Veterans of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), reunite at the screening of "Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story,” Oct. 4 at Fort Drum, New York. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
10th Mountain Division commemorates 25th anniversary
by screening film highlighting untold story of combat veterans
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 4, 2018) -- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Counts has never seen the film “Black Hawk Down” because, pointing to his head, “It’s all up here.”
However, he said he was grateful to be at Fort Drum for the first screening of “Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story” on Oct. 4 at the Multipurpose Auditorium. The former senior enlisted adviser with 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) was among dozens of combat veterans who contributed interviews to the documentary, which details the unit’s deployment to Somalia in 1993-1994 and their role in the Battle of Mogadishu.
Counts said that a group of 2-14 Infantry veterans had once expressed regret to him during a reunion that their story might never be heard.
“This story today is bringing that closure to those veterans,” he said. “This is what they wanted, and now they have it.”
The screening coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, and nearly 40 veterans from the 2-14 Infantry were in attendance.
“Whenever you see veterans that you served with reunite, it becomes a very emotional trip,” Counts said. “It always has been and it always will be emotional for these guys here. We’ve gotten older, but the names don’t. We might not recognize a face right away, but the name clicks.”
Counts said that retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, producer and director of "Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story," did a remarkable job of documenting their deployment, and it might be a revelation to those who didn’t live it.
“We were a COHORT (Cohesive Operational Readiness Training) unit – I loved the system that the Army had at that time – and the Soldiers did their infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, while the NCOs identified to go to 2-14 Infantry went to leadership course,” Counts said. “These guys were going to be together for the next three to four years; we were locked in as a unit that whole time.
“We trained hard,” he continued. “Everything that we did, day and night, was training. If that moment, God forbid, ever came, we would be prepared for it. Well, the moment came. Our training proved itself on the battlefield. To go in, and do what these guys did, was unbelievable.”
The Soldiers of the 2-14 Infantry became a quick reaction force in Somalia to support the peacekeeping and peace enforcement mission. Task Force Ranger conducted raids on Somali warlords, and the fighting escalated when militia shot down two Black Hawk helicopters. According to the documentary, the 2-14 Infantry was immediately called to support Task Force Ranger.
The documentary shows how, before the combat mission, Soldiers rode in light-skinned vehicles fortified only by sandbags and plywood. They were given armored personnel carriers from the Pakistan army, but to be driven by Pakistani soldiers. American Soldiers had never trained in these vehicles before, and just opening and closing the doors was a learning process. What was worse, Counts said, was that they weren’t camouflaged.
“Painted bright white … in a nighttime combat operation, can you believe that?” he said. “Also, imagine being a lieutenant talking to the Pakistani driver, who doesn’t know a lick of English, and you don’t know a lick of Pakistani. But we managed to get it done.”
After the screening, retired Col. William David, 2-14 Infantry battalion commander during the battle, shared a few more thoughts on the battle.
“As the night progressed – and that’s why physical conditioning and tough training is so important – as time passed and we were into the early morning hours, the intensity of the fire was still pretty loud,” he said. “But as I was listening to the battle, most of the firing was ours.”
Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, said that he appreciated seeing the different perspective that the documentary provides, and he thanked Larsen for bringing the story to the screen.
“We’ve all seen the Hollywood story, but you told the Soldiers’ story,” he said. “It’s an amazing story. We always talk about our lineage and the heroes who fought during World War II on Riva Ridge, but we also have heroes right here today.”
Lt. Col. Keith Benedict, 2-14 Infantry commander, said that even as his Soldiers are preparing for an upcoming deployment overseas, they are still proud to honor those who have served before them.
“As a commander, I’m constantly communicating our history with my Soldiers and why they should be proud of being part of something greater then themselves,” he said. “As the regiment is getting ready to leave, this is an opportunity for them to feel that recent history. Hearing the stories of these veterans – who trained here and lived in the same barracks – is inspiring. They worked hard, they trained hard and they were ready for the worst of circumstances. I hope that is the message that resonates with our Soldiers so they will carry that forward.”