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2-14 veterans return to Fort Drum for screening of 'Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story'

Veterans of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, in attendance at the screening of "Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story," gather for a reunion photo Oct. 4, 2018 at Fort Drum, N.Y.

MIKE STRASSER/U.S. ARMY

By CRAIG FOX | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: October 5, 2018

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Two days before Cpl. Melvin Noble was stuck in an alleyway during the Black Hawk Down battle 25 years ago, his son Aaron was born back home.

While bullets were bouncing off a road nearby, the then-29-year-old Fort Drum soldier watched as small helicopters, mainly used during special operations, helped fight off about 1,000 militants during the two-day battle in Somalia on Oct. 3 and 4, 1993.

He was among 341 10th Mountain Division soldiers — from the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Infantry — who were called to help during the fierce Battle of Mogadishu.

“I did the best I could do,” he said.

About 40 Fort Drum veterans — members of the “2-14” battalion — were back on post to see a showing of a new documentary, “Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story,” on Thursday afternoon, exactly 25 years to the day they fought it.

The showings are part of a 25-year reunion for Fort Drum 2-14 soldiers who fought in the battle.

It’s the third time the Fort Drum soldiers have come together for the reunion, the last one five years ago.

The majority of Americans learned about how U.S. and United Nations forces came to the rescue of 99 ambushed U.S. Army Rangers trapped in the streets of Mogadishu through the 2001 Hollywood movie “Black Hawk Down” and the book of the same name.

The battle began after two Black Hawks were shot down. In all, 18 soldiers died and 88 were wounded.

Two Fort Drum soldiers — Sgt. Cornell Houston and Pfc. James H. Martin Jr. — were killed during the intense fighting.

Filmmaker and retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen says the soldiers from Fort Drum, who fought valiantly in a two-day battle in and above the streets of Mogadishu, never got the credit they deserved.

After viewing the film, Mr. Noble, now 54 and a retired sergeant first class, said “The Untold Story” was what really happened to him and to the other soldiers.

Mr. Noble, who served at Fort Drum for eight years, was never happy with the 2001 film, directed by Ridley Scott. That movie told the story from the perspective of the Rangers and the Special Delta Force.

“Personally, it was a slap in the face,” he said. “It was the Hollywood version. It didn’t tell our story,”

Some of the retired soldiers wore T-shirts celebrating the 2-14 battalion and commemorating the battle, with the words “In Memory of Our Brothers” on the back.

Many of them had not seen each other since leaving the Army years ago. They hugged and greeted each other.

Other events during the four-day reunion include a combat Olympics, an open house, a dine-in event for retired and current soldiers to learn more about the battalion’s history and a Mogadishu Mile Run, which symbolizes how soldiers and Rangers escaped from the militants in 1993.

This morning, the widow of Pfc. Martin will attend a memorial on post to honor her husband.

But the highlight on Thursday was the sneak preview of the documentary. The filmmaker announced that the film will soon get worldwide distribution and be pitched at the Cannes Film Festival.

“It shouldn’t have taken 25 years,” said retired Gen. William David, who led the 2-14 into battle in Somalia in 1993.

A year before, U.S. soldiers were deployed to Somalia to support a United Nations humanitarian mission to help with a devastating famine.

Without a government in place, militias and clans were fighting among themselves for power, so President George H.W. Bush sent the troops over to help.

While his amazing story never appeared in the Hollywood movie, Col Mark Hollis finally got his due in the new film.

He was among the “lost patrol,” a group of soldiers who got separated from the main convoy. They were inside two Malaysian Condor armored vehicles that made a wrong turn. They were driven by Malaysian soldiers who didn’t speak English, Col. Hollis recalled.

“They were essentially taxis for us,” said the colonel, then a lieutenant with the 2-14’s Alpha Company.

At one point, commanders thought all on board the two vehicles were dead.

Using his Christian faith, he kept calm while they were surrounded by the Somalis.

“If it was my time, so be it,” he said. “If not, then let me out and let me serve the Lord.”

Since then, he’s served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.

Larry Pittman, who served in Somalia from August 1993 to March 1994, saw the results of the hellacious fighting.

He was the head of the emergency room of the hospital for the 46th Medical Task Force, where the wounded were taken.

The Manlius native recalled it was a quiet Sunday afternoon until all hell broke out and the first helicopter brought the first two casualties.

All hands on deck — from cooks to mechanics — were called in for a mass casualty system, he said, describing it as “organized chaos.”

For the next 36 hours, when one helicopter arrived with wounded and then took off, another one was there with more wounded, he said.

After they were treated, the wounded soldiers were flown to an aircraft carrier and taken to Germany.

All the wounded soldiers who arrived alive to the ER left the hospital still alive, he remembered. Mr. Pittman never heard the fate of any of them afterward.

All he knows is the official tally for the wounded is 88.

The former Cpl. Noble encountered one of those wounded soldiers a few years later while serving in Korea. Just by coincidence, Mr. Noble was playing a game of pool with a former U.S. Ranger.

The two struck up a conversation. As it turned out, the man, whose name was Cpl. Rodriguez, was wounded in the pelvis during the Battle of Mogadishu.

They first met during the aftermath of the intense fighting while Mr. Rodriguez was laying on a cot in Mogadishu Stadium. Mr. Noble tried to console the Ranger, telling him he was going to be “all right.”

“What happened to you?” Mr. Noble asked.

“They shot my d—- off,” the wounded Ranger said.

During that encounter in Korea, Mr. Noble quickly confirmed the two men had met in the stadium years before.

Mr. Rodriguez told him that he was forced to leave the Army because he suffered a unique injury to his pelvis, describing it in the same way that he did in Somalia.

“The world is small, the world in the Army is smaller,” Mr. Noble said.

On Thursday, Mr. Noble’s family found out about some of his own untold stories from Somalia. His wife, Sarah, daughter Deidre and 3-month-old granddaughter Rylee are also attending the reunion.

Near the end of the day, Mr. Noble, now 54, recalled that the first time he finally got to see his 25-year-old son Aaron was when he returned home from his deployment in Somalia.

It was a long time ago, he added.

©2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)
Visit Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) at www.watertowndailytimes.com
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Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Counts, former senior enlisted adviser of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team during the 1992-1993 deployment in Somalia, is introduced after the screening of "Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story" at Fort Drum, N.Y.
MIKE STRASSER/U.S. ARMY

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