD's from the guard, I used the red lense on my flaslight to spot the Skinnies and it was two kids about 8 or 9 years old naked crawling under our wire trying to sneak in and steal food or whatever they could get their hands on. When I saw the kids they were now facing away from us trying to get out from the wire and make a break for it. When the HE round had went off 25 meters away and impacted on the street I'm sure this scared the shit out of them and they took off running. The siren went off at Sword and everyone was put on alert until we figured out what the explosion was.
The next day one of the NCO's at Battalion asked me why we didn't just shoot them, I asked him if thats what he would've done shoot naked unarmed kids running away? Firing at the skinnies in the wire did cross my mind until I was able to clearly identify the threat, and honestly I was relieved I didn't have to fire my weapon that night.  



 Before all convoys were to leave Sword Base all crew serve weapons had to be test fired, this was accomplished by the building of a sand and brick
pit on Swords east side perimeter. The test fire range was somewhat close to my hootch and would scare the shit out of you when a 5 to 10 round burst was fired. One of the guys at Sword was test firing the 50 cal and the headspace and timing was not set on the weapon properly and when he fired the weapon it was mounted a 5 ton, the weapon was in between his legs the round exploded sending brass into his groin area. The rule for convoys at Sword was for every five vehicles you had to have two gun trucks with a 50 cal or M60. We were getting ready for our trip back to Bardera to pick up Junior and drop off another Troop. SFC Robert (Pete)Peterson would be trailing and I would have the lead Humvee. The weather was perfect and we set out at daybreak on a friday
we would stay in Bidoa that night and finish the last leg saturday
in to Bardera. As the lead vehicle I was a bit nervous and didn't want to get the six vehicle convoy lost, the route was easy enough but it was a four hour trip to Bidoa. We arrived in Bardera and spent the night in Juniors hootch, he fixed up nicely and we sampled some of the French and German rations and found them pretty tasty. We drank some beers with the French aviation unit and one of our NCO's wanted to go into the "Vill" as he called it and check out the the locals. I couldn't talk him out of it and Junior and I decieded to take him on a quick drive and run him back. It was dark very dark and the NCO was in the back of the Humvee hammered, we were in downtown Bardera after dark not smart.
The NCO had to take a leak so we let him out and he disapeared into the night, I shut the engine off so I could hear. We heard a conversation and then some yelling in the direction where the NCO had left just as we heard that, a Somali came out of the shadows of a doorway right next to our passenger door. Hey American you want to buy some khat? Junior already had drew down on the khat peddler and told him "no were good man". The NCO had rounded the corner at full speed and scared the shit out me, Junior and the khat peddler. I fired up the engine and took off looking for a place big enough to turn around. The next morning we thought we were idiots for going into Bardera after dark, that was the most scared Junior and I were since our Battalion commander threatened to ban alcohol from the barracks back at FT Campbell.
The convoy back was going fine until we got just south of MOG as we approached a huge traffic jam. Somalis in the hillside homes were waving at us trying to get our attention they were trying to warn us of something. We were sitting ducks on that road and with the tractor trailer we couldn't back up. I radioed back to Pete and told him of the situation, I had to see how long the traffic jam was so I got out and all the passengers in the convoy dismounted and pulled security. A Somali was firing a AK somewhere to our north at a French convoy, they tried to go around the traffic jam and got thier water truck stuck in the sand. When we got to the French Pete had already called in some Cobra's and the firing had stopped. The French just sat there taking pictures and laughing, while some Somali popped holes in thier water truck. I was very pleased with the quick response of the Cobras and the way Pete called them so quickly. We finally pulled into Sword and headed for the hootch,
it had been a long three days I took my malaria pill and slept the rest of the day. I woke up later that night when a few motrar rounds landed in the inside our perimeter and this time one landed near the shower point injuring a cook in the back with shrapnel. The guy was ok and returned to Sword a few days later, I must have stood in four awards formations just for that guy so officers could say they pinned on a Purple Heart.  
 

