Army secretary unveils new honor for Somalia campaign while at Fort Drum
By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. (TNS) | Published: December 9, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — The efforts of Army and 10th Mountain Division soldiers in Somalia were fully recognized for the first time during Monday’s ceremony.
A new streamer was affixed to the flag of the division Monday afternoon and will later be distributed to units throughout the Army.
“It recognized the soldiers did a very, very tough mission, and we know suffered significant losses,” said Army Secretary John M. McHugh.
McHugh said he first learned the conflict wasn’t recognized on the Army flag when he was approached at a West Point event by a veteran asking about the omission.
“I said ‘I didn’t know it wasn’t,’” he said.
Researching the issue, he attributed it to unidentified international political issues at the time.
“It gave me a chance to correct an overlooked issue,” Mr. McHugh said.
The Somalia campaign streamer will be the 188th to be affixed to the Army flag.
“Those streamers are pretty amazing, because they read like a book,” Mr. McHugh said. “They take us from 1775 until the very present day.”
Soldiers from the division served in the country from 1992 to 1994 during Operations Restore Hope and Continue Hope, peaking with about 10,000 soldiers supporting the humanitarian mission.
The soldiers’ work stretched from providing food to securing roads and cities. During their time there, division soldiers created a 160-foot Bailey bridge near Kismayo, described as the largest such bridge built outside America since Vietnam at the time.
The highlight of the division’s service there were the rescue efforts of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993. The unit’s soldiers were among those that went in to rescue personnel from two downed Black Hawk helicopters.
Overall, 18 soldiers were killed and another 80 were wounded, making it one of the deadliest for American forces between the Vietnam War and 9/11.
Among that tally were two division soldiers: Sgt. Cornell Houston and Pfc. James H. Martin Jr.
The division’s service there has been memorialized on post with annual events like a run recounting the Mogadishu Mile, the on-foot escape soldiers made from the crash area to a rallying point while facing heavy enemy fire.
The battle was given additional prominence in the book “Black Hawk Down,” which later became a Hollywood blockbuster.
A third division soldier, Sgt. Ferdinan C. Richardson, died about a week before the battle.
©2014 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.