Mangold – The RTO

The platoon radio operator’s load, as well as his personality, are more than worthy of mention. We were deployed to Somalia just as the AN/PRC-77 radio was being phased out in favor of the newer SINCGARS and we deployed before receiving both the training and the newer equipment. The radioman is the key to any small tactics unit. Without him, the machine gunner can do nothing. And he’s the first person the enemy will shoot at, the machine gunner or platoon leader being second (though anyone who spent a day with a cherry platoon leader would argue “Why kill the lieutenant second? He’s the dumbest guy here….”).

The radio itself weighed about 14lbs, with the batteries each weighing around 4 lbs, of which Mangold would carry 4 or 5 at any given time, depending on our mission. With the ~34lbs of radio and battery, Mangold carried the M-16A2 with M-203 grenade launcher, which is around 11lbs not counting ammo. With 16 lbs of water, a 60-70lb standard rucksack, around 20lbs of ammo, 20 lbs of body armor, a mortar round and a 4lb helmet and Mangold would be carrying around the more than that of my assistant gunner, Spaceboy. Though Mangold was much stronger than Spaceboy, I’d challenge any of you to throw 188lbs on your back and walk 12-20 miles through the bush at night. Like me, Mangold carried more than his body weight. A graduate of the US Army’s Northern Warfare Training Center, Mangold could handle anything; he was tough.

His physical toughness was balanced by another side which made him totally unique. I doubt any human being he ever encountered in everyday life, outside of Somalia, disliked him one bit. Though I joined the Army while having graduated high school and beginning college in NC, like Mangold, I was actually from southern California, having been born in Orange County. This added a bit of a chuckle to my nickname, a name he gave me; Big Country or B.C., aka Bravo Charles. He also nicknamed his closest friend among us, Earl, a corn-fed Iowan he had met on the plane ride to Ft. Benning in 1991 for Basic Training. He probably gave all of us our nicknames. His perception of people was that deep and that spot-on.

His humor and comedic timing is unrivaled among anyone I have ever met. “Okay, Ranger!” became a phrase among the platoon when someone who had carried his rucksack for 10 meters commented that it “wasn’t that heavy”, after Mangold had carried the load for the previous 5 to 6 hours during a night infiltration to an ambush. His California wise alec, surfer boyish attitude and sarcasm made him a complete joy to be around, even in the most difficult of times. As did his heart.


The only thing stronger than his body was his heart. Yep, Mangold had a sensitive side as well. A side he would show freely to you if you were his friend. Those of us who knew him as a brother were with him during times of heartache, such as the break up with his girlfriend, as well as his joys, such as his marriage.

He was creative and smart. He loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a group he introduced many of us to, and he loved playing bass guitar, imitating Flea. He loved riding motorcycles; the faster the better.

Having celebrated his 20th birthday sitting in an ambush in the Somali bush outside of Barawa, Somalia in 1993, his smile amidst the desecration we witnessed & experienced in Somalia was genuine and boyish, always available no matter how bad a situation was.

He was highly intelligent, resourceful and fierce in battle; a complete soldier. As I recall, he is the first among us to have fired our last shots in anger, the result of which was an innocent life saved at the hands of a street mob on a hot and dusty Somali city street; a chapter called “The Last Patrol” in “Behind the Gun”.

He is our brother, and our friend, and we miss him.

 ~Bravo Charles


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