 Most of my time off was passed in MOG on the roof of our Motorpool, a long 3 story concrete building chalk white and one of the tallest on Sword Base. The unit before us had put a OP up there and it needed some work it became my project and a break from everyone and everything on Sword.
I would bring up the boombox,video camera and relax listening to AFN Somalia the military DJ's were pretty good. The Indian Ocean was a couple of miles away and you could see aircraft taking off and landing from MOG airport in the distance. Mogadishu must have been a beautiful place at onetime with it's ocean views and rolling coastline. I wondered how did things get so screwed up. The word had come down that Task Force Ranger would be coming and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief knowing that things would calm down. As soon as the Rangers arrived they were flying all over MOG feet dangling from the aircraft right above our heads. I went up to our OP and spray painted GET SUM in big black letters on the roof, it was quite a sight to see the Black Hawks and Little Birds inbound. A few days later a raid was conducted 800 meters due east from Sword I saw some of what was going on I remember a Little Bird landing on our perimeter Sea land vans. I'm not sure if this was the first raid , I don't remember hearing any shots fired. My first time seeing the Rangers in MOG I was walking out of the shopette on the University compound when a little white van pulled up and out jumped these guys in black body armor. There I was holding a can of Pringles eating a Pop Tart what a Pogue.

Things in MOG didn't quiet down when TFR arrived in fact the frequency of attacks on Sword and our convoy's increased. Our mornings would start with PT and we would run around Sword a couple of times in groups of 8-10 the heat was intense to say the least. Sword Base did have a couple shower points, single wide trailers converted with showers and sinks to shave very nice. One problem with the showers was the water made you itch like crazy something to do with the desalination process and it only had cold water. We had a laundry service and you could turn in 15 items and the Somalis would wash them in machines provided by the military all and all we had it pretty good compared to my days in the Gulf War. We had started to get slots for our soldiers for R and R in Mombassa Kenya
the first soldier selected to go was SPC Monty Sellers a 23 year old from Iowa who loved his heavy metal and his Korean girlfriend. Monty was a good troop and wanted to go back to Korea for his third tour after MOG,
he spoke Korean fluently and wouldn't hesitate to show you a picture of his girl. I was on orders myself to go to Korea in January of 94 and really didn't want to leave my son for a year but I did want to see Korea one day. We took Monty to the airport and he was off to Mombasa for 4 days
of sun and Tucher beer. Months later I would take that same trip to Kenya
and marvel at how beautiful the coast of Somalia and Kenya looked from the window of a white UN Lear Jet. The best part of the day was mail call
some guys got some real nice care packages from friends and family and we all shared. Some guys got Dear John letters from home and that was onetime in MOG I was glad I was divorced. During the hours right after evening chow we had a weight room and myself and SSG Al Smith would head over and work out. Al was a big guy from Dayton,Ohio and he'd been lifting for awhile, it was a great way to get rid of your stress. When we left MOG in Dec we all joked that we looked like we all just got out of prison and in a way we did. On the 13th of Sept there was a big firefight
outside Sword towards the University, Cobras were called in and fired up
the Somalis for at least a hour. I would find out some years later that firefight was the 10th Mountain being ambushed and breaking contact
they blew a hole in the wall of the University to get back to safe ground.
As the Cobras fired up downtown MOG less then 1500 meters away we just went about our routine, seems crazy but thats what we did. 
 

Saturday October 2nd 1993: I was called into the Op's tent by SFC Morang and told we would be supporting the 977th and 300th MP's at a ckeckpoint on 21 October road. The mission brief was simple, stop and check all vehicles and Somali's on foot for weapons and explosives. A few days earlier a Paki checkpoint had confiscated a large amount of explosives from a truck trying to enter from the north of MOG. The intensity of the searchs at these checkpoints was due to the recent command detonated mines killing several soldiers in and around MOG.

