RAF MILDENHALL, United Kingdom – On Oct. 3, 2013, the 352nd Special Operations Group honored the American lives lost in Somalia on Oct. 4, 1993, in a 5km ruck march called the Mogadishu Mile, which began at heritage Park on RAF Mildenhall, England.
The Mogadishu Mile refers to a route run by special operations forces from a helicopter crash site to a rally point held by the 10th Mountain Division during the Oct. 4, 1993, Battle of Mogadishu. During the exfiltration, the exposed forces on foot incurred losses by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.
The Battle of Mogadishu resulted when U.S. Special Operations personnel in Somalia, including Air Force combat controllers and pararescumen, were conducting a mission to seize two militants loyal to Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid who were meeting in the city. Civilian fighters and militiamen loyal to Aidid took actions into their own hands, raising an assault on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters – effectively shooting two down during the course of the battle.
When the militants were able to take down the first Black Hawk, the mission to seize the militants quickly changed into a rescue operation.
Originally projected to take an hour, the mission was supposed to be a “down and back” operation, according to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Albrandt, 321st Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman. It turned into an overnight standoff.
The U.S. Special Operations personnel had set out with less equipment than normal because they had expected a short operation. While the mission did not go as planned, the result helped create today’s level of preparedness, with both improved training and equipment.
“We have new and better gear to avoid situations like that now. (And with improved intelligence information, we) have a better idea of what (we are) facing,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jacob McPhie, 321st Special Tactics Squadron combat controller.
“We want to make sure we remember the mistakes (of not being prepared), so we don’t make them again,” Albrandt said. “The ruck march is a way to honor the guys who were out there.”
In the special operations community, the Mogadishu Mile is a symbol of perseverance and dedication to the mission.
“They did what they had to do, despite the odds — despite what was going on,” Albrandt said. “It gives testament to their training that they stayed in the fight, regardless of the situation.”
During the ruck march, 352nd SOG Airmen wore roughly 60 pounds of equipment on top of the 45-pound ruck sack participants were encouraged to carry, Albrandt said.
“There’s camaraderie in shared misery,” McPhie said. “If everyone suffers together, you become stronger as a team.”