I promised long that I would put a big fat Combat Infantryman’s Badge at the top of his Warrior Profile here on Behind the Gun. You might wonder why that’s a big deal since about everyone I’ve posted about has one. Long is the exception, however, and not for his lack of being in combat. He is disqualified per his MOS of being a Forward Observer (FO, aka, “The Eyes of Death”), a 13F instead of an 11B (Infantry). What’s more interesting is that he basically served in an infantry capacity in Somalia since by the time he got to Somalia the indirect fire and air support assets were being controlled explicitly by Special Forces and top ranking commanders. In any event, an FO attached to an infantry platoon is in the same boat as a medic attached to an infantry platoon; everything his infantry platoon endures, he endures as well. They fight, he fights right alongside them.
Long’s journey to Somalia began after he PCS’d (changed duty station) from the 7th ID at Ford Ord and went to Fort Drum where he was assigned to the 1/7 Field Artillery. He is one of five FO’s who were given the opportunity to join Charlie company in Somalia; none of them turned it down. In Somalia, he was attached to Poncho’s squad where he spent his time in Somalia driving a Humvee or being a door gunner on QRF missions. In this capacity, “The Eyes of Death”, normally attributed to his job of reigning down ordnance upon the enemy after fixing their position, took on a totally different meaning as he found himself in the middle of urban combat on the streets of Mogadishu.
I didn’t know Long while I was in the military, I encountered him through Poncho while writing this book, much of which he has read as I’ve written. It didn’t take but a minute before I felt like I’d known him my whole life.
During the “Original Black Hawk Down” on September 25th , 1993, a chapter called “Blood on the Altar” in Behind the Gun, Long found himself side by side with our brother Poncho during a rescue and recovery mission that turned into a five hour firefight. He was just a couple of feet away from Poncho when Poncho was wounded and risked his life through a hail of gunfire to retrieve a medic after none showed up to treat Poncho, as Rossman worked to stop the bleeding. The actions on the part of all involved in this battle are a story of valor and sacrifice that history and Hollywood ignored. It was the beginning of the climax of America’s involvement in the Somali Civil War, and is also directly related to my platoon’s raid on an Ali Tihad (Al Shabaab) compound several months earlier.
During the rescue of TF Ranger on October 3 & 4, 1993, during the Battle of Mogadishu, Long was knocked nearly unconscious after the Pakistani tank he was lying next to unexpectedly opened fire after the group was previously told the tanks wouldn’t be firing. Boult then risked his life (again) and pulled Long to safety through a hail of gunfire. With Long as driver under the direction of Boult and with Peterson manning the machine gun in the turret, the group then went on to personally rescue a half dozen Delta Force commandoes as they braved unimaginable enemy fire. This story will be covered in a chapter called “Honoring the Creed” in Behind the Gun.
I always shake my head when I hear, pardon the expression, Pogues (people who are not infantry) complain that they “basically do the same shit infantry does” just because they took or returned fire once or twice, or did a road march or two, with little or no idea what it means to be an infantryman day in and day out, especially in combat. Sure, there are definitely exceptions. But where there’s not, to make them feel better about themselves, the Army created the CAB or Combat Action Badge, which of course is lower in precedence to the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. While I feel that badge is appropriate in many circumstances, if it had existed when Long was in Mogadishu, I find it a little cheesy and would never suggest Long be retroactively awarded the badge. What he SHOULD be awarded is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge since he served in an infantry capacity in combat while attached to an infantry unit. I don’t mean to insult anyone who has the CAB instead of CIB, but let’s be honest; if you have a CAB, you wish more than anything it was a CIB. It’s ok, we’re all big boys here….I mean, the infantry guys anyway, to include Long. Tissue?
If you literally do everything the infantry does, like Long did, then yes, a CIB is an appropriate award if you’re attached to an infantry unit in combat. You know what they say about opinions, right? “They” say that mine is the only one worth a crap, it’s my book. Go write your own if you disagree.
After Somalia Long, like many of us, participated in the largest Army-Navy air operation since the Doolittle Raids of WWII when we Air Assaulted off the deck of the U.S.S. Eisenhower during Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994.
Today, Long spends much effort seeking out an internet signal as he hangs out with his family near the Amish community in rural NY, where he reviews much of the material I write. He also keeps in close contact with our brother Poncho. I consider Long a hero, and you will too after you read Behind the Gun.
Copyright© Bravo Charles & Behind the Gun 2016