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When soldiers are sent to what bureaucrats call a hostile fire zone, they get imminent danger pay amounting to $150 a month. The troops still call it combat pay. When Maj. Martin Stanton and the rest of the infantrymen of the 2d Battalion, 87th Infantry, deployed to the Horn of Africa in December 1992 as the first ...
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When soldiers are sent to what bureaucrats call a hostile fire zone, they get imminent danger pay amounting to $150 a month. The troops still call it combat pay. When Maj. Martin Stanton and the rest of the infantrymen of the 2d Battalion, 87th Infantry, deployed to the Horn of Africa in December 1992 as the first U.S. Army battalion for Operation Restore Hope, this easily divided down to "Somalia on $5 a day."
Major Stanton led the advanced detachment of U.S. Army troops into Somalia on 13 December 1992. Task Force 2-87 would be responsible for humanitarian relief sector (HRS) Marka, south of Mogadishu. These soldiers were determined to keep that tiny and fractured nation from literally starving to death. Their mission was to ensure that relief supplies were distributed to feeding centers, suppress banditry, disarm the warlords ("like trying to disarm the National Rifle Association"), and separate fighting factions.
Stanton and the men of the 2-87 suddenly found themselves in unfamiliar surroundings trying to accomplish a vague and constantly changing mission. Knowing the good guys from the bad guys was nearly impossible. The period that would become known for its "mission creep" soon approached, when the focus of Restore Hope changed from limited famine relief to nation building. This change of direction inevitably led to armed clashes with Somali warlords.
In this exciting and often humorous memoir, Stanton relates the mounting futility experienced by the Restore Hope soldiers, futility that culminated in the streets of Mogadishu as related in Marks Bowden's Black Hawk Down.
Somalia on Five Dollars a Day: a must read for anyone who wants to truly understand America's post-Cold War military experience.
The 10th Mountain Division (July-September 1991)
Three months later I was driving through the incredible greenness of summertime in upstate New York to report to Fort Drum. After six years in the desert (four in Fort Irwin, California, and two in Saudi Arabia), going back to a place that had grass was something strange. Fort Drum was only a few miles from the Canadian border, so I knew we would often visit Donna's family in Toronto. Being so far along in her pregnancy, she had flown on to visit her folks. I would pick her up after I signed for quarters. The trees and lush countryside were a feast for the eyes, and even though we had been back from Saudi for almost a month, I could still take simple pleasure in being in America. The miles rolled on, and the sign for Fort Drum came up. With a sense of anticipation and well-being, I turned off to report to my new duty station.
Fort Drum (previously Camp Drum, and before that, Pine Camp) has a long history of army and National Guard use going back to before World War I. Camp Drum had served as a key mobilization post during World War II. In fact, Pvt. Bill Mauldin, the cartoonist, had served there, training with the 45th Division before shipping out overseas to Italy. Many of the cartoons he drew of stateside training were based upon his experiences at Pine Camp.
Camp Drum soldiered on as a National Guard mobilization and training post over the next four decades, becoming Fort Drum somewhere along the line. Then in the early 1980s the decision was made to activate a light infantry division (the 10th Mountain) there. A massive construction effort transformed the sleepy little post with its World War II buildings into one of the most modern and well-laid-out posts in the U.S. Army. By the time I got there (July 1991), Fort Drum was the newest post I'd ever seen. I was pleasantly surprised as I drove around the troop areas and checked out some of the other modern facilities, such as the PX and commissary. It certainly wasn't some run-down post with inadequate housing in the middle of east overshoe. Not a bad place to begin family life, I thought as I drove up to the division headquarters and went to sign in.
