You’ll hear me talk a lot about those who weren’t technically grunts but who go every step of the way with the infantry in combat. So far, I’ve only discussed the FO’s and FSO’s. Now, the first of the medics, first platoon’s Doc Cheetah. Doc is a native of Florida who joined the Army during the first Gulf War, just like the rest of us. After Basic Training at Fort Knox and then AIT, he was sent to our battalion’s HHC.
In my own humble opinion, I don’t think Doc knew what he was in for when he was first fitting in with such a special bunch of assholes that comprised first platoon. Admittedly, we were pretty tough to fit in with and flipped everyone a lot of crap. But by the end of our time in Somalia, he was just one of us, and always will be. In my book, I took opportunity to poke fun at Doc for going to Somalia without cigarettes (I hope he quit smoking, I didn’t).
His nickname came from, you guessed it, Steve Mangold, just like the rest of us. After Doc chased a Somali in full sprint, something medics aren’t supposed to do being non-combatants, though all of them in our company did it at one time or another. For some reason, our medics found it difficult to refrain from being crazy bad-asses like the rest of us. And we loved it. Doc Watertown and Doc Davis were no different. After knowing these men, I have always had a special love and respect for Combat Medics. While we earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Doc and the other medics earned their Combat Medical Badges. To their grunts, medics are grunts and will be protected as such. And the medics proved their loyalty to us as well everyday in Somalia.
One of the best things about Doc, like most of us, was his warped sense of humor. The same sense of humor we all perfect in a combat environment. And he also had a pretty cool head, except for one of our first nights in country when he mistook the cord to a PRC-77 radio for a snake. It was a needed comedic break, though at his expense, and he took it well. He also was the first to treat Earl Almighty when he came down with Dengue Fever, as well as always treating the rest of us for all the crazy ailments we were exposed to and came down with in Somalia. He’s also seen every one of our butts since he gave us our gamma globulin shots. I’m not sure that’s something he tries to remember.
On a more serious note, Doc Cheetah was with us every single time we engaged the enemy or took hostile fire. He showed himself cool under fire during our Baptism in a Mogadishu suburb, and was also one of the first Americans to directly face Ali Tihad (Al Shabaab) after we engaged them twice in a 24 hour period. During our subsequent raid on their compound, Doc Cheetah was one of us who ran “the wrong way” as we took fire from at least two positions and stormed their compound taking 36 prisoners and seizing tons of weapons and communications equipment. In another incident, Doc was directly attacked with a grenade while on duty at the port. An incident we all laughed off after we figured out he was ok, because yeah, we’re warped like that.
Like many of us who served in Somalia, Doc Cheetah then Air Assaulted from the deck of the U.S.S. Eisenhower for Operation Uphold Democracy. Doc was present at the port in Port au Prince when assailants killed and wounded several Haitians in a grenade attack in late September, 1994. As a medic, he treated the wounded to stabilize them for further medical treatment. This is one of several little known incidents in Haiti where our unit saw the face of war again just a year after Somalia, an incident mentioned in the prelude chapters of “Behind the Gun”, an example of the cumulative toll combat environments take on soldiers.
After the Army, Doc found a purpose being an ER nurse and works with veterans at the VA in South Carolina. Being a true combat medic, Doc is able to help and heal at the same time as he still “serves” his country.
Doc Cheetah lives in the Charlotte area of NC with his wife, Dalice, his daughter Kaelin, and his son Truitt, all of which he adores and lives for.
I haven’t seen Doc since 1994, but I’d recognize my brother anywhere. I hope he forgot about the $20 he loaned me after we got back from Somalia. Read about Doc and tons of other amazing soldiers in “Behind the Gun”.
Click here for excerpts from the book.
Copyright© Bravo Charles & Behind the Gun 2016
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