Two Medals of Honor for Special Operations Soldiers Spec Ops Post 11

The Number One Enemy and Number One Cause of Goal Conflict

Everyone wants to succeed but most people succumb to fear.  Fear of failure, fear of lack of security, even fear of success which can be the most insidious and hard to locate type of fear.  Most fear is subconscious but it is debilitating if not faced and dealt with.  Fear may be the core of almost all problems– the desire for security is very strong, at the very base of Maslow’s pyramid.

There is an Albert Brooks’ movie, Defending Your Life, which uses the tenet that the only sin one can commit is to act out of fear.  It doesn’t matter what the act is, what matters is the motivation for the act.  Fear is a negative motivator, therefore the results of action based on this motivation will almost always be negative.  (There is an exception to this which we will discuss shortly).

Heroism is acting in the face of fear.  It is not shooting a nine inch rubber ball into an eighteen inch steel circle and being paid millions of dollars to do so, with no disrespect to Michael Jordan.

On Sunday, 3 September 1993, Sergeants Shughart and Gordon, elite Delta Force Operatives, repeatedly requested permission to go from the hovering aircraft they were on to the ground to secure a Blackhawk helicopter that had just been shot down in Mogadishu, Somalia.  Flying overhead of the crash site, they could see the large armed mob that was closing on the downed helicopter and its crew.  Being professional soldiers and having watched the situation unfold they knew that the odds of being able to hold off that mob until help arrived were slim.

Yet they kept asking to go on a mission no one had ordered them to do.  In a country none of them had any stake in.  To rescue men they weren’t even sure were alive and did not personally know.  On a mission dictated from half a world away with nebulous goals that were constantly changing at the National Command Authority level.  Ordinary people in this situation would not have made such a request, and when it was finally granted, would not have jumped from the hovering helicopter

But they were not ordinary people—they were Special Operations Forces, the tip of the spear that is American military, the largest organization in our country.  They were the elite.  So they jumped.

Why did they do this?  How were they different?  What made them elite?

Here is the Medal of Honor citation for Master Sergeant Gordon:

Available Now!

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army. Place and date: 3 October 1993, Mogadishu, Somalia. Entered service at: —– Born: Lincoln, Maine. Citation: Master Sergeant Gordon, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as Sniper Team Leader, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Master Sergeant Gordon’s sniper team provided precision fires from the lead helicopter during an assault and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. When Master Sergeant Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the second crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, Master Sergeant Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Master Sergeant Gordon was inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Master Sergeant Gordon immediately pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Master Sergeant Gordon used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. Master Sergeant Gordon then went back to the wreckage, recovering some of the crew’s weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that he was critically low on ammunition, he provided some of it to the dazed pilot and then radioed for help. Master Sergeant Gordon continued to travel the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. After his team member was fatally wounded and his own rifle ammunition exhausted, Master Sergeant Gordon returned to the wreckage, recovering a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition and gave it to the pilot with the words, “good luck.” Then, armed only with his pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon continued to fight until he was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. Master Sergeant Gordon’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army.

Shughart and Gordon were heroes.  They took an action to help their comrades despite their fear.  They could take the action because they had the character and training necessary.

About Bob Mayer

West Point Graduate, former Green Beret and NY Times bestselling author Bob Mayer has had over 50 books published. He has sold over five million books, and is in demand as a team-building, life-changing, and leadership speaker and consultant for his Who Dares Wins concept. He's been on bestseller lists in thriller, science fiction, suspense, action, war, historical fiction and is the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll. Born in the Bronx, Bob attended West Point and earned a BA in psychology with honors and then served as an Infantry platoon leader, a battalion scout platoon leader, and a brigade recon platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division. He joined Special Forces and commanded a Green Beret A Team. He served as the operations officer for 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and with Special Operations Command (Special Projects) in Hawaii. Later he taught at the Special Forces Qualification Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, the course which trains new Green Berets. He lived in Korea where he earned a Black Belt in Martial Arts. He's earned a Masters Degree in Education.

Posted on September 22, 2012, in Who Dares Wins Special Operations, Write It forward and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Amazing story. Thank you for honoring him by posting this.

  2. One hundred yards. The length of a football field. With obstacles. Dear God. That’s devotion. And a MSgt is not a spring chicken, either.

    There was a story on base (MCSD) about an enlisted Marine who had won the MOH by continuing to fight after running out of ammunition. The story was that he threw rocks at the enemy until reinforcements or rescue arrived. I’ve never known whether that story was true, but it did seem reasonable to me. If you’re out of ammo and someone is still trying to kill you, wouldn’t you use whatever improvised weapon you could?

    And for your report of Shugart and Gordon’s story, I wonder, if the order had been given sooner from the “higher ups” (higher up = farther from the trouble), might the outcome have been better?

  3. Earlier this year I visited the Civil War era Fredericksburg National Cemetery and battlefield. A soldier who was there after the battle wrote some simple, but memorable words about his experience. Maybe the words are appropriate for Shughart and Gordon’s story as well. This solider fought at Fredricksburg and was later detailed to help find and identify the dead wrote in a letter: “Your correspondent roamed all over the battle field of December 13, 1862. No headboards or monuments mark the spot where the gallant defenders of the old flag fell on that ever-memorable day.”

    Of course we know the “headboards or monuments” are for the living. So are posthumous medals, such as those awarded to Shughart and Gordon. Those who fell aren’t here anymore and have no use for them. But in a way, such things keep the heroes alive.

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