The 10th Mountain Division was a J series TO+E (Table of Organization and Equipment) light division of the kind that first came into existence in the early 1980s. The army had been pulled in two directions then. We, of course, had to maintain heavy forces to face our potential adversaries in Europe and Korea. But we also had to have forces ready to deploy swiftly to conduct operations on the lower end of the spectrum of conflict. There was a real possibility of conflict in Central America plus contingency operations elsewhere in the world. The 10,000-man light division was the answer to these requirements. It was designed to fit inside 500 air force C-141 transports (although in practice this number grew to about 560). The division had no armor. Its combat power was made up of three brigades of three infantry battalions each. The division also had a Division Artillery (DIVARTY) consisting of three battalions made up of M102 105mm howitzers and a battery of M198 155mm howitzers. The 10th Mountain Division's aviation brigade had AH-1S attack helicopters both in the attack helicopter battalion and the 3-17th Light Cavalry Squadron. Its other aviation battalion was made up of UH-60 Black Hawks, for transporting troops and equipment. There were also engineer, signal, air defense, intelligence, and logistical support units that rounded out the division. It was a no-frills outfit. The ratio of supporters to combat troops was the lowest in any unit in the army. (In the vernacular, it had a high tooth-to-tail ratio.) In truth, in some cases there were too few supporters for sustained operations, so the division had to be augmented with assets from other army units. But whatever the shortcomings of the light division's organization, there could be no doubt that at least the primary design factor had been met. The 10th Mountain was indeed a rapidly deployable outfit. We could be anywhere in the world in a matter of days.
The teeth of the 10th Mountain Division were in its three infantry brigades; two of these were regular army and the third was the 27th Brigade of the New York National Guard (whose ancestors were the famous "fighting 69th" of World War I fame). The two active brigades would, of course, be the first to be deployed to a contingency, followed by the 27th Brigade after a period of post-mobilization training. Each brigade had three infantry battalions, making nine in all in the division. These battalions were the core of the division's combat power. It was my ambition to serve in one, either as the S3 or the XO.
The army had activated four light divisions (the 6th, the 7th, the 10th Mountain, and the 25th) during the mid-1980s. The 6th was already in the process of being deactivated as part of the post-Cold War/post-Gulf War drawdown. Another division (the 7th) would be chosen for deactivation while I was at Fort Drum. The 10th Mountain was thought to be a similar candidate in the summer and fall of 1991. We hadn't served in the Gulf War or in Panama, and although the division could look with pride to a short but illustrious battle history in World War II, it had nowhere near the historical lineage of the 7th or the 25th. In any event, I was keen to get into one of the infantry battalions before they were deactivated.
I was not surprised to learn, however, that my first assignment with the division was to be in the division headquarters G3, or operations and training section. This is a normal pattern of assignment, because once I served in a battalion and became "branch qualified in grade," I would be subject to reassignment. Hence the division wanted to get some other use out of me before I was sent to a battalion. Relatively few officers walk directly into a battalion. There was a whole crop of guys just leaving the G3 to go down to serve in units after a year at division headquarters. I told myself philosophically that I had to wait my turn like everyone else.
As it turned out, my stay at division headquarters was short lived but enjoyable. The G3, Lt. Col. Buster Hagenbeck, was a good man to serve under, and the work, although interesting, was not particularly stressful. Donna and I spent a lot of time getting to know our surroundings. The city near the post, Watertown, was a midsized town that had most of the amenities of civilized living, and upstate New York was beautiful. We spent our time off in these first few months alternately furnishing our house, preparing for the baby's arrival, and exploring the environs around Watertown. We did most of the tourist things and were only moderately inhibited by Donna's ever-burgeoning size. The fact that we were within four hours' drive of Donna's family in Toronto was also a considerable help. Life soon developed into a comfortable routine of work, property acquisition, housing setup, and gestation. Donna would pick me up around half past six each night as it was getting dark and we would drive home looking at the dozens of rabbits that would edge out of the forest along the road to munch the sweet grass. I was still itching to get to a battalion but at the same time was reasonably content.
Then in a flash it all changed.
The officer who was holding the S3 slot in the 2d Battalion, 87th Infantry transferred to a combat service support branch (a rare but not unheard-of occurrence). The 2-87 was scheduled to go to the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin in three months. I was asked if I would please go down to 2d Brigade to be interviewed for the job by the brigade commander.
Would I ever.
My interview with the brigade commander, Colonel Burnette (who would go on to command the division in later years), went exceptionally well. I was told the next day that I had been selected to be the S3 of the 2-87 Infantry and would start work there the next Monday. Thus after less than two months in division headquarters, I was going to do what I had come to the 10th Mountain Division for.
