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:
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.