The next day myself and eight others from my company departed Sword for the University compound and linked up with the MP's. I'd never trained or worked with MP's but the guys from 300th and 977th MP's had been in MOG for awhile. They were very professional and well trained. The checkpoint was about a
2 miles from the University compound and the building sat right next to the road. A square chalk white house with two rooms and stairs that led to the roof. We set up a M60 on the roof and down on the road two Humvees manned at all times one with a MK19 and the other a M60. The single strand of concertina wire around the buliding didn't give me a warm fuzzy, being there was only twelve of us to keep the peace. We had everything set and assumed the checkpoint. We did find several weapons during the daytime checks mostly old rusted bolt action stuff and 2 AK's. The Somalis didn't like being searched, they all carried knives and had the scars to prove it. That afternoon we noticed alot of gunfire and helicopter activity to the west, we figured it had to be TFR because of the Little Birds and Hawks buzzing around.
Later that day we had a bit of a mexican stand off, when what I can only assume a Khat crazed Somali pulled his knife out on one of my guys. Every weapon was aimed at this guy and he would'nt drop the knife, finally a Somali woman walked up to him thumped him on the head with a cane and he put the knife away. He was quickly pepper sprayed along with myself and the Somali woman and given the full on Rodney King Spa treatment. It was Sunday malaria pill day, I had to go back
to the University and then to Sword to pick up mail and our malaria pills. It was getting dark and I'd never been on the road in MOG after sundown.
The MP platoon Sgt showed up with two hummers and I jumped in and we headed for the University. As we pulled up to the gate a Somali kid who was throwing rocks at the guard tower was shot right in front of us and dragged away by a small crowd that was getting bigger by the minute. They finally opened up the gate and we quickly pulled in. Once inside the perimeter we got the word of what was happening with TFR, there was a line of Humvees waiting at the gate to go join the fight. We picked up mail and malaria pills for the MP's and headed for Sword to do the same when we pulled out the gate it was dark and the line of Humvees was still in line waitng for the word. We made the left out of the University and the quick right to Sword Base it was dark hot night in Mogadishu and off in the distance the battle was raging.

 As we approached Sword Base I noticed the streets were empty it was dark and tracers were flying back and forth in the distance. We pulled up to the main gate at Sword and the guard told us we had to wait for clearance to enter. This was not good, alot of small arms fire was popping in and around us as we waited. I got out to see who was shooting at us and from where, as soon as I got out a couple of rounds hit the gate and the E-7 MP who was speaking with the gate guard yelled OPEN THE FUCKIN GATE NOW! We were waved through the gates. I had to find SFC Morang to get our malaria pills and mail, he was up on our OP on the motorpool. I climbed the ladder up to the roof and was shocked to see not 1500 meters away little birds making gun run after gun run. Rounds were flying all around the OP but because TFR was down range we couldn't return fire, so we watched. I told SFC Morang I was heading back out in the city we walked back to the OP's tent and he gave me our mail and malaria pills. I asked him for extra ammo and he said no problem, as I was headed towards the arms room I ran right into Ron Breland(Smokejumper). Ron had saw us pull in and had put a real nice package of 5.56,7.62 and lots of M203 ammo. Ron always had his shit wired tight. We pulled out the gate of Sword and headed out into the night, I remember the look on face of the guard who opened the gate, it was one of those YOU ARE FUCKIN NUTS DUDE looks. When we got back to our bypass everyone wanted to know what was going on and if we were going to get called back to Sword, I told everyone of my guys what I knew and that it was going to be a long night. After handing out the ammo,pills and mail I grabbed a pair of PVS-7's and watched the battle.
With the naked eye you couldn't see a thing but peering though the NVG's I could see a OH-58D at a hover and a big Somali gun was firing all around that aircraft and the pilot just held his hover. I still don't know how the Somali saw that aircraft without NVG's but the pilot had balls the size of King Kong. Later that night we took some small arms fire and around three am we heard a woman screaming at the top of her lungs, we popped a flare and this woman was out of her mind berserk screaming at us, my guess is one of her kids must have been killed. She howled and wailed for a good half hour, but she knew not to come to close. That was a freaky sight with her howling and the firefight going on in the background. We popped another flare to scare her off but she finally fell to the ground exhausted.
Later two Somali women came out on the road and carried her off into the night, with the offshore breeze you could still hear her sobs off in the distance.
 

 As the night turned into morning the battle in the distance continued
to rage. After we returned to Sword Base the next day we would see live CNN video of KIA TFR members being dragged thorugh the streets. We were furious I wanted to run outside the gates and mow down a thousand Somali's for everyone of the TFR men that were killed for every sniper and mortar round for every rock thrown. A couple of days later while at the airport a convoy of four or five Hummers rolled in and I watched Adidd get on a Lear jet under heavy U.S. Marine security. How could all this happen? What the hell were we doing there? What did those men give their lives for? I know now why those brave men gave their lives, for the same reason they do in every war for thier Brothers in Arms. I still keep in touch with my Brothers from MOG, most have chosen a path other than the military, some have stayed in and done very well. My time in Somalia has changed me forever and I wouldn't trade a moment of it
for anything. When I read BHD for the first time I finally found out what really happened on the days of 3-4 October 1993 I was moved to tears by the bravey and sacrifice made by those men. We would stay in MOG until December 23rd 1993. I returned home Christmas Day after a 21 hour flight and 8 hour drive, just in time to open presents with my son after five months in MOG.
 





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