Arch – Best of the Best

Purpleheart

“Arch” is the next hero I want to tell you about. Though I only knew him in passing, I have a special love for anyone who carries the M-60, especially a gunner of this caliber. As good as I was (or thought I was, whatever), next to no one can claim to be a better gunner than Arch, and he has the credentials to back that up having placed 2nd in the entire US Army out of over 900 competitors around the world.

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Arch competing at the all-Army competition for the M-60. Copyright Arch – 1992

As I was just an assistant gunner in 1992, Arch was legendary in the battalion for his prowess with the “Pig”. The Best of the Best in every sense of the word. In a world of testosterone and big egos, we all stopped in our tracks on the topic of Arch and his Pig.

Even when I was told I tied his score on the qualification range, it meant little knowing how much more involved the Army M-60 competition was; I had just fired on the range like everyone else. There was no running and putting the gun together blindfolded. It gives me great pride to know that Poncho had the best gunner around watching his six. And I know for a fact that Poncho was proud to serve alongside him, every step of the way.

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Arch in Mogadishu, 1993. Copyright Arch – 1993.

 

With my brother Poncho as his assistant gunner in the streets of Mogadishu, Arch was one of three men wounded during a five hour firefight covered in “Behind the Gun” in a chapter titled “Blood on the Altar“. It’s an almost unknown story, one of valor and sacrifice in what could be properly titled “The Original Black Hawk Down”. Its a story of brotherhood that America has yet to hear. Just as Poncho was wounded going to his gunner’s aid, Arch was wounded while providing covering fire for his fallen comrade Poncho, while unleashing hell on earth from “Behind the Gun”.

After Arch fell, the machine gun was conspicuously silenced, its gunner bleeding profusely; As Carr covered the intersection with his M-60, it then fell to Rossman, the squad leader, to take over the gun for Arch as Boult got Arch to safety. An act I’ve discovered in my research that Boult would repeat time and time again during the Battle of Mogadishu. The amazing sacrifice & valor of all the men in Charlie company is a major motivation for my writing this book.

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Actual picture of the one, out of thousands fired, that got Arch as he covered the squad from the turret in Mogadishu, 1993. Copyright Arch 1993

The more interviews and information I collected on this amazing battle, the more in awe I was that these men actually survived. It’s a testament to each man, and they owe their survival to each other. It’s a story history should have never ignored. Who’s the all encompassing hero in this story? I can’t tell you, like good soldiers do, they all give the credit to someone else.

I will share one glimpse that I got of Arch during this battle, from Long:

“When Poncho was hit, Arch let out a battle cry unrivaled in history as he opened up on the enemy positions, tearing the building apart floor by floor. The image burned into my mind is one of fierceness & strength that I’ve never seen before, nor to this day. Awe inspiring; the type of action that inspires others to carry the fight to the enemy even more, no matter what the odds are.”

The casualties on the other side of this battle are estimated in the hundreds, with the Americans being greatly outnumbered. It’s a true testament to all involved that the Americans didn’t take heavier casualties than they did.

Among his many awards and medals are the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Purple Heart. These days Arch is retired and living in Arizona, still married all these years later. His kids have even started having kids, so Arch beats me to one more accolade; grandpa. Kudos, brother. You earned a long, happy life. I hope you enjoy both. Your legacy will outlive us all.

“TO THE TOP!”

 

~Bravo Charles

Copyright© Bravo Charles & Behind the Gun 2016

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