The 2-87 Infantry (September 1991-June 1992)
The 2-87 Infantry (Mountain) was one of nine identical (six regular army and three National Guard) infantry battalions in the 10th Mountain Division. In the cold and bureaucratic designation of army organizations, the battalion was a Table of Organization and Equipment (TO+E) 07015L0 light infantry battalion. The mission of these types of battalions was stated tersely in the TO+E document; it was in part a classic restatement of the infantry's mission and had changed little throughout the centuries. A Civil War soldier would have instantly understood the first portion of the mission statement (once he'd gotten the computer printout). Mission: To close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or repel his assault by fire, close combat, and counterattack.
The second part was a gray concession to the post-Cold War world. I can well imagine Lee or Grant scratching his head and asking for clarification: "... To conduct low intensity combat (LIC) and operations other than war in an internal defense and internal development environment." Basically, it was to do any other mission that the army could think of (but couldn't be called a war). Even if the definitions of internal defense and development were ambiguous, it was taken for granted that we'd sort it out on the ground. Policy formulation was not our thing. Policy implementation was.
When it came to the listing of capabilities, we were generally capable of just about anything short of fighting a Russian tank division in the desert or on the plains of Europe. The list given was generic and relatively meaningless, because the battalion never was meant to act in a vacuum. It would always (supposedly) be part of a larger whole. Nonetheless the army made the assumption that the light infantry battalion could more or less accomplish the following:
Capabilities—At level 1 (manning over 90 percent) this unit:
Provides base of fire and maneuver elements
Seizes and holds terrain
Conducts independent operations on a limited scale
Provides mortar fire support for organic and attached units
Conducts long-range patrolling when properly equipped
Participates in motorized and/or mechanized operations when provided with appropriate transportation assets
Participates in airmobile and/or airborne operations when provided with appropriate air transport
Maneuvers in all types of terrain under all climate conditions
Participates in amphibious operations
Participates in counterinsurgency operations as part of a brigade-sized force
To accomplish this, the battalion had four companies, one headquarters company, and three rifle companies. It was a unique organization for the highly mechanized U.S. Army in that the majority of its combat power came from foot mobile infantry. It was an organization that Willie and Joe (and their Vietnam veteran sons) would have recognized and felt right at home in. It was the U.S. Army's latest wrinkle on an ancient and necessary social skill—the ability to fight and defeat your enemy face-to-face at close range.
The 2-87 Infantry had a good reputation in the division headquarters. It was an outfit that had a history of strong performance on field exercises, and most of the people I knew on the division staff spoke highly of it. Being chosen to be the battalion S3 was an incredible stroke of luck. As I came to the battalion for the first day, I cautioned myself to make an objective evaluation of the unit and neither embrace nor reject what I saw until after a few weeks of observation.
As it turned out, the 2-87 was a moving train, and I really didn't get the time for introspection and the evaluation I would have liked. I did learn that the battalion staff and the companies were indeed strong and the battalion as a whole was very proficient. If there was one undercurrent within the battalion when I joined it in September 1991, it was that many of the soldiers and leaders were physically tired. The unit had been training hard throughout the summer, and everyone was worn a bit thin. They'd just finished a large live fire demonstration for the Chief of Staff of the Army that had gone well but had taken a lot of effort. Now they were hip deep into preparation to go to the NTC. When I joined them, they were just about to move back into the field for more platoon and company training. After a short break this would be followed by the battalion's last big exercise against an opposing force that would be controlled by Colonel Burnette. It would be the battalion's last training before deploying to Fort Irwin shortly before Thanksgiving. It was an ambitious (but not impossible) schedule. No rest for the weary, I thought.
The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Eikenberry, was an exceptionally proficient soldier and somewhat of a perfectionist. He was a highly experienced infantry soldier with long years spent in both airborne and ranger units. He knew more about live fire training than any officer I had ever met. He was also unique in that he was fluent in Chinese and had spent time in China as the assistant defense attaché. He set such a blistering pace for the battalion's operations that we sometimes had to scramble to keep up. Somehow we always did. From this you could conclude that he knew just what we were capable of better than we ourselves did. What earned him respect was the fact that he drove himself harder than he drove any of us and spared himself nothing.
