By SRO Kjell Michelsen
Editor’s note: This week Officer Kjell Michelsen continues his look back at his service in Somalia during the 1990s. The first part of this story appeared in the May 29 issue of The Erwin Record.
After we arrived in Mogadishu, thanks in large part to the strong presence of U.S. Marines and soldiers from the French Foreign Legion, the city, for the most part, was reasonably safe for us to travel around in. That said, there were some minor clashes between various clan militia, but they let us, for the most part, be alone to do our jobs.
It took a good couple of weeks before our little tent camp came together with a somewhat proper shower house and porta-johns. The first couple of weeks our shower was a few wooden pallets on the ground, and we would stand on those pouring water over ourselves. Even as primitive as that was, it felt great after a long hot day to rinse off with some lukewarm water.
We spent about three months in our little tent camp at the airport. Other countries set up similar camps as they arrived. We had a Nigerian camp right next to us, and not far away, soldiers from New Zealand had theirs and so on. Most of our days were spent supporting the UNOSOM HQ with staff and security, filling sandbags, fortifying our camp and plenty of reconnaissance trips into the city itself.
The security situation started to change in a negative direction in the spring of 1993, just a few days after we had moved our camp from the airport up to the former U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu.
The second in command for U.N. operations was a U.S. Army Lieutenant General Thomas Montgomery. As a result of the worsening security situation, a close protection unit from the U.S. Army CID was assigned to him as his security detail.
Because of our knowledge of the city, the Norwegian guard and escort squad was tasked with augmenting the U.S. Army close protection unit, and thus one of the most exciting and dangerous assignment for me in my years serving overseas started.
We worked closely with our new U.S. counterparts in many security operations in and around Mogadishu, both utilizing vehicles and helicopters.
The U.S. Embassy compound was a target for daily mortar and small arms attacks, so everywhere one went you had to be in full combat gear, at times often running from place to place. This was the period when the well known “Black Hawk Down” incident, made famous through the movie with the same name, took place.
During most of that battle, I was stationed in a side office to General Montgomery and could hear over radio communications when things started to take a turn for the worse as soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment, Delta Force and Navy SEALS went to the rescue of personnel from two downed Blackhawk helicopters.
In all, 19 U.S. soldiers were killed in action during the battle or shortly after, and another 73 were wounded in action. At that time, it was the deadliest battle since the Vietnam War.
Until next time, be safe and be thankful for our military men and women, and say a prayer for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.