The Godfather is one of the finest all around NCO’s any of us ever had. Usually I can categorize a leader by a specific stength, but for the Godfather, that is pretty much everything; tactically proficient, knowledgeable & competent, driven and leads by example. And to make life in a combat zone exponentially more fun, his accent was spot on for a New Jersey style mob boss. He has one of the absolute best senses of humor I’ve ever encountered. The only thing better than his comedic timing is his leadership and soldiering. If you were a squared away troop, you were under the “protection” of the Godfather who ensured you stayed squared away. Loyalty and respect was a two way street with him.
The Godfather came to 1st platoon after he PCS’d from Germany, where he’d spent much of his early years in the Army. Originally my squad leader during the Hurricane Andrew Relief, he was made our platoon sergeant by the time we deployed to Somalia. And as with all of the NCO’s in first platoon, I can’t imagine how we would have made it without The Godfather at the helm. With the “G-Man” as our E-7 platoon leader instead of a Lieutenant and The Godfather as platoon sergeant, our platoon clicked like no other group of soldiers I ever served with before or after.
As one of two M-60 gunners in our platoon, I spent 99% of my time with both my squad leader (J’Dub) and The Godfather. Other than my Assistant Gunner Spaceboy, I didn’t spend more time around anyone else other than these two. While I credit Brahma for turning me from a cherry into a high speed grunt, I equally credit both J’Dub and The Godfather for my survival, sharpening my skills and ultimately turning me into an NCO & squad leader. After pinning my sergeant stripes on at my promotion ceremony, he wasted no time in congratulating me and then promptly informing my former peers that I was no longer “dude” or anything other than “Sergeant” from now on. He gave such an inspiring speech about how I had made rank so fast I almost forgot who he was talking about and found myself wanting to be whoever it was he was describing.
In Somalia, the Godfather never gave ambiguous orders and he was always direct; there was never any mistaking anything. His assessment of any situation was always quick as was his adjustment to that situation. As we found ourselves often securing sites best secured by a full company rather than just a 16 man platoon, the Godfather worked hard to make sure his soldiers got as much rest as possible. And while that was usually next to nothing, he went a step further by ensuring that every NCO in the platoon went just as long without sleep as we did. Very early on when we were still adjusting to getting 2 -4 hours of sleep every 24-36 hours, he provided one of the most comical and clever responses when our exhausted medic Doc Cheetah found himself on the guard roster for radio watch and complained that as our medic, he wasn’t supposed to pull guard. He told the Godfather that he could only guard medical supplies. The Godfather responded by informing doc that he was going to “tape a fricken bandage to the middle of the floor and doc could instead guard medical supplies all night; and oh, while you’re at it, if anyone calls on that effin radio, answer it!” It was a learning experience for all of us.
During our “Baptism” in a Mogadishu suburb, the Godfather wasted no time in maneuvering the platoon in an effort to “whack those fools” before we soon found ourselves eating dirt and nearly obliterated by our own air support. We took and returned fire two more times before the night was out, while recovering a fairly large amount of weapons. Though that amount paled in comparison to what we would capture two months later.
After a 2 AM firefight with Ali Tihad(Al Shabaab) punctuated by volley after volley of illumination rounds from our mortar section under the direction of our FO, the Godfather then led a raid against the Ali Tihad compound which resulted in taking 36 prisoners and hundreds of weapons seized. These two incidents make him 1 of the first 16 Americans to ever directly face elements of Al Qaeda, long before most of America or the world knew who they were. The circumstances surrounding the raid are truly troubling and something the rest of America needs to know.
After our time in Somalia, the Godfather continued to lead 1st platoon until just before we were sent into harm’s way again the following year. Then serving as the 3rd platoon PSG, he made history once again with the rest of us by conducting the largest Army air operation from the deck of Naval vessels since WWII when we air assaulted from the deck of the U.S.S. Eisenhower to kick off Operation Uphold Democracy. This would be the last time I saw him during my time in service as we both PCS’d directly from Haiti to our next duty stations.
After Haiti, the Godfather served in Korea and Italy, where like Cabbie, he served in a Long Range Surveillance unit before spending the last few years of his career as the 1st Sergeant of a basic training company at Fort Jackson where he prepared troops for the War on Terror; something he has in common with Wheels.
Among his numerous awards and accomplishments are The Combat Infantryman’s Badge, The Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal with 3 OLC, and Airborne, Air Assault , Rappel-Master and Pathfinder schools.
I was lucky enough to make contact again with the Godfather in 2014 and he has read much of “Behind the Gun” as I’ve been writing it. He spends his days as a family man and is a JR ROTC instructor. The Godfather is one of the finest soldiers, leaders and human beings I have ever known. I haven’t found anyone who served with him that would disagree with that.
I hope that you will come read about The Godfather and tons of other Amazing soldiers in “Behind the Gun”!
Click here for excerpts from the book.
Copyright© Bravo Charles & Behind the Gun 2016