The last time I'd been in an American infantry battalion was six years before, as a company commander. Getting back into the swing of things after a six-year hiatus took a bit of effort. However, my four years as an exercise controller at the NTC prior to going to Saudi in 1980 gave me a good background in battalion-level tactical operations. I soon found myself growing comfortable with the job. Administration and training management would take longer, but fortunately we were thrust right into tactical operations, which had always been my strong suit. Soon after I joined the battalion, we went to the field for the battalion's platoon and company training in preparation for the NTC.
My wife, Donna, was already overdue with our first child at this point, but there was no reason not to go out, because I could always be called in. Sure enough, about six days into the exercise I got the call to come in from the field immediately. We must have broken the humvee land speed record getting in from the field. I raced home from the battalion headquarters to find Donna quite nonplussed but telling me definitely that "this is it."
After hastily showering and scrubbing off most of the camouflage paint (a little green still showed around my ears, a nurse told me later), I took Donna to the hospital in Watertown. It was a fairly difficult delivery (in which I incurred the wrath of my Mrs. by falling asleep on the floor by her bed; I hadn't slept for almost thirty-six hours by then, but try telling that to a woman in labor).
Presently, John Charles Stanton was born, a great kid in perfect condition. Donna was fired but exultant, and I was happy enough to burst. I left the hospital in bright sunshine. (It had been an all-nighter.) I called my father, Donna's parents, my sister, and everyone else I could think of. Then I called the battalion in the field, and Lieutenant Colonel Eikenberry graciously gave me time off, so I didn't have to go back out for the last four days of the field problem. October was spent in a blur of training and new parent duties. I didn't sleep much, and Donna slept even less.
By November we found ourselves back in the field on the last major exercise before the NTC. This was a force-on-force battalion operation against an opposing force of armor and infantry. We did all of the missions that we could expect to be given at the NTC. We came out of the field in the second week of November and were as ready as we'd ever be for the NTC. After an early Thanksgiving dinner, we departed for Fort Irwin on 24 November 1991.
The battalion had a highly successful NTC rotation. We won some battles and lost some but learned lessons in every one. Our defense in conjunction with 3d Brigade, 24th Division (just returned from the Gulf War) was particularly successful, with the controllers saying it was the worst beating the opposing force had taken in some time. The 24th Division commander, Major General McCaffery, complimented the battalion on its performance in the final battalion after-action review. We flew home feeling quite pleased with ourselves. Lieutenant Colonel Eikenberry was of course already working with me planning the next major training event.
It was almost Christmas when we got back to Fort Drum. Donna, John, and I went to Florida to see my folks, and the grandparents got to see John for the first time. My parents and baby John hit it off from the start, and we had two pleasant weeks with them. Then it was back to the snow and cold of Fort Drum.
After returning from the NTC, the battalion staff went through a lot of personnel changes. Our intelligence (S2) officer, Captain Conyer, was replaced by Cpt. Mike Klein, a brilliant young man who had been an infantry platoon leader in our division before being sent to Germany. He was a Gulf War veteran and a recent graduate of the Military Intelligence Officers' Advanced Course. He was incredibly smart and never at a loss for words, and he had a terrific sense of humor. I was to depend upon him a lot in the deployments ahead of us.
The biggest change was in the S3 shop. I lost my chemical officer, the dependable 1st Lt. Chuck Alverez, who could not get over his disappointment at having missed the Gulf War and figured that a career in the Chemical Corps was not for him. He was replaced by 2d Lt. Bill Haas, fresh out of Chemical Officers' Basic Course. I had concerns about taking a brand-new second lieutenant into the S3 shop, but they were quickly allayed. Bill was a former enlisted MP and had been around the block a few times. What he didn't know he learned quickly and became a real asset to the team. The biggest break officerwise was that I finally got an assistant S3. It is normal to take new captains to any unit and place them on staff jobs to wait their turn for the next company to open up. Lieutenant Colonel Eikenberry gave me Capt. Kelly Jordan, fresh from the Gulf War and the Infantry Officers' Advanced Course. Kelly was typical of what you'd find in a young infantry officer in 1992. He was smart as a whip and superbly trained and possessed of tremendous foresight and initiative. Being surrounded by so many super-efficient young officers made me feel somewhat inadequate at times. Remembering myself at their age, I wondered how well I would have fared competing with this generation.
