He calls me a “Big Country Bumpkin”, and we call each other “Brother”. Chico encompassed the best part of soldiering; getting the job done, whatever it is, and bitch about later if you feel so inclined. Our squad leader doesn’t recall Chico ever complaining in Somalia, he only recalls someone he could always count on to accomplish the mission. The best thing you could ask for in a soldier. The image we all have of Chico in Somalia is one of him with his Kevlar helmet kicked back on his head, ready to do whatever the task at hand was. Admittedly, he liked to push the envelope with how long his hair was in regards to military regulation. It was just a signature look that was no indication of what type of soldier he was; a great one.
Hailing from Arizona, Chico Entered the Army in 1990 prior to the 1st Gulf War. After attending the Benning School for Boys like the rest of us, he reported to A CO as part of a cohort along with Forde, Moore and Prescott….the guys who helped the leadership break us in when we reported. And they were all great mentors.
Chico was among the more reliable peers I had in Somalia and was always in a good mood. He reminded me a lot of Mangold in that regard. Quick with a joke and to light up your smoke; always smiling, even when the going got tough, and reliable when the bullets flew. His best friend was probably Hughes, and he was the best man at Hughes’ wedding.
In Somalia, Chico carried more than his body weight as a SAW gunner, up to 16o lbs at times, and though he often looked like he was hurting immensely, he never let up and never gave any indication of quitting. During numerous night infiltrations and subsequent ambushes in Somalia, Chico stood out as a soldier for his toughness and tactical knowledge.
As a fellow member of J-Dub’s Squad, Chico was around me most of my time in Somalia, from our Hellfire Christmas, our initial taking fire, our baptism, and throughout most of our deployment including about every time we engaged the enemy, until he was eventually sent to be a driver for the company commander, something he didn’t want to do. However, it was in that position that he was also able to be around me one of the last times we had bullets fly at us in Somalia, a chapter titled “The Last Patrol” in “Behind the Gun”.
One other trait I admired about Chico was his candor. When faced with the unavoidable ridiculous situations that arise in the military, he never held back speaking up with tact to try and correct the situation. Some military leaders appreciate that, however, most do not.
Chico is among the first of our battalion since WWII to receive the Combat Infantryman’s Badge after an Air Assault and firefight in a Mogadishu suburb in 1993. He was as knowledgeable as he was tough, always ready to help a younger soldier out and show them the right way to do things. Forde and Chico were known for getting us younger guys up to speed in the absence of the NCO’s.
Aside from all the above amazing traits and accolades, Chico is one of the first of 16 American’s that face Ali Tihad (Al Shabaab) twice in a 24 hour period in Somalia in 1993, twenty years prior to Navy SEALs doing so for the first time during the War on Terror. What we found and what happened that day is something that America needs to hear firsthand from those of us that were there. The political implications and policy mistakes are ones still being made today.
Last time I saw Chico I was boarding a bus to head off to the Airfield and eventually the deck of the U.S.S Eisenhower for Operation Uphold Democracy in late 1994. He had already decided that he was going to re-enter civilian life. A big loss for me, and for the Army as a whole.
Come read about Chico and scores of other amazing soldiers in “Behind the Gun” as you learn the true history of events surrounding America’s involvement in the Somali Civil War.
Copyright© Bravo Charles & Behind the Gun 2016