The biggest changes were in the S3 shop's noncommissioned officers (NCOs). All of my staff sergeants were replaced, as was my noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC). I was a little chagrined at this because of all the training we had just gone through, but there was nothing to be done about it. Retirement and natural rotation of people combined to hit us all at once. In the space of a few weeks, my old Tactical Operations Center (TOC) crew was gone. We would have to train the S3 shop from scratch. I wondered what kind of NCOs I'd be getting.
What I got was pure gold.
My two new assistant S3 NCOs, SSgt. Dale Brown and SSgt. Mark Magnant, were both pulled from the companies to fill the gaps. Normally, units use opportunities for taskings such as this to get rid of their awkward customers, but Lieutenant Colonel Eikenberry was adamant that the operations shop be given people who could do the important staff coordination. The battalion's senior NCO, Command Sergeant Major Key, assisted in the choice, and we couldn't have done better. Having two NCOs who had already spent more than a year in the unit meant that I didn't have to waste time orienting them about Fort Drum or teaching them the peculiarities of some of its training areas. In addition, they were both air assault qualified, and Staff Sergeant Brown was a Pathfinder (a soldier qualified to control airdrops and establish helicopter landing zones). Because a light infantry battalion does a lot of helicopter operations, having two NCOs with these skills assigned to my S3 shop was fortunate.
The two men couldn't have been more different. Staff Sergeant Brown was a man of few words and serious demeanor who was possessed of a sly, subtle sense of humor. Staff Sergeant Magnant was a perfect foil for him—a small, wiry, bull terrier of a man whose sense of humor and constant jokes did much to relieve the tension. "Beavis and Butthead" were just coming onto television, and Staff Sergeant Magnant could imitate perfectly the "heh, heh, heh" of Beavis. In the field, each would be a shift NCO in the TOC. In garrison, they were responsible for coordinating training ranges (Brown) and ammunition (Magnant) and a host of other tasks. They never let the battalion down.
Best of all was my new S3 NCOIC, Sfc. Scott (Dusty) Hardcastle. He was just what the doctor ordered: a senior E-7 on the promotion list for E-8 who had long experience working in operations staff sections. He was a commonsense troop leader who brooked no nonsense from his subordinates but always managed to get things done without having to be harsh or autocratic. He also had a gift for organization and soon had the S3 shop significantly better organized than it had been in the previous three months that I had been there. He was proactive in his work habits and would often initiate the necessary movements or coordination steps for the battalion's next task, then report them to me. At first this made me somewhat uncomfortable, but he clearly knew what he was doing, and my two officers and I had more than enough work to keep us busy. Empowering Sergeant First Class Hardcastle to act for me was one of the smarter things I did as an S3, even though I can honestly say it was a decision I made almost by default as opposed to any brilliant managerial insight.
Excerpted from SOMALIA ON FIVE DOLLARS A DAY by Martin Stanton. Copyright © 2001 by Martin N. Stanton. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|Part 1||Fort Drum||1|
|Part 3||The Shabele Valley||121|
Posted August 28, 2003
Martin Stantons description of the 10th Mountain Divisions command structure and military operations is interesting and informative. I was impressed with the professionalism in which the 2-87 performed throughout various deployments, and how Stanton would summarize mission oversights and suggest ways to improve on them for the benefit of future operations. The events he describes in the book are balanced with humor and insights into the life of a soldier along with the horrors of the lethal conflict they faced in Somalia, from 1991 through 1993. The book gave me a better understanding of what was taking place in Somalia during the months prior to the tragic events that developed in Mogadishu as described in Mark Bowdens book, 'Black Hawk Down'.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.